The Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Marriage is a hot topic today. It’s not going away. And yes, I mean both marriage and the controversy. The question to be asked – the starting point – is: what is marriage? The answers depend on who you’ve asked! The answers vary today and have done throughout history concerning monogamy, polygamy, age of married persons, levels of kindred and affinity of married persons, dowry and gifts, the celebrations, the validity of a marriage, the legal side, and more. I do wonder what God thinks of all our answers. I do appreciate that we need parameters, frameworks, and guidelines within society for the support of marriage and the families that come from them and to help people respect and look forward to marriage – because marriage, as God intended, is special – one man and one woman together – faithful to each other – sharing life together (side by side, shoulder to shoulder, back to back) and hopefully with children. We’re the ones who complicate God’s intention. We’re the ones who by nature would prefer to ‘take’ in marriage than ‘give’ and so marriage because it is so personal, intimate, sexual – designed for our joy and happiness – can also become a relationship of tough times too. And God still reminds people of his intention and encourages and helps people to work in their marriages – and in the mundane and routine – but yes, it can be hard.

If the story – today’s Gospel – was true that the Sadducees told Jesus about the woman mar-ried seven times (with six of them being levirate marriages) then there would have to be a lot of pain and angst going on but it seems to be more salacious. There is something wink wink nudge nudge to the story (or is that just me?). The Sadducees’ hot topic of marriage was like a lot of the controversy about marriage – one of using marriage as a vehicle for another agenda – and in this case it was the ridiculing of the resurrection. Jesus’ reply is blunt – and causes some concern for some people. Marriage is a this-world event. What is designed for our joy and happiness in the next world – and those with Jesus will be joyful and happy – hasn’t been revealed in much detail (apart from it won’t be through marriage). There is a resurrection.

Some may think that the resurrection might make people cavalier about marriage as part of either withdrawing from the world or indulging ourselves in the world. Not so. The resurrection isn’t just something for death and beyond but is part of living now for those in Christ and hence because God is gracious – he’s saved us after all – Jesus’ followers should look at marriage as God intended – not just structurally – but relationally – and seek to live that way if married or promote marriage as God intended to a world always searching for joy and happiness. Marriage as God intended isn’t head in the clouds stuff but actually down to earth – very realistic living – and a challenge for the followers of Jesus now seek to put more into it than they take out. Resurrected living is about service – it exists because God serves his people. In this world, it makes marriage a wonderful thing – where a man and a woman try to outdo each other in serving the other in ways that are best for the marriage … and God still serves his people to help them each day.  — GS