The Call to Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark, Day 56Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, saying, ‘Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children; and the second married her and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died. In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her.’
Jesus said to them, ‘Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.’ Mark 12:18-27A new group of religious leaders are introduced at this point in the gospel. The Sadducees represented the preservation of tradition, the conservative section of the faith that benefits from the status quo and traditional practices. Their constituency is made up of those of wealth and power who benefit from the status quo. So they come forward with their challenge to Jesus, they want to know about resurrection and marriage. They create a scenario that describes leverite marriage where a man marries a woman dies and his brother marries the woman and dies. Through seven brothers each husband dies with no offspring present. And they ask whose wife is she after the resurrection?
Schussler-Fiorenza has argued that the Sadduccees can be seen as preserving patriarchal forms of marriage and property. They want to know that after the resurrection their structures of power and ownership will remain in effect. Jesus wants to change the conversation. He tells them, 'Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God?' In the kingdom, there is not marriage as property ownership. The relationship between men and women is a relationship between Angels. They are equally imbued with the divine. And God is not the God you think God is. God is a God of the living not the dead. What God will dream for the coming kingdom is radically different from what has gone before.
This challenge raises questions for us on our discipleship journey of what relationships are like when we are living according to God's dream. In all the debates occurring now about who can marry - gay men, lesbians, transgendered, polygomous families, into this debate what do we do with he words: they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. Jesus is challenging the very idea of marriage. What does this say to us about these debates and traditions? Does this require that we take God out of whatever box we have placed God in regards to traditional or nontraditional forms of marriage. This statement could through out the idea that marriage is between one man and one woman. For the conclusion would be that marriage as an institution is flawed and needs to be changed. Families in all their various forms need to be judge by a different criteria, how are they like the angels.
A prayer for the family
God of all birthing, God of all living, God of all dying, hear our prayers this day.
We pray for our families, in all their complex and wondrous forms, for families of our origin and for those of our choosing.
We give thanks for those who have given us birth, for those who have nurtured us, and for those whose lives were invested in our care. Your love for us has been steadfast and sure, and lived out in those who have cultivated our abilities, enriched our minds, strengthened our bodies, and challenged our spirits.
We mourn those times when our families have not provided for us and for our children the safety, well-being, and love we needed. We recognize and confess those times when we have failed to be agents of your reconciling and renewing love and ask your forgiveness, as well as the forgiveness of those whose trust we have violated.
We celebrate the ever-present possibilities for your Church to be a Family of Blessing for your beloved children. We pray that as Church we might always be attentive to the ways in which we can be a community which is ever more inclusive, ever more nurturing, ever more stimulating, ever more relevant, and ever more healing for all your children. May we recommit ourselves daily to your Gospel call to serve those in need in our world as if they were our very own sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, and to advocate for them and their well-being in the halls of power as well as in our own sanctuaries. In the name of the One who came to us, loved us as his own, and gave to us new life, we pray.
Contributed by Reverend Allen V. Harris