Seasons of the Spirit ~ SeasonsFUSION

Lectionary resources for worship, faith formation, and service

The Spirit of the Law


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This is one of those scripture readings that makes me want to run. Who wants to come to church and have their emotions about marriage, divorce and heterosexuality stirred up on a Sunday morning?

And can we as spiritual leaders even address those emotions responsibly in a communal setting?

I can still remember this text coming up in the lectionary a dozen years ago. I was preparing to write my sermon for Sunday morning when I received a phone call from a friend living out of province. His sister was fleeing an abusive relationship with her child. Could I go pick her up and take her to a safe house?

After I got the woman and her child safely settled in their temporary home, I had to ask myself what was I going to say to my congregation about a scripture text that says divorce is wrong given that I had just assisted someone in leaving their marriage?

I chose to talk that day about the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law.  After all, if Jesus speaks to us of God’s love, how can we condone people staying in relationships that are not just unloving but harmful?

Sometimes the best thing we can do is preach against parts of scripture so we can get at the heart of what the text is really trying to say.

In this week’s reading, Jesus wrestles with what society permits but is unjust. He’s addressing our human frailty and how our brokenness leaves us with hearts that are hard.

Despite our vulnerability, he’s encouraging us to keep our lives open to the touch and welcome of love in the same way children allow themselves to be swept up in compassion’s embrace. It’s how we create a more just and loving world.

A few weeks ago the mother of my six year old son’s best friend informed me that for most of last year her son told her he was going to marry my son when he grew up.

I suspect he was so caught up in a good and loving relationship he never wanted it to end and marriage seemed like the way to make that happen. He has since moved on to wanting to marry a lovely little girl in their class. Too bad, he would have made a great son-in-law!

I can’t help but wonder if somewhere along the line he got the message that boys can’t marry boys (even though they can in Canada) and his heart became a little tough.

Too often society’s rules that are meant for our good get distorted and used against us. Hearts become hard. What kind of world would we have if we were able to live our lives with hearts so wide open our relationships remained intact forever?

by Nancy Talbot

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One comment on “The Spirit of the Law

  1. Wood Lake Publishing
    October 10, 2012

    I took the idea of the tearing of the tissue paper as the confession of broken relationships and prepared a white foam core board with a heart on it. Instead of making the hear tout of glue, I used white contact paper in the shape of a large heart and glued it with the outerside down on the foam core. When I got to church, I peeled off the paper on the contact paper so the sticky side was out. I had the congregation bring up their pieces of tissue and place them on the heart during the Prayers of the People. They stuck beautifully and there was no mess. It ended up being quite beautiful. Because the contact paper was white, the people did not see what it was going to be until the tissue started sticking. One of our youth had turned her tissue into paper dolls and she placed them right in the middle. It was perfect! We ended our prayers by thanking God for taking the broken pieces of our lives and making them into something that, if not the same as they had been before, were nevertheless beautiful. I’ve had a lot of comments on how meaningful this idea of yours was and using the contact paper instead of glue made it very doable and not messy. Thanks and Blessings.

    – Cheryl Peeples

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This entry was posted on October 2, 2012 by in 2012, Pentecost 2 and tagged , , , , , .

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