A group of 8 friends were having a dinner party out on the back deck of a home one Saturday evening. Nothing fancy. Mostly finger foods. Ribs. Plates of cheese. Olives. Chips. Wine. The friends had not had a chance to get together in a while, and their conversations flowed effortlessly peppered with Oohs and Aahs as they shared stories from work and family and home. These friends shared long histories and great love for one another.
As the evening continued, a stranger walked into the backyard and the few steps up to the deck. As the friends continued to chuckle from the last story, they looked to the stranger as he walked towards them. When he reached the table, he pulled out a gun, held it to the head of one of the friends, looked to the group, and he said, “Give me your money!” The friends, shocked and immediately frightened, began telling the stranger that they had no money. They’d come for a simple gathering and did not have anything with them. The stranger then moved the gun from a male guest to the wife of the host. He told them again that he wanted all their money. Again, they said that they had none.
Tensions were rapidly rising. One of the guests realized that this situation was escalating quickly, and she believed that it was not going to end well at all. She looked at the stranger and quickly reflected on what had been — up to this point, at least — a beautiful evening. She glanced at the table and decided to ask the stranger a question.
“What?!” he said. And his face changed.
“Would you like a glass of wine? We’ve been talking and catching up tonight, and this wine is really good. Would you like some?”
He said what they did not expect: “Yes.”
He took a couple of sips and responded that it really was good wine. He reached down for the cheese and put the gun in his pocket. The man drank his wine and ate his cheese and for the third time that night said something that no one expected.
“I think I’m at the wrong house.”
The friends were like, “Hey, I understand.”
They all sat in silence for a moment. And then he said something so strange: “Can I have a hug.”
The wife of the host gave him a hug, and slowly each of the friends hugged the stranger. Then he walked away.
All they could think to do was to run into the house and cry in gratitude.
Our passage of Mark’s Gospel is the basis of many wedding ceremonies, mine included. “A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife…Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” These weddings are intended to bring two people together for the rest of their days. Through all circumstances that life can bring. My parents will celebrate their 50 years together next April. And I am so proud that they have weathered many storms and frustrations in their life. I wish I could say that I too will be like them some day. No one who gets married intends for the marriage to fail. But, look around. While there are many who marriages have high numbers to prove their worth, there are also many here whose marriages have fallen.
And while this passage of Scripture includes these references to marriage and divorce, there’s more to the story. But in order to understand what is coupled to Jesus’ words, I need for us to lay a bit of foundation first. Our passage speaks of divorce. Divorce. What is that? What does divorce mean? Well, it means a marriage that is broken, splintered, not repairable, fractured. A relationship that was once one is now two. Would it be safe to say that in the context of the greater community that a friendship can be “divorced”? A family be “divorced”? Can a church “divorce”? I would answer “Yes” to all these questions.
Okay, now that we have a bit more groundwork built for our idea, let’s look at the second part to our Gospel. Scripture states that the people were bringing their children to Jesus that He might touch them. The disciples, rough and grumpy fishermen that most of them were, told the people to leave Jesus alone with the little ones. And as we read, what was Jesus’ response? “Don’t stop them. Let them come.” And Jesus took the children into His lap and blessed them. He knew the children could be a nuisance. He recognized the children were a financial burden to some of the families. He understood that some of the children were more high maintenance than others.
But, do any of us here truly believe that Jesus was dealing ONLY with children? Jesus was talking about US! We are the children: lost, crying, suffering, hurt, broken, scared.
So why in the world did Mark put this passage about “children” immediately after one about marriage and divorce and relationships. Well, when I try to understand the context of this Scripture passage, I am reminded of the passage from John of the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus goes to a well for a drink and meets a Samaritan woman. He tells her to give Him a drink, and she responds that Jews and Samaritans do not speak to one another. He tells her that He has living water to offer her if she will get her husband and return. She says that she has no husband, and He says that she speaks the truth — she has had five husbands and the man she is with now is not her husband. But what Jesus does next speaks directly to our text this morning: He stays.
He offers her a glass of wine.
He does not condemn her for what she has done. He does not shame her for her prior actions. He does not call out to his disciples when they arrive and humiliate her. He does not attempt to shove her into submission.
Quite the contrary: he continues to engage with her and speak to her with dignity and respect and hope. He brings peace to her.
We are the divorced in Mark’s gospel. We — in a way — are all divorced. Who of has had a broken friendship? Who of us has a splintered family? Who of us has a relationship at work that is fractured and tense? We are the broken and shamed and lost and embarrassed.
So what do we do when we have someone enter our dinner party with a gun — with a political opinion with which we do not agree, with a question with which we have rant for an answer, with information we are not prepared to handle? What do we do? How do we respond? We do what is opposite to what we might wish to do, and, instead, we offer a glass of wine. What did Jesus do with the Samaritan woman? Did he beat her down with statistics and rules and fancy rhetoric. No. He offered her a glass of wine. He stayed with her and spoke to her and engaged with her and was present with her. What did Jesus do with the children? Did he chastise them and push them away and shame them into submission. No. He offered them a glass of wine, or maybe Welch’s grape juice. He stayed with them and spoke to them and took them in His Kingly lap and blessed them.
As we navigate our way in our lives and we come face to face with a person wielding a gun, that, instead of allowing our hackles to rise, mentally articulating a sharp response that will eviscerate their presence, and basking in the glow of a well-earned annihilation that we would stop. Breathe. Look at them. See them for the children of God that they are. Understand that there is always more to the story. And ask a simple question: Would you like a glass of wine?