We all have limits: Jesus says God is different. There appear to be no limits to the love of God.
Is this not a message that is behind today's scripture? (Mark Ch 10 verses 2-16) Today, Jesus' disciples ask him about divorce. They remind Jesus that Moses allowed for divorce. Hebrew law permitted a man to divorce his wife for all sorts of reasons.
And Jesus simply says, "From the beginning it wasn't so." This was not the way God intended things to be. And then Jesus harshly condemns divorce.
And right then the gospel moves to the scene with Jesus receiving the little children. Little children, whom the disciples perceive as a nuisance, are to be sent away. But Jesus refused to send the little children away. Instead, Jesus received the children, he hugged them, and he blessed them. Furthermore, Jesus says that in all of this, the kingdom of God is made manifest.
Well, what is God like? God brings people together. God desires that people who, having been once brought together, ought to stay together. God is the one who refuses to send these "little ones" away. Instead, God is the one who receives and embraces the little ones.
We read this passage as applying to us: that is, we ought not to divorce; we ought to welcome little children. But maybe we are seeing here the great difference between God and ourselves. Maybe this is a scripture about God.
We have our limits. We make promises, and with all good intentions we plan to stay together forever. But people get sick, people disappoint, people become trapped, addicted, distant, and estranged. Nobody I know wants divorce. But we have our limits. Sometimes we find it impossible to keep our promises. Sometimes promises are broken for all sorts of "good" reasons.
And we love our children. But children are demanding. To bring children into the world is to severely limit our adult freedom. Children are utterly dependent on others to do things for them they can't do for themselves. So many elect not to receive children.
But in today's gospel, Jesus makes clear that God is not like that. God is the one who, from the very beginning, makes union, fosters communion and togetherness. God is the one who brings individuals together into community. That's how we got the church. God took us as different individuals, many of us quite unlike one another, and brought us together into communion in the church.
Furthermore, God is the one who enables us not only to bring "little ones" into the world but also to expend our lives in caring for the least of these. In every congregation there are people who take responsibility for children who are not their biological children, but are theirs as an assignment, as a gift of God.
We are of course "only human." There are limits upon our love--limits upon our ability to stay with other people, particularly people in great need, and to keep our lives bound to theirs. But this truth must be sent alongside a counter truth--the love of God does not have such limits. We can attempt to separate ourselves from God, but Jesus implies here God does not separate from us. We can come to the limits of our ability to love and to persevere in love with others. But God does not come to the same limits.
I remind you that here in the Gospel of Mark, we are on our way to seeing just how far God in Christ will go for us--all the way to death on a cross.
And on his way to death of a cross, Jesus takes a moment to teach us. Once again, Jesus has set the bar rather high. The disciples of Jesus are to marry and not to divorce. The disciples of Jesus are to have love, compassion, and mercy for the needs of the "little ones" whether they be children or the poor or the severely mentally disabled or the sick and infirmed. And in so many ways we will fail to live up to the Kingdom's demands. 'Cause, after all, we have our limits.
But spread like a banner over all that is an affirmation that God loves us limited human beings in a limitless divine way. Oh, we fail in love; after all, we are "only human." But we have a God who forgives our failures, who loves us in spite of our limits to love in return.
So I am saying that today's gospel is not that severe, bad news of setting the moral standards so high that there is no way that we can ever reach the bar. I am saying that today's gospel is the good news that in spite our inabilities, our limits and failures, God is limitlessly loving and always faithful. Let us cling to that in our limits to love, in our broken promises, let us cling to that.
Let us pray.
Lord Jesus, keep loving us in our limits, keep loving us in a way that is better than the way we love you. We cling to the faith in your limitless love. Amen.