“I disagree with you, Jesus.”
“Would you care to elaborate?”
“Thank you, I will, but first may I complain a little?”
“By all means. Be my guest…”
“It’s just that… how shall I say it? It’s awkward… sometimes you make it hard for me to do my job.”
“I don’t remember telling you it would be easy…”
“I know, I know. But after all, I’m a minister of the Christian faith! You called me to serve you. It would be helpful if I agreed with what you say… Why do I find myself still questioning your teaching?”
“I can see that something I said has upset you…”
“I don’t like what you say about divorce. But that’s just part of it. I’m also unhappy about my lack of faith. Don’t people depend on me to be a faithful person? Isn’t that my job – to understand, interpret and lift up the truth to be found in the story of your life? How can I do that if I’m uncertain?”
“That’s a good question.”
“Who am I to disagree with the Messiah? Who do I think I am?”
“Another good question! May I ask you something…”
“Yes of course.”
“How can you be so sure that you would do a better of job if you agreed with everything I say? Is certainty necessarily better than uncertainty?”
“I’m not sure…”
“You are uncertain…”
“Yes. Although it would be nice if my people felt I was certain… After all, they expect me to believe…”
“Yes, I do, but I find it difficult to always agree with you…”
“If you say that you believe in me, does that mean that you are required to agree with everything I say?”
“I’m asking you.”
“If I say that I’m a Christian, I am saying that I believe that you are the Messiah, and that you, more than anyone else, can teach me how to live in a way that is righteous.”
“Is that what it means to be Christian?”
“Yes… Yes, but… do you remember…”
When you were 28 years old. She came out of the bathroom one afternoon holding a little plastic thing in her hands.
She handed the little plastic thing to you.
You looked at it.
“I’m pregnant,” she said.
Your first feeling, of course, was shock. But very quickly, the smiles showed up. I saw them. You couldn’t contain them. They showed up, and stuck around. Both of you smiled, even though you were not at all certain you wanted to be together…
You smiled our way through the shock.
You smiled our way through the very practical decision to get married.
Your smiles made the whole conversation about abortion completely moot. You weren’t morally opposed to it – it’s just that it never entered our minds. Even though neither of you had even thought about having a child, there was, for both of you, an unquestionable and instant certainty that you wanted to have this child…
That time – her pregnancy – it was… beautiful.
Yes it was… It was beautiful. It was like a clearing in the woods, or that moment, on an overcast day, when the clouds part and the sunlight moves across the world with a sudden and unexpected clarity that makes every sadness beautiful, and touching. For those nine months we acted as we never had before, and we never would again – with an abiding sense of purpose that effortlessly replaced all of our recriminations with knowing little smiles. We lived with a tingle of joy that was underneath everything – the mysterious feeling that we had been caught up in something great – something great that was growing, but that we didn’t quite understand…”
“You remember all that…” “
Yes I remember…
“That is your story. My story leads you to your story.”
And our stories, together, tell us something.
Something about love…yes I think so. Your story brings my love to life…
“Yes… but… My story is a story of a love that failed. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t keep that marriage going. It was not her fault. It was not my fault. We made each other deeply unhappy.”
“Ah yes. I remember…”
“Were you there?”
“I’m glad to know that… but look… when that happens… when two people make each other miserable, isn’t it better to just break things off…”
“Oh, I see now… So you’re mad about that thing I said to the Pharisees.”
“Yes… That’s this morning’s gospel lesson, you see. The Pharisees ask you “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
Right, and I say –
…from the beginning of creation,“God made them, male and female”. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” That’s pretty powerful stuff, right?
You weren’t messing around. You have a strong position on this subject. And later one when you are talking to the disciples you say:
“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
When I read that passage this week, I said to myself, I’m not preaching on that passage.”
“Because I don’t agree with you, Jesus.”
“No, I don’t. Divorce is one of the best things that ever happened to me.”
Remember when your daughter was born? It was on a Tuesday afternoon on one of those late October days that cannot make up its mind about itself. The delivery room, on the eighth floor of St. Vincent’s Hospital, had a picture window that looked north toward midtown Manhattan. There you were, stunned, watching the clouds race eastward along the cross-town streets, laying shadows like schools of fish on the reef of buildings.
The nurse came and gave you your daughter, and you held her as the evening came on.
Gazing down at that most beautiful child, feeling her quiet breath, it seemed as though eternity had gathered from the farthest stars and dropped into your lap, in the form of total, and complete love. The rhythm of her breath placed you in an arc that moved from past into future. You suddenly knew yourself in simple terms, as a part of a far greater whole.
A child had been born!
You finally belonged.
Do you remember?
Yes… I remember.
So let me ask you a question.
When you talk to another person, do you agree to always believe everything that person says?
No, that would be foolish.
When a person speaks, you take what they say, and you place it into your own story, and see how it fits into your life, right?
Yes. Just like what we’ve done today.
So why would you do anything different with me?
Because you are the Messiah.
So doesn’t that make your word special?
Yes. I think you should be attentive to what I say, but don’t forget that I chose to become human. I am incarnate. I expect you to be attentive to me, but I am one of you.
So I can disagree with you?
You can say “Yes… but…” The Yes is me, and the “but” is your story.
The “yes” in today’s story is the undeniable truth of love in your first marriage. The “but” is the reality that you could not make it work. Human life is a “Yes.. but” story. When you say yes to love, you say yes to me. I am eternal and undeniable.
But… this life is your story.
Be attentive to my yes. Bring it into your life and make it real. It may not be easy. It may bring you pain and sorrow. But it will also give your life the beauty and depth that only love can bring.