A preview of Joel’s sermon on February 13: Matthew 5:21-37 (6th Sunday after Epiphany)
I have married quite a few people in my time as a pastor. Some of them I just know will make it. More than a few are on the fence. Sometimes, I sit down for pre-marital counseling and the couple knows everything about each other — I know they have done their legwork before the vows. Others, I quickly see, have never broached the big issues of life: how to handle money, their views on kids, even religion. It becomes my job to poke around in those areas, to make them think about them. But too often, I meet people who are keen to get to altar — who see the wedding as the end story, like the big kiss in the movie — and don’t realize the hard work that’s about to come. I suspect that when we talk about 1 in 4 first marriages ending in a divorce in this country, a good percentage of them come from this group. Why do people get married? For love, of course. But a recent Canadian study which asked people why they had gotten married also found some other factors. The most worrisome reasons were; it was the natural thing to do, and pressure from friends and family. Those people — and you probably know a few — drift into marriage without a lot of conscious decision making. Sometimes it works out. And sometimes it doesn’t. The top reason, in the study by the Vanier Institute for the Family, why people get divorced makes sense in that context: different values and interests.
So the Gospel this morning is going to make more than a few people squirm. This is the tough talking part of the Sermon on the Mount. The part where Jesus gets down to the brass tacks of the law, and really sticks them in.