Sermon – October 4, 2015 – Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Pentecost 19

The Apple of My Eye


I know that all of you are familiar with the Stevie Wonder song, “you are the sunshine of my life.” You are the sunshine of my life. That’s why I’ll always be around. You are the apple of my eye. Forever you’ll stay in my heart. . . . . You are the apple of my eye.. The four seasons did one also, but I am not going to sing that for you. A expression of endearment and love and affection. We hear this now in romantic terms and it’s very common and popular and perfectly fine expression, but to regard one as the apple of one’s eye as just affection is to diminish what it intends in the original understanding of that phrase.


The earliest usage of this phrase that I can find is biblical. The psalmist prays in fear, “guard me as the apple of your eye; hide me under the shadow of your wings.” In this context, in the biblical context, to be the apple of one’s eye is to be the object on which God’s attention and watchfulness is focused. It means the center, the pupil, the absolute cor. David’s prayer here is for God’s watchfulness as God has promised, God’s watchfulness and protection against the enemy and the accusers and those who don’t understand, those who divid, and those would undermine them. Don’t take your eye off me Lord, he prays, and hide and protect me with your power and might.


We get another picture of it from Deuteronomy which proclaims, “who made you and established you? Remember the days of old, consider the years long past; ask your father, and he will inform you; your elders, and they will tell you. When the most high apportioned the nations, . . . . . .; the Lord’s own portion was his people, Jacob was his allotted share. He sustained him in a desert land, and in a howling wilderness waste; he shielded him, cared for him, guarded him as the apple of his eye.” The writer of Deuteronomy is reminding the people that there is nowhere that they go but that God has not gone with them. “… In a howling wilderness waste. he shielded them.” God’s chosen ones, the work of God’s hand in creation, those created in his image, are the apple of God’s eye. God is focused like a laser, watching over them because he loves them.


Do you see how this expands and explodes the idea of the apple of the eye as more than just love? It is a passionate watchfulness, a jealous guarding.


So when in our psalm today, the psalmist wonders, “who are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?”, The answer is the apple of God’s eye, that’s who. God loves and protects and watches over those with whom he is in covenant, those whom he has created, those in whom God has invested all of God’s purposes for the world. That’s who, psalmist.


No exceptions.


So, knowing this, understanding that God’s people are the apple of God’s eye, then we can move into our story from the gospel today.


Now, first we have to understand that the marriage that Jesus speaks to in his conversation with the Pharisees is not It is not the equalitarian marriages that we understand today. Marriage in first century Palestine was all a man’s prerogative. It was often the merging of interests, business, influence. It had little to do with romantic love, and far less to do, often, with how a woman felt about it. With his prerogative, a man could divorce a woman for any reason and do so without penalty of the law. If she burned his toast, she could be dismissed. And to be a divorced woman or a single grown woman in this culture was to be exposed to hunger, ostracization from the community and even her family. To willy-nilly divorce a woman was to put her in grave danger, she also being the apple of God’s eye. So Jesus lays it down and said you will continue to violate this woman’s humanity and continue to offend God if you treat her as though she doesn’t matter. I am watching over her. Do not thwart my purposes. Do not claim power that is not yours. The same is true is when he brings the child into the narrative. This child, too, is the apple of my eye. Object of my love. Part of my family.


When Jesus is doing here is reflecting the breadth of God’s love for God’s people, over against tradition and law. Furthermore, in God’s ideal community, in God’s ideal relationship, we make and keep promises to one another based on that reality – recognizing that the other is the apple of God’s eye. Beloved, watched over, claimed.  And when we see through this lens, live in this reality, then this ideal is worth fighting for.


We don’t always get that right. Even in our day, especially in our day, we lose sight of the value of another person in God’s eyes and promises and commitments that we make are broken.


Too often, people have walked away from this text feeling shamed and attacked. There is no virtue, and there is no claim from God’s point of view that I can see that demands that if you are in a relationship where you are not recognized as the apple of God’s eye, where there is abuse, infidelity, betrayal . . . . . there is no virtue in hanging on to that which has died. These relationships are meant to be life giving. So don’t you ever read into my comments or my understanding that Scripture requires you to stay in such a relationship, because I think God intends our relationships to be life-giving and not emotionally and physically and psychologically shattering. When they are so, they are something other than marriage.


I can’t and won’t begin to get to the bottom of how some marriages fail and how some succeed. God bless you and be with you in both circumstances. My singular observation this morning is that God’s grace is greater than our pain, greater than our sin, greater than our regrets, and is the source of all good things. When we understand who we truly are under his passionate loving, watchful eye, our experience is finally hope, forgiveness and new beginning.


The circumstances of living will raise their challenges and take their toll and sometimes we will be up to it and sometimes not. But that does not change who God is or who we are to God.   God is with us. We are blessed to be in a community of believers who are led by Scripture on a path of hope where we sometimes succeed and sometimes fail, part of a family who mourns with those who mourn and celebrates with those who celebrate. We are able to do this because of God’s constancy, Christ’s forgiving spirit. We do so confident that God is with us through all things, who will sustain us even in the desert lands and will shield and care for us even in the howling wilderness, guarding us because we are the apple of his eye.