Sunday, July 27, 2014

Judgment, Justice, Mercy

My sermon from the lectionary reading: Genesis 29:15-28. Can I just say, I have NO idea what to title this. Anyone with a pithy take on that, please help a girl out. 

Parental Advisory: Explicit Content!! I say that only partially tongue in cheek. We will be discussing some very hurtful, distasteful behaviors today.

To sum up where we’ve come from: Jacob has tricked his family, met God in the desert, and finally arrived at the home of his mother – Laban’s land. The scripture prior to our reading indicates Jacob saw Rachel and her sheep – it actually mentions her sheep a couple different times – and was attracted. One presumes to Rachel. But it seems the sheep didn’t hurt, either.

Let’s be honest about what’s happening in this story. Last week by gazing intently into the story of Jacob’s vision of God we learned something deep and rich about God’s continuity and grace from age to age. This week, staring intently into the story of Laban’s trickery, we learn something deeply unsettling about human sin. Last week we saw God’s mercy joining the sinner. This week we cry for God’s justice for the oppressed.

Prayer candles: Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Give Us the Vision

Hello Friends. The blog series has been on hold as I'm drawing some new boundaries in my own life -- practicing before I preach, I hope. I will return to the series as things settle. In the meantime, this is the sermon I preached from the Lectionary this Sunday, on Genesis 28:10-19a -- better known as Jacob's Ladder.

So... Jacob. Human, flawed Jacob. 

To recap: Jacob is on the run because he stole his brother’s inheritance and blessing. His family is fractured because of his actions.

I’m really tempted to distance myself from this guy. He’s a thief. A con artist. A backstabber. His life, boiled down to a few pages of text, leaves an ugly trail (although, if our lives were reduced to the same literary fate, I suspect it wouldn’t be too flattering, either). While culturally, Jacob’s life is light years away from my own, from our society, I can’t honestly separate us too much from him.

Let’s update the culture a bit. Imagine if the story of Jacob’s ladder were instead the story of Jacob’s corporate ladder, we’d have the makings of a great corporate success. In this context, he’s scrappy. He’s innovative. He’s intelligent and seizes opportunities. He takes action.

There are other ways Jacob’s experiences track with my own. The consequences of my actions, and others’ actions have pushed me into the wilderness. I’ve lived godlessly, looking out primarily for “number one.”

If I indulge the urge to clinically view Jacob’s life as history, or myth, but regardless, utterly separate from my reality, I miss out on something truly beautiful and hopeful that happens when God presents Jacob with the vision at Beth-el. 

From the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem
It turns out, I’m desperately in need of this vision. My world is in need of this vision. It’s my prayer that we’ll receive the vision God unfolds. Because here, for a moment, in a complicated, and sometimes dark narrative, God’s being grabs center stage with clarity.

We lose God in the Old Testament – at least the God Jesus manifested at the Incarnation. My own faith and faithlessness hits a brick wall with some of its passages. I think moments like this vision suggest God has always been God. That Jesus isn’t some fluke expression of the Trinity that just evolved a couple thousand years ago. Jesus himself says “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the father."

This text clearly reminds us there is more happening in the Old Testament. In this space God pierces the darkness of the human tale.