July 12, 2020, Trusting The Spirit: Jacob's Story, Pastor David Tatgenhorst
Genesis 25:19-34 These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. 21 Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. 22 The children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. 23 And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.” 24 When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. 25 The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.
27 When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. 28 Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob. 29 Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. 30 Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore he was called Edom.) 31 Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” 32 Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” 33 Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
If you have no other time during the week to stop and take a breath, take it now, as we settle our bodies and hear these words of scripture, knowing that we can trust the Spirit, even during difficult times of disruption and contention.
July 12, 2020 Trusting the Spirit: Jacob’s Story St. Luke
My mother used to say that when she came back from the hospital with my little brother - - I was so happy to see her and my brother that I strutted back and forth beaming. She had to be talking about one of my littler brothers, because a one year old doesn’t strut. And I was probably much happier to see my mother than I was to welcome a little brother into my life.
Brother relationships - sibling relationships - are complicated, as we see in our scripture reading this morning. I really loved my brother though - all my brothers. I felt like my brother who was born a year after me would be my best friend forever. I would be there for him and he would be there for me and we would be tight. I only uncovered how deep that feeling and expectation was much later in my life - when I worked through my feelings about other close relationships that didn’t turn out the way I hoped.
When I lost a relationship, when I broke up with a girlfriend, I would be devastated. It felt like the worst thing that ever happened to me, that I would never get over it. When I let myself grieve, and worked through those deep feelings, I discovered the link with that early loss I had felt, of the relationship with my brother that I thought would last forever, (and maybe I felt the loss of the closeness with my mother, truth be told.)
Looking back on it, I know the Spirit was with me through those painful times and helped me learn and grow. Though at the time it was really painful, they were just normal growing pains, and that the Spirit moved through the pain with me and brought me to the other side of it. In fact, looking back on them, we may be able to sense how the Spirit was with us through all our hard times. We might know from how we learned from mistakes or from heartache. We might know it from new friends we made or community that formed. We might know it simply from how we made it through and lived to breathe again, to know joy again, the beauty of another sunrise.
The fraternal feelings of expectation and disappointment must be multiplied when that brother - or sister - is a twin. Esau and Jacob had a complicated and fraught relationship. Our reading for this morning describes how the relationship was already contentious and difficult even in the womb of their poor mother, Rebeka. She said, “It’s like World War III in there!” It was like they were fighting to see who would come out first. Jacob came out grabbing onto the heel of his twin Esau, and he would never settle for being second born until he had stolen the birthright of his older brother.
The Bible does not hide the fact that Jacob was a crook. We usually try to tone it down a bit and say he was a trickster. But he stole the birthright from his brother, swindled his father, and left his doting mother to go off and find a wife - or two. The only redeeming value that Genesis insists we see in Jacob is that he at least had a little trust in the Spirit of God. While Esau couldn’t wait to snarf down a bowl of soup, and was willing to trade away his most valued status as oldest son to get a little “red stuff,” as he calls it, a little lentil stew, Jacob at least learned to trust in and wait for God through the good and the hard times.
It’s difficult to give Jacob a lot of the credit though. God really gets the credit. The Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament both portray God as grace-filled - willing to claim people with quite obvious flaws, to claim them as important disciples, prophets, leaders of the faith. God chooses Jacob, and promises to make of him a great nation. It is a remarkable act of grace, as powerful as anything we find in the New Testament.
What I’m trying to say, and what we have found in our Bible study, and what we will continue to find in our study of Genesis, is that the Spirit was trustworthy in the most difficult of times, with some really difficult people. This is really good to know about the Spirit of the Living God as we go through our current multiple crises - medical, financial, social, and spiritual.
It’s not always easy to know it as we’re going through it. I can tell you that from painful experience. As we trust the Spirit, however, in the midst of whatever crisis we face, we find the Spirit trust-worthy. We learn, we grow, we become who God calls us to be, as we trust and listen to the Spirit through times like this.
We are not saying of course that God causes heartache and hard times in our lives, just to teach us that the Spirit is faithful and ever-present. No, there are hurts and hard things through which God weeps with us, and holds us until we can stand again. There are times when we may go through a dark night of the soul and despair of the Spirit ever being present with us again, and even in those times, these stories will help to reassure us, the Spirit is alive and present.
I feel the Spirit’s presence during the pandemic. It seems like every day I hear a new story about the faithfulness of a nurse or the strength of a family member. You may have seen the reunion of a couple who had been married for 60 years and had been separated for months because of the virus. It was beautiful to see the joy in their faces when they could be together again and hold each other’s hand. We have seen the Spirit working through the faithful ministry of Grace Cafe and so many other ministries powered by flawed but trusting souls. We have seen the Spirit working in our lives here at St. Luke as we continue our ministry and find new ways to care for each other and stay in touch with each other.
Next week, we will focus on a different part of the crisis and look at the ways the Spirit is moving in the United Methodist church in response to the killings of Black people by police across the country. The Bishops of our church trust the Spirit, and have put together a beautiful service of lament and repentance that calls for a deeper level of understanding of God’s faithfulness.
Yesterday, the Black Lives Matter sign in front of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church was defaced for the second time, this time it was shredded. Congregations all around the area are coming together to support St. Mary’s in their determination to continue their witness and insistence that black lives matter too, that hate will not rule. The Spirit is moving in the clergy who are working to multiply the banners across our region.
Those people who shredded the sign are confused and deluded. They think the sign means “Black Lives Matter More.” It clearly does not say that, and does not mean that. The sign means “Black Lives Matter Too.” Black people’s lives matter as much as yours or mine. My dear brother’s life matters as much as mine. Esau’s life matters as much as Jabob’s Rebekah’s life mattered as much as Isaac’s life. How do we get so confused? We are so confused that when people claim equality it makes us feel oppressed.
We are followers of the Living Christ - the One who showed us how to value each life as our own, to love our neighbor as ourself. Jesus’ God was the same God as Jacob’s - the grace-filled Spirit who loved all of creation, no matter how flawed and confused we get.
Trust the movement of the Spirit. Trust the Spirit through the virus. Trust the Spirit through the recession. Trust the Spirit through the uprising. Trust the Spirit through loss and heartache. This is why we come together - to remind each other, to reassure each other, to sense together the aliveness of the Spirit, even and especially in these times.
The Spirit accepts and loves us all through it all. May we learn to accept each other as well.
this is God’s good news.
Responsive Song: 560 Help Us Accept Each Other