Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Genesis 25:19-34; Psalm 119:105-112; Romans 8:1-11; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
A couple of weeks ago I incorporated the parable of the sower into my remarks. It is one of the most important guides for our current day – some seed falls among weeds, some on rocky soil, some are walked on, yet some will produce beyond our wildest expectations.
This morning let us focus on our first reading from Genesis. Scholars suggest that the stories of Genesis were collected, edited, and written down for the dedication of the first temple in Jerusalem during the reign of King Solomon, King David’s son. While King Saul was the first to reign, it was King David who solidified the nation of Israel. It is only natural that the assembled ancient tales were flavored by David’s reign. The first lens through which we view this particular passage is the lens of politics. David was a descendent of Jacob while the Edomites were descendants of Esau. The land of Edom was southwest of the Dead Sea and continued to the Red Sea. In ancient times it was some of the most fertile lands of the Middle East. The Edomites and the Israelites were always at war with each other. In the 11th c. King Saul defeated the Edomites, and 40 years later King David completely conquered them and incorporated them into the nation of Israel. John Hyrcanus lead their conversion to Judaism, and, in fact, King Herod of the birth narrative, was an Edomite. The ancient tale of two brothers wrestling in the womb of Rebecca claimed that the descendants of Esau, of reddish-brown skin, were destined to be subjects of the descendants of Jacob. Our first lens is political and reinforces the governance of King David and his son, King Solomon.
Our second lens is cultural. Unlike the earlier tale of Sarah and Abraham where God spoke only to Abraham while Sarah listened from the tent, this time God spoke directly to Rebecca. Additionally, while Isaac loved Esau, Rebecca favored Jacob. It would be Rebecca’s favorite who would dominate Jacob’s favorite. This selection would forever give the women of Israel a much more prominent role. Also, here the second son is the ascendant child. Later in the long history of Israel, we would learn how the selection of God was to be more significant than the birth order. King David was the youngest of twelve.
This tale of Rebecca and Isaac is important for governance and for culture, but also for our third lens, spirituality. The tale of the Lord God of Sarah and Abraham and the Lord God of Rebecca and Isaac demonstrates the graciousness of God, the God who listens to the prayers of the people.
Isaac prayed to the Lord God for his wife, because she was barren, and the Lord God granted his prayer, and his wife Rebecca conceived.
The Lord God of Sarah and Abraham listened to their prayers. The Lord God of Rebecca and Isaac listened to their prayers. The Lord God of Sarah and Abraham was gracious. The Lord God of Rebecca and Isaac was gracious, and in this case, responded with twins, more than they had hoped for.
In this brief reading for today from Genesis, we find politics, culture, and God’s gracious attentiveness. The politics is interesting; the culture is instructive as it illustrates God’s calling of women and men into faithfulness; the graciousness of God inspires us as God brought graciousness into the lives of Rebecca and Isaac.
And God brings grace into our lives. The grace of God is among us day by day by day. How have we been graced? There are so many avenues, but to name just one, last week we sang, “America, America, God shed his grace on thee…” We live in this great nation; we were born into this great nation. We did not earn the right to be born here. It was given to us. Yes, others formed this nation, journeyed to these shores, fought to keep the dream secure, but we have been given this birthright. We were born by the grace of God in this land. We are children of grace, and our calling, our ministry, is to share that grace, to be graceful. We are to bring grace into the lives of others.
In our current age sometimes, I despair that we have misplaced our gracefulness. Sometimes I despair that we have lost our sense of kindness. Where is our reaching out with amazing, unmerited grace? Remember grace is when we do something and expect nothing in return.
Grace is our healthcare heroes that give the gift of touch to those suffering with COVID-19.
Grace is our first responders, though exhausted, going out for one more call to someone in need.
Grace is our police officers who seek to protect and serve each and everyone of us.
Grace is watering daily the hanging baskets of petunias of Market Street during the hot summer.
Grace is weeding and mulching the church gardens.
Grace is cooking in the kitchen on a warm day so that others will have a good supper.
Grace is sewing masks, and wearing them.
Grace is setting up the altar for worship.
Grace is driving a friend to a doctor’s appointment.
Grace is a phone call to check on a neighbor.
Grace is a kind word when passing a stranger on the sidewalk.
The ancient tale of Sarah and Abraham, and Rebecca and Isaac are more than about the politics and the culture of their own day. They are stories of grace, God’s grace. They are guides for the People of God as we share grace in our own day.
God’s grace is amazing.
May our grace be amazing, too.
Rejoice and Be Safe.