Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sleeping on a Stone Genesis 28:10-19

The night Jacob heard a promise form God was the same night he laid down on the open ground with a stone for a pillow. He was exhausted after running from his twin brother. He was headed towards relatives far away.

This story started long before this night in the desert. Jacob had a brother, Esau. They were sons of Isaac and Rebekah, the grandsons of Abraham and Sarah who heard the promise of God. God promised to build a great nation through their family. They were going to have descendants more numerous than the stars and the sands on the sea shore.

These two boys had parents who played favorites. Jacob the younger boy was his mother's favorite, and Esau the older was his father's pride and joy. When the were grown their mother Rebekah heard their old father, Isaac, plan to bless Esau after he served him a meal of roasted game.

Following his mother's advice Jacob tricked their poorly sited father, Issac so he could get the blessing. Jacob pretended to be Esau—he prepared a meal of roasted meat just like father loved to eat. Jacob covered his arms with the skins of animals so his father would think that it wasn't him but Esau serving the meal. Jacob was blessed. And Esau came home with food ready to serve and received no blessing. Esau burned with anger.

Esau wanted to kill him. So Jacob ran leaving behind the promise land. Desperation drove him into the wilderness and beyond to seek out his mother and father's old relatives.

And now with a blessing he'd gotten through cheating Jacob lay on the ground that night with a rock for a pillow. As he slept Jacob had this vision of angels ascending and descending a ladder from heaven. Over the years I've heard a song about people climbing Jacob's ladder—but that's not the vision Jacob had that night. He had a vision of messengers from God coming from heaven and going back. He had a vision of God reaching out with messengers into our world.

And the vision grew bolder. Now the God of his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac stood beside him speaking the promise that his children and grandchildren and many generations to come would inherit the land promised to Abraham and Sarah.

And with vision in mind he headed away from the promised land with a word from God.

Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. Genesis 28:15 NRSV
May everyone who seeks refuge hear God's word of compassion in our world today.
Peace and thanks for reading, John

Thursday, July 13, 2017

"Biblical" Family Values in Genesis 25

Many people like to point back to a simpler time in history when there were fewer problems—but the longer I live the more certain I am we have always needed a savior. There has never been a time when humans have been beyond temptation.

If you don’t believe that’s true just pick up a bible and read the story of the family God chose as the start of a great nation. Genesis traces a promise of God—to build a great nation through the family of Abraham, Sarah and the descendants of their son Isaac. This family was far from perfect. The first book of scripture is full of tension and strife between the closest of relatives. Sin was a problem then and sin is a problem today. And the solution to sin—as much as we wish we didn’t need any help—has always been God.

Any time someone uses the phrase “Biblical family values” people should wonder if they’ve ever read the very first book of the Bible. Yes God fulfilled the promise to start a great nation—but the people chosen to be part of that promise had issues with greed, envy, and pride. In short they were very little different from any of us who are alive today.

See our story picks up when Isaac married Rebekah and these two hoped for a child—but no child came. So Isaac prayed to the God of his father and the prayer was answered.

Rebekah was pregnant—but it wasn't an easy pregnancy. Two babies jostled inside of her. “Why me?” she cried.
So she went to inquire of the LORD.
the LORD said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger.”
Genesis 25:22b-23 NIV
She gave birth to two very different boys Esau and Jacob. The first baby was hairy with a ruddy complexion so they named him Esau meaning hairy and rough. And the second boy was born grabbing at his brothers heal—so they called him Jacob which means heal or worse cheater or trickster. These two boys were different from day one. And trouble came not because they were each unique people—trouble came because these two parents each picked a favorite son.

Any parent of multiples can tell you all the ways their children are different. Yes children who were born together aren't the same. Every person is made as a unique individual with gifts and abilities given them by God. These two boys were different from day one and not just in appearance.

Esau loved to hunt and go out with his father. Jacob liked to stay close to the tents and his mother. The trouble for this family came when these two parents chose favorites.
Isaac chose Esau—the first born—the one who would get a double share of the families resources..
Rebekah chose Jacob the younger son who should always had second place to Esau.

Remember, there's a condition in us humans called sin—and hard as we might try to deny it –the reality springs up. Ugh—come on don't these two parents know what they are doing. These two boys grew up in the same household but they were favored each by a different parent.

So imagine the moment when these two are grown and Esau comes in from hunting—and he'd been skunked. Who knows how long Esau had been out—and he was famished. And Jacob was home cooking a meal—red stew. Just imagine how good a meal of bread and red lentil stew or chili would look—if you are really hungry.

And Jacob—who's name literally means heal grabber—some even say twister or cheater—turns to his brother Esau the hunter who's name means hairy or rough and says I'll give you food in exchange for your birthright.

And Esau says sure. What good is that birthright anyway if I am dead. Jacob had done it. He'd flipped the order. Here it is, our problem with sin played out in the family that had received the promises of God. One brother taking from another.

And Jesus came to spread a message of hope into such a world that won't always receive the Good News. He came with life – and we often turn away. And the good news comes into this complicated world—into real families. It comes not because everything is easy or neat in our live but because the cold hard truth is we need God's love and mercy.

Jesus didn't come because people have it all together – he came to live and die that sinners like us might be set free. Our trouble with sin requires more than just good advice—the savior comes that we might die with him to our selves—and he sends us out to spread a message of love like a farmer throwing seed out into the world.
Peace, and thanks for reading.