Sunday, 27 July 2014

Can't make it to church (July 27)

This Sunday's readings give us plenty of food for thought as we look at Jacob working seven year for the prize that was Rachel's hand in marriage only to find himself ending up with Leah and so he works for another seven years for Rachel to become his wife also. How do we look at this?

Do we see a dodgy father offloading the eldest daughter (with dodgy eyes) onto the unsuspecting Jacob (who's done seven years of unpaid work for the privilege) and then getting another seven off him for Rachel?

Do we see a bloke who is so committed to the woman he's fallen for that he does fourteen years work for her?

Later in Genesis 45.5) there's a great passage which I think probably applies here:

'That which intended to use to harm me God meant (and has used) for good.'

And this thought is echoed in the Romans reading where we read:

'We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.'

This is something in which we can take comfort. No matter what the intention of others towards us and regardless of what we face; whether it be the work of others, life being life or stuff that comes from our own folly. God can use it to bring about something good. Who, or what, can get between us and the love of God: Absolutely nothing!

Now that's something to put a spring in our step this morning, isn't it?

And, looking past the dodginess  of Laban lets look at three further elements that can be taken from this story in Jacob's submission to dodgy old Laban and the respect (honour) the rights of the eldest (remember when the children were named in order of age?) and lastly there was the exercise of patience (and the multiple wives we will cough and say 'that was then' and swiftly move on).

Three things we need to perhaps learn in our own life: Submission, respect for age and patience - three things I know I might not always be good at - how about you?
Genesis 29.15-28
Then Laban said to Jacob, ‘Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?’

Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were weak, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, ‘I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.’ Laban said, ‘It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.’ So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

Then Jacob said to Laban, ‘Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.’ So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?’ Laban said, ‘This is not done in our country—giving the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me for another seven years.’ Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.

Romans 8.26-39
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

For as it is written,
‘For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Gospel is a bunch of parables which invite us to look at stuff we already know and find fresh eyes to add to our understanding. Mustard is a weed rather than a crop and yet from the lowest of the garden plants comes something that can stand tall and sturdy. The least of the plant kingdom can be a thing that dominates and provides shade and homes for the birds - things aren't always what eyes and custom say they are.

The leaven (yeast) usually represents something negative (sinful) and other translations speak of the woman mixing it in with the good (flour) until all the good stuff was ruined. Like throwing good money after bad this woman tainted what she had with her actions (lifestyle, gossip, attitudes - which leaven is yours?).

The treasure is simple in that if you find something that you value you go off and do whatever you need to do (like work fourteen years?) to make it yours. Rather than take it wrongly - you do whatever it is to make it yours in the right (God-honouring) way! Now there's a lesson many in Church need to learn!!

Again with the pearl story - if you find something you value then everything else fades away and becomes something less. Ambition, possessions and the like mean nothing compared to this and the giving of all you have to make it yours is simple because alongside it, it has little value. This is what has driven many Christians (even to become martyrs) over the years.

The net of fish is quite disturbing because those who heard the story would have taken the sifting of the day's catch for granted - but change this for the situation that will become reality at the end of it all. When God church the fish into two piles - 'In' or 'Out' - now that's not a popular transposition is it? So best be a good little fish then I guess ;-)

Look - it's simple!
A great bunch of parables - things that looks like everyday life and yet speak of things that influence out eternal life mirroring the task before those who take up the preacher's call. That need to take old and familiar words and situations and make them fresh and challenging every day and every time they are heard.

Father God, help us walk faithfully with you seeing the physical things with fresh eyes.
Help us to see others and not judge;
To see needs and not walk away;
To pray for those who need a touch from you;
And provide for those who have little.
Thank you for those who do all this in your name, and

For those who do it to us because of your great love.
We thank you that you can, and do, make sense of the place we are in this, and every day
through Jesus, the Christ and the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Matthew 13.31-33,44-52
He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’

He told them another parable:
‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’

‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

‘Have you understood all this?’ They answered, ‘Yes.’
And he said to them,
‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.’

The Collect
Creator God, you made us all in your image:
may we discern you in all that we see,
and serve you in all that we do;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Psalm 105.1-11,45b

O give thanks to the Lord and call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises and tell of all his marvellous works.
Rejoice in the praise of his holy name; let the hearts of them rejoice who seek the Lord.
Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his face continually. Remember the marvels he has done, his wonders and the judgements of his mouth, O seed of Abraham his servant, O children of Jacob his chosen.
He is the Lord our God; his judgements are in all the earth.
He has always been mindful of his covenant, the promise that he made for a thousand generations: The covenant he made with Abraham,   the oath that he swore to Isaac, Which he established as a statute for Jacob, an everlasting covenant for Israel, Saying, ‘To you will I give the land of Canaan to be the portion of your inheritance.’ That they might keep his statutes and faithfully observe his laws. Alleluia.

Post Communion Prayer
God of our pilgrimage,
you have led us to the living water:
refresh and sustain us
as we go forward on our journey,
in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Regarding Leah's eyes. Depending on the translation they range from weak to lovely, the majority going for weak (or a variant of it):

ESV: Leah's eyes were weak
NRSV: Leah’s eyes were lovely
NIV: Leah had weak eyes
NASB: And Leah’s eyes were weak
NLT: There was no sparkle in Leah’s eyes
NKJV: Leah’s eyes were delicate (now that's tactfully put!)
MSG: Leah had nice eyes
AMP: Leah’s eyes were weak and dull looking


PixieMum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PixieMum said...

Thanks for giving some guidance on the behaviour of Laban and Jacob, I was unfamiliar with the reading, even now not quite sure what it teaches us about life many thousands of years ago and today. In our service booklet it is written that 'Leah's eyes were lovely' . The sermon was on the Gospel reading instead.

Just grateful as the elder daughter who married after her younger sister's second wedding that although my father gave me away he had no control over my choice of husband!

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

The eye bit is interesting - the majority going for weak (or a variant of it):

ESV: Leah's eyes were weak
NRSV: Leah’s eyes were lovely
NIV: Leah had weak eyes
NASB: And Leah’s eyes were weak
NLT: There was no sparkle in Leah’s eyes
NKJV: Leah’s eyes were delicate (now that's tactfully put!)
MSG: Leah had nice eyes
AMP: Leah’s eyes were weak and dull looking

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

I've posted a brief blog entry on translations and how they work (and perhaps don't) :-)

Thanks again for the stimulation :-)