Our reading from Matthew today is another parable. Last week I talked about parables and shared a reflection on weeding my garden. That reflection would not have worked for this reading because last week I talked about the pleasure I find in weeding my garden, but in this parable Jesus suggests that we leave the weeds to grow along side the wheat. Any gardener knows that this is not really good advice – since the weeds will compromise the health and productivity of the crop. But Jesus is not talking about food, he's talking about human beings. In this parable he's suggesting that human beings learn to live together, that we accept our differences, and strive to live without judging others, trusting that God will sort it all out in the end.
Our reading from Genesis continues the story of Isaac and Rebekah and their sons, Esau and Jacob. The battle between Esau and Jacob began in the womb and continues into life, is more than a story of sibling rivalry. It represents the struggle between rival powers in the ancient world – who is in control of this ancient country/land - is represented by the battle between these brothers. As we learn later in Genesis, Jacob is renamed Israel by God – so the story represents a battle between ancient Israel and other nations.
Once Jacob has deceived Esau and received the father's blessing, we learn that Esau is irate. In order to protect her sons from harming one another, Rebekah urges Jacob to leave. Our reading this morning picks up the story with Jacob on a run for his life.
Jacob, upon leaving home, heads east – toward the land of his mother – eventually coming to the home of an uncle named Laban. But along the way he stops to rest for the night and uses a stone for a pillow. That's our reading this morning. During the night he has a dream, a revelation of God – God comes face to face with Jacob – and gives Jacob a blessing. Upon waking Jacob calls the place holy. This land, which he names Bethel, becomes the family burial site, and a place of importance in the unfolding Genesis family story.
Years ago, with another congregation, I lead an adult forum every Sunday between the 8am and 10am service. For this forum, which is what they wanted to do, we usually read and discussed a book. One year we decided to read the entire book of Genesis, and as a companion to that bible study we read Bill Moyers book, Genesis, A living Conversation. For this book, Moyers invited a diverse group of people to read and discuss the primary stories of Genesis – so he had Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists, screen writers, authors, religious people, and non-religious people – who gathered every so often and discussed a story from Genesis. It was so interesting that Moyers made a PBS series out of it. Here's a bit of that conversation that pertains today's reading:
One of the discussion members says: “Rebekah pays a heavy price for her actions. Her life is miserable from this time forward. She tells her younger, beloved son to run away to her family in far off Mesopotamia and puts on a brave face, saying, it's just for a few days. But she knows in her heart that she will never see Jacob again.”
Moyers asks, “Does it occur to you that Rebekah's sacrifice of Jacob is analogous to Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac?
Another member says: “They're both prepared to make sacrifices for a larger cause. What am I or any of us here today ready to do for a....cause we love? How would we respond if our faith was truly tested? This story also shows us that conflicts are inevitable...”
A third member of the group says:“This story...points out that you don't have to get rid of..conflict before God's purposes can be worked out. It is precisely in and through these conflicts that the promise of God is carried out..we can identify with this because it is...in and through the sometimes messy parts of our lives that God's purposes are worked out.”*
Life can be messy sometimes. Weeds crop up. Stuff happens. But our call as a people of God is to stay faithful and trust that when we treat one another with dignity and respect, with kindness and compassion, and when we give each other the benefit of the doubt, instead of judgment, we leave room for God to work in and through us.
*excerpts from Genesis, A Living Conversation, pages 261-262