“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.”
Poet Muriel Rukeyser

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Family Stories

A reflection on Genesis 24 for Proper 9A

The other night I found myself watching the movie, “Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood,” starring Ellyn Burstyn and Sandra Bullock. Its one of those movies I’ve seen a dozen times but still enjoy.

The plot revolves around a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship, and a group of the mother’s friends who have known one another all their lives.

The daughter, a playwright in NYC has an interview published in the NY Times magazine, and it comes across as highly critical of the mother.

The mother reads the interview and flies into a dramatic rage. Correspondence flies back and forth, cutting the daughter from the will, sending the mother an invitation to the daughters wedding but the date and place have been cut out of the invitation, phone calls where one hangs up on the other.

Finally in exasperation the mothers friends fly to NYC, and with the fianc├ęs help, kidnap the daughter and bring her back to the New Orleans area.

There they spend a week telling the daughter the story of her mothers's life. Its a tragic story but also funny, and well acted by a cast of great actors.

Dysfunctional family stories fill the book of Genesis from which our first reading this morning is taken.
In Genesis we have two stories of creation, the calling of Abraham and Sarah, of children born in old age, of a father who binds and almost kills his son Isaac – a story we would have heard last week if we had stayed with the lectionary.
Jews, Christians, and Muslims, have all had a field day trying to make sense of this Abraham and Isaac story with responses that vary from – it’s a story of child abuse, it’s a story about dependency on God, it’s a story about faithfulness, it’s a story about the ancient practice of human sacrifice.

Regardless of what the story is about what we hear in the rest of Genesis is that the relationship between Abraham and Sarah and Isaac is broken from this point forward – Sarah dies and Abraham arranges for a wife for Isaac, and the plot shifts to Rebekah, who as wife of Isaac, gives birth to Jacob and Esau.
The story of Jacob and Esau leads to other levels of conflict and anguish as Jacob, the second born, maneuvers to steal the birth right of Esau, the first born – and has his mother’s support to do it.
Jacob who wrestles with an angel and ends up with a new name - Israel, Jacob, whose own son, Joseph carries on the family saga, made popular in a musical starring Donnie Osmond.
Genesis is a very old text that has it's origins in stories told around camp fires as tribes travelled across the Middle East, Egypt, and areas of ancient Mesopotamia.
Genesis blends a number of stories that had have taken place over the course of hundreds of years, influenced by a number of emerging cultures.
Which is why we have two creation stories at the beginning of Genesis, as well as other conflicting elements.
But it's a rich text filled with timeless stories about the human condition.
Readings from Genesis will be our first reading through summer, accompanying stories of Jesus that we will hear in the Gospel.
The Gospel of Matthew begins with a genealogy that connects Jesus to David, a descendent of Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph.
As I said last week, Matthew is interested in showing how Jesus is the fulfillment of the law of Moses, the fulfillment of what is meant by - love God, love self, and love others.
And in that way Matthew connects Jesus to the family story we hear in Genesis, and ultimately we come to know these stories as our story, the family of God.
Stories that remind us that God has blessed our lives, that we might be a blessing to others.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad