Psalm 105:1-11, 45b
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
First things first: the Genesis revelations.
Jacob is drawn to Rachel because of her beauty, but the first thing he does on his nuptial night is to turn out the lights, all of them, not keeping lit even a solitary candle; and thus he doesn’t even notice that Laban slipped his older daughter Leah in as his bride instead.
It’s one thing to be veiled before your new husband in public at the wedding, but in the bedroom shouldn’t he want to see your face? What kind of sex is that? The text says that Jacob had liked Leah’s eyes but was hotter for Rachel‘s beauty. To what end? So that he could get the one of his choice and “know” her with his eyes closed?
Laban must have slept well the night of the wedding, and the next night too, when he succeeded in tricking seven more years of hard labor out of Jacob -- all in the service of Jacob’s libido. Fourteen years of hard labor to get the woman he wants into his tent, and then not look at her!
Notice poor Leah: “[Jacob] completed her week.” That’s it. One week of entitlement, and then her younger sister takes over.
I take it we’re supposed to rejoice that Leah is now safe as the property of a powerful male.
Not much passes for love in these relationships: lust and money.
I suppose we could see it as pay-back time for the way that last Sunday Jacob tricked his elder twin Esau to take a bowl of soup in exchange for his rights and privileges as the first born of the twins. Even at birth Jacob yanked the heel of Esau coming out ahead of him from the womb. And later Jacob wrestles the angel of the Lord all night long to claim a blessing. Laban the trickster is no serious match for his son-in-law.
There’s a hint of the trickster in Jesus’ DNA evidenced in today’s gospel: “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.”
Note the character did not get permission to dig around in the field. When he found something, he did not ask the owner whether he had lost or hidden anything there. He did not say to a constable, “Officer, I found something here; will you help me locate its owner?"
No. Instead it’s “finders keepers, losers weepers.” But more so. He does not just walk away with the treasure. He buries it. Leaves and then buys the field so he can claim ownership of the hidden item -- entitlement which he was not willing to acknowledge for the one who already owned the field.
Jacob had every reason to think he had a clear understanding with Laban before he worked the first seven years: "I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel." It was only after the work and after Laban tricked him to marry Leah that Laban pulls the rule out of his sleeve to "justify" his action: “This is not done in our country-- giving the younger before the firstborn.”
Unstated, of course, is that Laban recognizes a horny young man when he sees one, and shrewdly uses biology to his economic advantage.
Where is Don Wildmon when we really need him? Family values? Greed and deception, or as Big Daddy says over 30 times in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, “mendacity!”
And we’re supposed to get all worked up about the Bishop of New Hampshire because he actually loves somebody with his eyes open!!
Don’t you love the bible’s honesty with the details of its heroes? Several hundred years later, in Psalm 105 which we read today, verse:10 shows that Jacob turned out a winner rather than a loser: he’s in the line-up of the major patriarchs, in praise for God’s covenant.
"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 your allotted inheritance'"
Again, property! The same property so much in dispute that in 2008 it drives the Arabs and Jews to the brink of nuclear war
Jacob had to win: each of his twelve sons becomes the named patriach of a different tribe of Israel. That's quite a sexual accomplishment.
And if I had more time:
The Romans passage deserves a sermon all by itself. 8:28 was my mother’s favorite verse in the bible and she said it (or muttered it as kind of Baptist rosary) several times a day, especially on troubled days.
Priests in my diocese (Newark) often are asked to do funerals for PWAs whose families are members of congregations that won’t do funerals for PWAs. When the friends of the deceased person show up, often there are many who have not been near a congregation for much of their life, fearing the condemnation and sometimes even the mockery they would face.
One such came up after the service to ask, “Father, did you write that passage you read?”
“Which one?” the priest replied.
“The one about nothing being able to separate any of us from the love of God, not powers, not…. that one.”
We in the church hold life giving truth for which many outside the Church are spiritually dying, but they will never hear that truth if we don’t love them enough to let God tell them through our lips, “I love you.”
I’d like to get a congregation to brainstorm about ways that might successflly complete Jesus’ trope in the terms of our time: “The kingdom of heaven is like……” Since we don’t have kingdoms in America (appearances sometimes to the contrary notwithstanding, G and GW), how might we make the same point in terms of realms we do experience here?
“The presidency of heaven is like…”?! Yipes, I certainly hope not.
- “The realm of God”? Safe, but not very inspired.
- “The Queandom of Heaven”, yes! but…
My Anglican Pages: http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/rel.html
My Natter/Blog: http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/natter/
I am not going to go look it up again tonight but my recollection is that in Horst Balz’s Exegetical Dictionary of the Greek New Testament it says that basilea – here translated kingdom – is a procedural, rather than a political description. Not basilea as a political entity, the Roman empire, the Persian empire, but basilea as imperial polity – this is the way the Romans do things, this is the way the Persians do things. So, the kingdom of heaven – basilea ouranos – is the way God does things. God’s polity. The ultimate ground of reality underlying everything...
I hope you will take note of the silliness of sowing mustard in a field – a noxious weed, huge, covered with seeds. In the kingdom of heaven, God throws some huge, unholy process into our ordered world and spreads the fertile seeds of growth and unpredictability.
Louie, I'm so glad you are writing comments on the lectionary. Keep writing!
Pamela Grenfell Smith
When Mark Harris posted about your new blog, I actually cheered!
I loved your take on this story---I had never thought about the "eyes wide shut" aspect of it...
Welcome to the blogosphere, Dr. Crew. It will be a richer place for your presence.
P.S. I laughed when I clicked from Fr. Harris' site and got a disclaimer that there might be "objectionable content" on this blog. If this is what counts as "objectionable," I say we need a lot more of it!
Welcome Louie to the blogosphere! You're duly bookmarked in my folder, 'Religious Resources,' and I am sure I will visit you often.
The nice thing about your exegesis, Louie, is that you haven't tried to make it all nice and neat. In fact, you've gotten it messier than most of us ever think to do! Thank you for that and ditto the comment about keeping this up. I'm adding you to a very short list of sermon prep sites.
Louie, your objectionable content is marvelous!!!!!
Yes, biblical patterns of matrimony aren't quite the sorts of things you'd think we should be copying in the 21st century, but conservatives never seem to stop talking about how they're so much preferable to (*shudder*) same-sex relationships. Are we sure we're all reading the same Bible?
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