“Waking Up With Leah” Genesis 29, Matthew 13
The Sanctuary Sermon for 7/19/20
The Sanctuary Sermon for 7/19/20
“Waking Up With Leah” Genesis 29, Matthew 13
18 Jacob was in love with Rachel and said [to Laban], “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.”
So, Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.
21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.”
22 So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. 23 But when evening came, he took his [other] daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob…
25 When morning came, there was Leah! So, Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?”
While over in Matthew 13 Jesus is serving up life lessons with parables of what the kingdom of heaven is like: An indiscriminate farmer scattering seed everywhere, a minute mustard seed and some yeast, a story of weeds among wheat, hidden treasure in a field, a pearl of greatest value and a story about a net that pulls in good with the bad.
Let’s begin with a question this morning. What happens when life doesn’t work out the way we want? What do we do when we are surprised by the unexpected or devastated by the unwanted? We’ve been dealing with the Rona, then the riots and now in our faith family, it’s #Melastrong. All of us have experienced those kind of moments. The death of a loved one. For some, it’s the breakup and death of a relationship. For others it may be the breakdown of physical or mental health. The unexpected may show up as cancer, a tumor, the loss of a job or the failure of a business. There are all sorts of ways in which, no matter how hard we work, how good we are, or what we do, life just does not give us what we want.
Given a choice most of us probably prefer a “what you see is what you get” kind of world. If we ask a question, we want to be able to trust we’ll get an honest answer. We want a fair wage for a day’s work. We want to know that if we do the right thing, we’ll get the result we expect and deserve. We don’t want surprises or hidden agendas. We prefer the stability, order, predictability, and control that a “what you see is what you get” kind of world offers. It makes life easier and more manageable.
The problem is that life doesn’t always work that way. In fact, Jesus says that is not even how the kingdom of heaven works. Sometimes real life, kingdom life, is like a net dragged through the sea. It pulls up both the good and the bad. Other times it’s like a field that you see day after day. You look out and it’s always there. Not much changes. Just an ordinary field like any other field, except that it is not. Deep within that ordinary dirt is unseen tray-sure waiting to be discovered.
Most of us have lived long enough to know that despite our desires and hopes, we do not always get what we want. The good and the bad, the dirt and the treasure, are never far from each other. Nothing is as it seems. What you see is not always what you get. Sometimes you choose Rachel and you wake up with Leah. Some things just can’t be un-seen. She’s got Bette Davis eyes. That’s when we have to make a decision about our faith and how, or even whether, we will move forward.
Can we trust God that there is more happening in life than we can see or understand? Can we look at a mustard seed, the smallest of seeds, and see contained within it the greatest of shrubs, a tree in which birds nest? Or is our faith limited to what we see here and now, what can be verified by facts and logic, to what fits our desires and expectations?
That is the dilemma facing people these days like close to home, as Mela, Lindsey, Brock and their family receive what they did not choose. Those are also the questions many in this country must answer as they endure life on hold, or look for a job, go without healthcare, or struggle to make ends meet. That faith question is the challenge for everyone who has ever thought life was one way and discovered it was another. That’s where Jacob finds himself today.
You may recall at the beginning of Jacob’s saga that he bought his older brother’s inheritance for a bowl of soup. Then he and his mother, Rebekah, deceived Isaac, Jacob’s dad and Rebekah’s husband, into giving Jacob the blessing that rightfully belonged to Jacob’s older brother, Esau. After all that Jacob fled for his life to Laban, his uncle.
Jacob journeys to a new land seeking Laban. He comes to a well. Laban’s younger daughter, Rachel, shows up. She is beautiful and graceful. Jacob kisses Rachel at the well. Jacob loves Rachel. He and Laban work a deal. Jacob will serve Laban seven years for the right to marry Rachel. At the end of seven years Laban prepares a great wedding feast. Laban, however, will not allow to happen to Leah, his oldest daughter, what happened to Esau. It’s not right for the younger daughter to be given in marriage before the firstborn. Laban knows this and, more importantly, so does Leah. Laban will not allow Rachel to supplant Leah as Jacob supplanted his older brother, Esau.
Laban prepares a great feast. After the wedding Jacob goes to meet Rachel in the tent to consummate the marriage. I like how the NIV renders it, “When morning came it was Leah!” Laban has done a little bait and switch. Jacob, the one who deceived and fled, has now been deceived and trapped. He’s got to be wondering about that night at Bethel, the ladder, and God’s promises to keep him and go with him. Hmmmph. A wedding, the morning light, and Leah are not what Jacob chose, expected, or wanted. It certainly doesn’t sound like the fulfillment of God’s promises. It sounds more like kissing cousins and an ancient soap opera.
Sometimes, though, things are not as they seem. Who would have ever thought that the soap opera stories of a dysfunctional family, brokenness, lies and deception, unmet expectations and hopes would become sacred stories? This is true not just for Jacob and Esau, Isaac and Rebekah, Laban, Leah, and Rachel but for every one of us.
We all have stories of family dysfunction, sorrow, loss, despair, and brokenness; stories of how things did not work out for us, sometimes through our own fault and other times simply by chance or the circumstances of life. Those stories are probably not the first place we turn to when we are looking for God. That’s not generally where we expect to find him. What you see, however, is not always what you get. God is always somehow mixed into our stories of dysfunction, of brokenness, sorrow, and despair like yeast mixed in with three measures of flour. You can’t see it or separate it out, but it is there, working, leavening, and transforming the flour into something new and alive. Something delicious. And buttery.
Even when we choose Rachel and we get Leah—the leaven of God’s life, the leaven of God’s love, the leaven of God’s presence, the leaven of God’s healing is working within us to transform and make new our lives. The leavening power of God within us can do more than we can ask or imagine. What we see is not all we get.
Hear, then, another parable. The kingdom of heaven is like a man who chose Rachel, the younger daughter, the beautiful and graceful one, to be his wife and after the wedding he awoke in the morning with Leah, the older daughter.
But Jacob’s account in Genesis 29 ends with this,
27 [Laban said,] “Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you Rachel also, in return for another seven years of work.”
28 And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. 30 Jacob made love to Rachel, and his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah. And so he worked for Laban another seven years.
Hear then, yet another parable.
The Kingdom of Heaven is like a trader on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of greatest value,
He sold everything he owned and bought it!
This is the Word of the Lord for the day.