07/30/23 – Inseparable Love – Rev. Chip Roland

INSEPARABLE LOVE

July 30, 2023
9th Sunday after Pentecost
Gen 29:15-28; Isa 44:6-8; Romans 8:12-25; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Rev. Chip Roland

Jacob had it coming.  Laban’s trick is so like Jacob’s fooling of his own father into getting his brother, Esau’s blessing it’s hard not to imagine word had reached Laban somehow in the past seven years about the character of his nephew.  Or maybe it was something like karma.  After all, Jacob had navigated the world with deception, and it was a matter of time before it bit him in the rear.  And I suppose it’s comforting to know that God’s promise to build a great nation out of Abraham’s family, a promise that we are spiritual heirs to today can be worked out through the messy, flawed lives of normal, sinful folk trying to survive.  I mean, if God can work with Jacob’s life, think what he can do with yours.  You probably never manipulated your brother into selling his birthright for some lentil stew.  It likely never occurred to you.

And it’s tempting to tie up this story into a bow, leaving it at that.  But there’s something else with this narrative that should trouble our hearts.  Laban and Jacob both have voices, but Leah’s silence rings louder than both of them.  Yeah, Jacob might have deserved what he got, but she didn’t.  I do think it’s important to know that if you get blowback from the ways you’ve behaved that sometimes innocent people like Leah get caught in the mix, sure.   But to be used as part of a plot by your own father to marry off his daughters in one fell swoop.  To be married to a man who somehow is fooled into believing that you’re your sister.  Was she even in on the ruse?  It’s hard to tell.  And what must she have been telling herself about herself in the midst of all of this?  If it bothers you, makes you uncomfortable, and a bit squirmy, good!  Good because this narrative lays bare certain assumptions about the nature and humanity of women that are not quite as far in the past as we would like to think.  We don’t have to look further than certain manifestations of American Christianity.   We should be shaken to our core by it!  Good because I think God wants you to be troubled!  God wants you to be troubled by this because God certainly was.

Sisters and brothers, God saw!  God saw Leah, God saw that she was unloved as the unwanted bride, the victim of the machinations and the comeuppance of others.  The woman who went unseen so profoundly that her own husband couldn’t see her on her wedding night was seen and known and cared for by the Lord of the universe.

Paul thinks big when he talks about what the members of the Roman church might imagine could separate them from God’s love in Christ.  I mean, heights, depths, powers, spiritual beings, and so on.  It all seems a bit Lovecraftian.  It makes sense of course.  After all, they’re in the epicenter of the predominate earthly power in their world.  Against all practical logic, they were choosing this new thing, this peal of great price, this Kingdom that turned the logic of the world so on its head that they were more than conquerors in the midst of suffering and persecution.  In the midst of the crucifiers, they were proclaiming the crucified One as Lord.  It’s hard for us to imagine the radicalness of that.

But the reality for most of us is when we imagine ourselves as separated from God’s love, as unworthy of it, the source of this mindset is much quieter.  Maybe powers and heights and all that don’t hold a candle to the destructive power of quiet disregard, of implicit dehumanization, of unseeing.

Unhoused people are sometimes referred to as the invisible members of a community.  When I lived on the west coast, I bore witness to how those without homes are studiously not seen and how the practice of not seeing is passed from generation to generation.  So, my question is, what does that do to you?  What does that do to your heart over years and years of being rushed passed uncomfortably as if you’re a muddy spot on the sidewalk?  How does one then receive God’s call to them that they are God’s beloved child?

What about us, when we have painful experiences of being unseen, unheard, or acknowledged in our family of origin (that’s a good chaplain term), our community, and even our church?  Perhaps you are the perpetrator of not seeing yourself, of seeing only others’ needs and ignoring your own, of loving others as beloved children of God but forgetting you are as well?  What about us in our secret pains, our secret longings for validation and notice from others who might or might not be equipped to do so?  God sees us!  God sees our hearts and in doing so, calls us to see one another, to truly become invested in each other as brothers and sisters, to take time to listen to one another, to hold one another’s pains and fears in our hearts.  If that is the Kingdom God is calling us to, if that is the treasure, we’re called to give up everything else for…all our investment in a world that makes people like Leah pawns, that renders others or ourselves unseen…then I think it’s worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Rev. Christopher ‘Chip’ Roland, 2023, All Rights Reserved
Westminster Presbyterian Church | 1420 W. Moss Ave. | Peoria, Illinois 61606
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