Engaging the Word: Readings for 7/27/14 (7th Sunday after Pentecost)

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By Barbara Klugh

Genesis 28:10-19a; Psalm 119:129-136; Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52. Go to www.lectionarypage.net for the weekly lectionary text.

Wonderful readings this week—Jacob the trickster gets tricked, our psalmist praises God for his guidance through the law, we read one of the most glorious passages Paul ever wrote, and Jesus tells more parables about the kingdom of God.

Genesis: Since last week’s reading of Jacob’s extraordinary dream, Jacob continued his journey to find a wife from among his kinfolk. When he arrived in Haran, he met Rachel, who was the daughter of his mother’s brother Laban. It was love at first sight, at least for Jacob. Laban welcomed his Jacob into his home.

Jacob Encountering Rachel with her Father's Herds, by Joseph von Führich (1800 - 1876). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Jacob Encountering Rachel with her Father’s Herds, by Joseph von Führich (1800 – 1876). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

This week’s reading begins after Jacob has been living with Laban for a month. Laban asks Jacob what wages he expects. Laban had two daughters, Leah the firstborn and Rachel, the younger, and “Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, ‘I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.’” Laban agreed. “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.”

Jacob then reminds Laban that his time is completed and Laban throws a big wedding feast. But in the evening Laban put Leah into the tent instead of Rachel. In the morning, Jacob realizes that he has married Leah and confronts Laban about his deception. Laban replied, “This is not done in our country–giving the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” Jacob agrees, and he is permitted to marry Rachel after spending a week with Leah, but he has to work for Laban another seven years.

I just wonder what Rachel and Leah thought and what they wanted. How did they get along with each other during the seven years Jacob was working in order to marry Rachel? What did they think when their father tricked Jacob? How did Leah keep silent for the entire wedding night? Were the sisters okay with their father’s decision? We’ll never know.

By Daniel Borman (Flickr: Studying at the Wall) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

By Daniel Borman (Flickr: Studying at the Wall) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Psalm: This week we have another selection from Psalm 119, the longest psalm in the Psalter and, with 176 verses (22 stanzas of eight verses each), it’s the longest chapter in the Bible. The psalmist thanks and praises God for the law that guides every moment of his life.

Depending the commentary, Psalm 119 has eight or ten words related to the law that describe God’s authoritative teaching, and most of the words occur in each of the 22 stanzas. The New Oxford Bible names the following descriptive words that occur repeatedly: law, precepts, statutes, commandments, ordinances, decrees, word, and promises. I count five in this week’s selection: “Your decrees are wonderful; when your word goes forth it gives light; I long for your commandments; and teach me your statutes; My eyes shed streams of tears because people do not keep your law.”

This highly structured psalm is truly a gift to God (and us) by a poetic genius.

Romans: In last week’s reading Paul reminded us that we have been adopted by God and are children of God. In this week’s reading, Paul tells how the Holy Spirit will help us to become like Jesus, our firstborn brother.

Detail of the Holy Spirit from the National Shrine of the Little Flower, by Nheyob. [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Detail of the Holy Spirit from the National Shrine of the Little Flower, by Nheyob. [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

So often we don’t know what or how to pray because we can’t articulate the deep longing in our soul. No matter. The indwelling Spirit intercedes for us “with sighs too deep for words.” And the Spirit takes the longing in our soul and pleads for us in harmony with God’s will.

We can be confident that God works with the circumstances of our lives for the good of his ultimate purpose. And that purpose is that every one of us should become like Christ. We were foreknown, predestined, called, and made righteous; and we are destined for glory through the resurrection of the dead.

We can live secure because “if God is for us, who is against us?” God once gave his own Son, and now gives us all things. And Christ, who died and was raised, now intercedes for us at God’s right hand.

Paul ends this chapter with the thrilling proclamation that we often hear at funerals:

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Matthew: This week we have five more parables in which Jesus describes the kingdom of heaven.

A mustard seed is tiny, but it grows to be a large shrub. A parable of growth, the reign of God will grow from small beginnings until it takes over the entire world. Similarly, yeast or leaven was a metaphor for influence. Jesus’ message will permeate every part of the earth until it transforms the world.

The Parable of the Hidden Treasure, by Rembrandt (1606 - 1669). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Parable of the Hidden Treasure, by Rembrandt (1606 – 1669). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The parables of the treasure in the field and of the pearl of great value make the same point. It invites us to consider what we are ready to sell or exchange in order to enter the realm of the kingdom. Wealth? Power? Prestige?

In the parable of the net, the net gathered all fish, only some of which were okay to eat. Jesus proclaims his message to all, and all are invited to participate in kingdom life. Some will not have ears to listen and will dismiss the kingdom. At the end of time, God will come and judge people, declaring the good to be his and discarding the others.

Jesus calls his disciples “scribes,” trained for the kingdom when they tell him that they understand the parables, for they are familiar with the “old” message of the Jewish scriptures, and the “new” message of Jesus’ teachings.

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