Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton
26 July 2020
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Another Sunday and another text that portrays women as reproductive pawns in the game of life played by men.
In this case we have a powerful old man (Laban) trading his daughters like chips in a card game.
“Yes, I know you wanted the younger one. She is pretty. But I need to marry off the older one first. Hey, son, spend a week with her and then you can have the other one as well. But you will need to work as my unpaid farming assistant for an additional seven years.”
Not quite two for the price of one, but two women being traded away by their father as part of a deal with the man they will share as husband.
And no one thought to ask the women? Either of them!
And at the end of the reading we said:
Hear the word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
This week at least our hermeneutical bacon is saved by a disclaimer tucked away in the Gospel reading:
… every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.Matthew 13:52
That is a little word picture that has always resonated with me.
It is unique to Matthew and is probably not something that Jesus ever said.
But I wish he had.
And I am glad that Matthew did.
As people who are trained (schooled, educated, equipped) for the reign of God, what do we do with a story such as today’s OT passage in the storehouse of faith? Do we hide it away in the back of the shed, or do we bring it out as a model for life today?
Let’s think for a moment about the two sisters trapped in this love triangle.
Assuming it is a love triangle, and not a power pyramid.
Leah – senior sister, overlooked wife, matriarch.
What we know best about that Leah is that Jacob preferred her younger sister, Rachel. Always.
Yet Leah was a survivor in a male-dominated world. She played her part in their father’s scheme to outfox the schemer himself, Jacob.
She was living in the shadow of her younger sibling’s beauty, but flourished in a family system where her husband had to be shared with a young sister, who he clearly preferred.
It was complicated. Life sometimes is. Often, actually.
Check out Genesis 30 for a snapshot of family worthy of a TV drama series.
Perhaps we can rescue this text by hearing it as a call for us to honour women trapped in unhealthy relationships, not all of whom have the resilience of Leah to manage their circumstances to their own advantage.
Let’s also pray for anyone enmeshed in society’s powerful messages about what constitutes beauty and who wish they looked different, spoke differently or had a different body shape.
Rachel, the beloved, the beautiful.
A man would happily work 14 years just to gain her as his wife.
In the end, Rachel was the mother of both Joseph and Benjamin, the two favourite sons among Jacob’s many children.
Tragically, she died in childbirth.
A tomb in Bethlehem remembers her but has itself become a place of violence and oppression.
I am left wondering …
Did Rachel love Jacob as much as he loved her?
What value do we put on passionate romance? And what makes the beloved other so beautiful in our eyes? They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder …
Week after week, day by day, it is our task to bring out from the storehouse of faith some treasure—some piece of wisdom—that is just right for the challenges we face in everyday life.
Sometimes the Scriptures tell us what to think or how to act.
More often than not, they invite us to judge (to discern), like Solomon of old.
What is wisdom?
How shall we act?
How do we life justly?
What does salvation look this like in this particular situation?
Yes, it is complicated.
But the core principles are simple:
Do no harm.
Love our neighbour as ourselves.