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Jesse Tree: Rahab

A lesson – Joshua 2:1-6
Then Joshua son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went, and entered the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab, and spent the night there. The king of Jericho was told, “Some Israelites have come here rahabthejust-carolaj.jpgtonight to search out the land.” Then the king of Jericho sent orders to Rahab, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come only to search out the whole land.” But the woman took the two men and hid them. Then she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they came from. And when it was time to close the gate at dark, the men went out. Where the men went I do not know. Pursue them quickly, for you can overtake them.” She had, however, brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax that she had laid out on the roof.

A Reflection
Women were not normally included in genealogies in the ancient world. Luke included no women in his version of Jesus’ genealogy. Matthew on the other hand, included five. And each one of those five women are remarkable. By including any women, Matthew would have been making a statement. By including THESE women, he is making an even bigger statement.

One of those women is Rahab. Rahab’s explicit inclusion in Jesus’ family tree is utterly amazing because of her profession. For Rahab was a prostitute.

Rahab lived and worked as a prostitute in the city of Jericho in the years immediately following the Exodus. The Jewish people were finally in the Promised Land, and Rahab assisted them in capturing Jericho. She hid Israelite spies in her home, and when the authorities of Jericho came to find them, Rahab hid them and helped them escape.

Honestly, Matthew could have left her out of the first chapter of his Gospel and no one would have even noticed. That he included her though says something about how Matthew sees the message of the Good News of Jesus: it is for everyone. For Matthew, anyone with any background, with any marks against them whatsoever, can make a contribution to the Kingdom of God. Absolutely anyone can be an example of faith.

Even Rahab. Even me. Even you.

A Prayer
God of mercy, we thank you for your unwavering grace and forgiveness; help us to forgive others as you have forgiven us, and give us eyes to see them not with prejudice, but as you see them and love them. Amen.

Jesse Tree: Noah

A lesson – Genesis 6:11-22

And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth. Make yourself an ark of cypress wood; 1817806634Flood.jpgmake rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and put the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks. For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every kind shall come in to you, to keep them alive. Also take with you every kind of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them.”

Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.

A reflection

For some ridiculous reason, we just love refashioning the story of Noah into a cute, cartoonish, kid-friendly tale. Can’t you see the drawings and the baby toys? The smiling Noah? The purple elephant? The awkward giraffe with his neck sticking out of a round port-side window? The animals going on by twosies, and coming off again in threesies?

It’s ridiculous because the story of Noah is anything but cute and cartoonish. People are sinning so horrifically that with grief and anger God sets out to wipeout everyone, and everything. It’s a story of death on an unthinkably massive scale. It’s a story of pitch black clouds, of a foaming raging sea, and lives being drowned out in every direction.

Luke includes Noah in Jesus’ family tree. Noah’s inclusion reminds us of the evil things that humans can do – as if we need much of a reminder of that these days. However, while God responded to the depths of human sin with a flood in the days of Noah, God responded with love and grace in the days of Jesus. 

When we juxtapose Noah and Jesus, as Luke does in his version of the genealogy, we see the remarkable consistency of human failing, and we see a remarkable difference in how God chooses to relate to us. 

The gift of that child born in a manger becomes even more beautiful than a rainbow.

A prayer

O God, who made a covenant with all living things in the days of Noah, and set a bow in the sky; give us grace to see our failings and strength to live according to your way, that we may evermore be people who reflect your love in the world. Amen.

Jesse Tree: Jacob

A lesson – Genesis 32:22-32

The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle.

A reflection

Jacobs-Experience-at-Jabbok.jpgBoth genealogies in Matthew and Luke take Jesus’ family lineage through the patriarchs and matriarchs: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Rachel. Jacob, the son of Isaac and Rebekah, struggled even in the womb with his twin brother Esau. The shadow of this struggle remained with him through his life, and the pattern of sibling rivalry played out in his own children when his favored son Joseph was attacked by his brothers, thrown into a pit, and sold off into slavery.

The great patriarchs and matriarchs of our faith could sometimes muster within themselves bravery, fearlessness, and heroic trust in God. And, they are also the very icons of dysfunctional families.

This personal family struggle finds some theological language when Jacob literally wrestles with God all night long. He sends his family and flocks away, fords the River Jabbok, and encounters a great struggle with some mysterious force. He can’t win the struggle, but he does manage to extract a blessing. It is at the Jabbok that Jacob “sees God face to face.”

Struggle is an integral part of life. Everyone struggles. Each person’s struggle is a little different. Sometimes it’s with family. Sometimes it’s with illness. Sometimes it’s with war. Sometimes it’s with God. Struggle is so normative that it’s woven into the story of the great patriarchs and matriarchs of our faith. 

Even into Jesus’ family tree.

And sometimes, even when we least expect it, through the struggle we can find a blessing.

A prayer

O God, in Jesus we meet you face to face; help us see your Presence among us when life is so hard and the day’s news is hardly bearable, and offer us a blessing, that somehow we might be a blessing to the world. Amen.

The Blessing of the Backpacks

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 2.46.26 PMThis Sunday, September 13, at the 10AM Eucharist we’re going to be having the annual “Blessing of the Backpacks.”

We aren’t just asking God’s blessing on backpacks though… We’re asking God to bless the students who will be carrying them, the learning that will happen at school and at home, the teachers who will be guiding their classes, and the parents who will be in the midst of it all.

Really, it’s asking God to be in the middle of life—right where God is already. It’s asking God to be with our children—right where God is already. It’s asking God to be with our young people during this crucial part of their lives when they will experience so much joy, and where they are so vulnerable—a post that God will never abandon.

So, have your children/ grandchildren bring in their backpacks, pencil cases, gym bags, etc.—and why you’re at it, bring in your own briefcase, computer bag, man-purse, or diaper bag—and let’s invite God to join us everyday, right where we are.