When we read passages like the one we just shared together from , it makes us feel, like we can soar to new heights, like on the wings of eagles.
Our hearts unite with God and we rejoice in being in his presence.
We want to seek anew our relationship with him, to know the wonders of his hand, and to seek his face in all that we do.
When the psalmist says, “Remember the wonderful works God has done, the miracles and judgments God has uttered”, we join with the countless numbers of saints from across the ages in confirming our inheritance as child of God.
And we rejoice together and are filled with awe!
That you and I are counted in the number whom God calls his sons and daughters.
We would love it if our entire lives were lived in such a perfect relationship with God, would we not.
But alas, our lives are not always pristine, there are times in which things between God and ourselves are less than glorious.
Times when we are broken and our lives are not full of beauty, truth, and love that God intends for us.
This was certainly true for the men and women who’s stories are recorded in the Bible.
Let me share one of those stories with you this morning.
It is the story of Jacob and his love for Rachel.
· Twin brother Esau
· Dysfunctional family
· Jacob trick’s his father for birthright
· Flees for his life from Esau
· Uncle Laban
· Leah and Rachel
· Work seven years for Rachel’s maid price (over paid, seem like days not years)
· Wedding day – Laban switches daughters, Jacob the trickster is tricked
· Jacob is angry with Laban, perhaps Jacob is reminded of his own deception
· Agree to work another seven years
We All Have Dirty Laundry
If Jacob were here this morning he would not be thrilled with all his dirty laundry being laid out for all of us to see in the pages of the Bible.
Jacob’s life was far from perfect.
But here it is before us; the good the bad and the ugly.
Why is that?
Genesis, which tells the stories of our ancestors, from the creation of the world to the foundation of the Hebrew people, is full of these stories.
From Adam, Eve, and the talking serpent at the beginning, all the way through the dysfunction of Jacob’s sons at the end, Genesis is full of family stories that we might like to shove under the proverbial rug.
Do any of you face that in your own families?
I know that when I was a kid I could find nothing wrong in my family.
My grandparents where saints.
My Mom and Dad were next to perfect.
When I was young I thought my dad could do no wrong.
Then I became a dad, looking back on my childhood with new eyes.
Seeing there amongst the perfections of my childhood blemishes that I did not see before.
But we want to tell the heroic stories of our ancestors.
We highlight the ancestor who invented barbed wire and forget to mention the one whose drinking caused the loss of the family business.
In Our Brokenness, God is Working Right Through the Midst of It
We tell the stories we think others want to hear, dressing ourselves, and our families, up as people who have it all together, hoping that people won’t see the pain and brokenness that is just under the surface.
Thankfully, the author of Genesis doesn’t whitewash the story of Israel.
We don’t only get the story of Jacob’s hard work and creativity.
We also get the story of heartbreak, deception, family dysfunction, and intrigue.
And God is working right through the midst of it.
From Leah’s tears that come from being the unwanted wife, the first of the tribes of Israel will be born—sons Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and daughter Dina.
Her delight and joy will come despite the circumstances around her marriage.
And Rachel, too, is a part of God’s story, waiting those years to be married to Jacob, enduring years of infertility, and giving birth to Joseph and Benjamin.
Of course, we know that childbearing is not the only way women participate in God’s story, but the book of Genesis doesn’t tell us of those experiences.
And Jacob lives into his role as patriarch, claiming the birthright, working for his uncle, creating a family, becoming Israel, carrying the story forward where we meet up with it.
God creates the people of God from this most human and flawed man.
We know this to be true—that God works through highly flawed people and families.
We have it in Scripture, even.
And yet, we continue to argue that only perfect people should lead us.
Or we say that God doesn’t need this person or that person to serve the church because we have decided that they sin more than the rest of us.
Or we decide we will go back to church once we’ve gotten things figured out.
But if God seems perfectly content to work through people like Jacob and Laban, why do we pretend we’re not?
What grace do we need to accept in our lives so that we can offer our true selves as God’s servants?
What do we need to do so that we can then share that grace with others?
Think about it.
If Jacob showed up today and wanted to pastor our church, what would we say?
Setting aside the 2 wives and the children he had with the slaves of his two wives.
I can imagine the conversation.
“Well, he did cheat his brother out of his inheritance.”
“Yes, and to do that he lied to his father and then took the first train out of town.”
There is often conflict at work in our faith life.
We claim that we’ve accepted God’s grace, offered through Jesus Christ.
But then we act as if only perfect people, seemingly not in need of grace, need apply.
We need to let that go.
We need to come to church as our whole selves.
Manipulative and tricky.
And we need to be clear that we welcome real people in our doors.
If God’s own story is told through the lives of Jacob, Laban, Leah, and Rachel, then surely, we need our churches to be places where those people would be welcome to worship.
None of our stories– our beautiful, heartbreaking, and complicated stories—is beyond the presence or the ability of God to redeem.
So, bring yourself and your story here to this place, where, together, we can seek where God is moving amongst us.
The apostle Paul also knew what it was to serve God from a place of brokenness.
He was the least likely candidate to evangelize the world.
He persecuted Christians.
He was also short and not very charismatic.
Yet God chose him.
And in his flawed humanity, Paul responded to God’s call and then wrote these words, now found in the 8th chapter of the Letter to the church in Rome:
Paul reminds us that all of our story is within the care of God.
Even the parts, neigh especially the parts, of the story we don’t want to write about in our annual Christmas letter to those we know.
Paul reminds us that all of our story is within the care of God.
Even the parts, especially the parts, of the story we don’t want to write about in our Christmas letters.
What then are we to say about these things?
If God is for us, who is against us?
He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?
Who will bring any charge against God’s elect?
It is God who justifies.
Who is to condemn?
It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.
Who will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?