Notes-N-News

That evening his disciples came and said to him, “This is an isolated place and it’s getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said to them, “There’s no need to send them away. You give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here except five loaves of bread and two fish.” – Matthew 14:15-17

Don’t you get the impression that the disciples tell Jesus boldly, “We have nothing here!” and then continue, under their breath, “ . . . (except five loaves of bread and two fish)”? That’s how the story reads to me, anyway. It might be that they’re being a bit stingy. They packed their lunches, and it’s not their fault that no one else was responsible enough to do the same.

But I think it’s more likely that they are simply overwhelmed by the immensity of the need. We’ll find out in a few verses that the crowds number somewhere between 5,004 and, say, 25,000. That’s more than the entire population of Hood River, even on a weekend in the summer. We have some idea of the magnitude of resources it takes FISH Food Bank to help feed only those people in our area suffering food insecurity. If all it took was five loaves of bread and two fish, we wouldn’t be building a 5,600 square foot facility on our campus for food outreach. It seems completely reasonable that, in face of such great need, the disciples would feel that their meager resources wouldn’t do any good. Better to leave it to someone else.

That is often our natural response in face of overwhelming need. Whether it is hunger, violence, disease, climate, poverty, or something else, we often find ourselves feeling as if there is nothing we can do. We are too small, too insignificant. What difference could we possibly make, anyway?

Like those disciples, we often underestimate two things. First, we underestimate the resources that we actually have. We have an attitude of scarcity that leads us to hold onto what we have, thinking that it is far too little for us, and certainly not enough to share. But we do have resources, skills, time, energy, money, that can be used to confront the world’s greatest needs.

Second, we underestimate the power of God to multiply our efforts. Sometimes all it takes is one person to offer up themselves and what little they have, and then God is able to inspire others to join in, to open doors that were previously closed, to make a miracle.

No one thought four years ago that FISH would be able to raise over $1 million to build a new food bank. But a few people started anyway, with what little they had. And now look what God has brought to fruition! If God can do that, if God can feed the multitudes with five loaves and two fish, what other amazing things can God do through us and what little we have?

Yours in Christ,

+Pastor David


 

Notes-N-News

++        Women’s Spirituality meets this Saturday Aug 2nd at 9am in the church office.

++        Faith In Action meeting is Mon Aug 4th at 10:15 in the Fellowship Hall.

++        WELCA Yard Sale Saturday Aug 9th from 8am to 1pm. There is a sign-up sheet in the Narthex for volunteers to organize, price, and sell, etc. Items may be dropped off from 9 to 11 Mon 4th to Fri 8th at the church. Items may be left outside the church front door if those times don’t work for you. Call Kathy Terry 541-386-2308 or Marlene Lahti 541-386-1568 with any questions.

++        Pastor David King’s Installation will be Sunday August 10th at 2:00pm. There will be an ice cream social following.

++        The Celebration Service is looking for people who would be willing to share special music during the rest of summer. Also, if you have a green thumb and know how to graft, please contact Linda Boris.

++        SPRC committee meets Sunday August 24th at 11:30 with Pastor David attending.

++        Current choir members and anyone interested in joining choir, are invited to attend a potluck supper at Morning Song Acres on Thurs August 28th at 6pm.

++        FISH Food Bank duty is Monday Aug 18th; Wed 20th; and Fri 22nd.

 

Blessings!

Jennifer Fowler

Office Manager

Sermon: Who Will Separate Us?

Sermon given at Asbury Our Redeemer Partnership
Hood River, Oregon
Sunday 27 July 2014
The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

by Rev. David D. M. King

Romans 8:26-39

This text from Romans today is a favorite of preachers. There’s a lot of good material in those few verses. I once heard the famed preacher Fred Craddock preach a forty-five minute sermon on just one sentence from this passage: we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes [for us] with sighs too deep for words. And I myself have preached a number of funeral sermons that relied on that famous sentiment that nothing can separate us from the love of God. There are plenty of themes and verses to choose from in this passage, all of which could yield a good sermon.

But the part of this passage that caught my attention this week is the legal language. It’s a little bit obscured in most English translations, but part of what Paul is envisioning here is a courtroom scene, a courtroom where humanity is on trial.


I’m rather a fan of crime dramas on television. Law & Order was one of my favorites. Ever since they cancelled the original series, though, I haven’t enjoyed it as well. The spinoffs all seem to focus too much on the order and not enough on the law. They’re all about police work and not about lawyering. When I watch a crime show, I want to see some good courtroom arguing, but there seems to be trend in the last several years to focus on the police or the crime scene investigators. If I want to get my fix of courtroom drama, I have to watch one of the older shows in reruns.

One of those that I catch from time to time is JAG. Yes, before NCIS became the most popular show in America, and before it spun-off NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans, it was itself a spin-off of a of a show called JAG. JAG portrayed the lives and work of officers of US Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s office. This is a corp of military lawyers who investigate and argue cases involving US Navy and Marine Corp personnel. Now, what I find most interesting about this show is that each JAG officer might find themselves presenting the prosecution, or arguing the defense, or even acting as judge, depending on the case and the circumstances. When you see Matlock, you know that he’s going to be defending someone accused of murder. When you watch Law & Order, you know that Jack McCoy is going to be trying to put someone away. But on JAG, you never know who’s going to be arguing which part of the case, and some of the most interesting drama comes when someone gets assigned to the part of the case that they really don’t agree with. But as professionals, they need to be ready, on behalf of their nation, to act fairly as prosecutor, defender, or judge, depending on what they are called upon to do. All three roles are the responsibility of the government.

It’s not the same in civilian courts. In civilian courts, the judges work for the government. Judges are either elected or appointed, and they are held accountable by the government. Prosecutors also work for the government. They work in the name of The People of New York, or the State of Oregon, or the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In the British system, prosecutors work in the name of the crown, in the name of the ruling monarch.

But defense attorneys are different. They don’t work for the government. They are hired by the clients whom they defend, and they work solely on their behalf. Judging and prosecuting are the responsibility of the government, but defense is usually a private matter.


Which brings us back to Romans. You see, Paul is also talking about a court case, and Paul is also interested in who ends up getting assigned to each role. Who will be the judge, who will be the prosecutor, and who will be the defense.

Under normal circumstances, this is how Paul figures it would go down. Humanity is on trial. Obviously, God is going to be the judge. God is the government, God is the ruler, God is the monarch. As such, God is the chief judge. Remember that in the ancient world, there were no professional judges; the rulers served as judges. Jesus was judged by Pilate, who was the local Roman governor. Paul, when he was put on trial, appealed all the way to the highest authority, the Roman Emperor himself. So there is no doubt that in this trial, God is the final authority, and God will be the judge.

But who will be the prosecutor? Well, as we noted above, that is also the responsibility of the government, that is also the responsibility of the crown. So, we would assume that God would take care of that too. Humanity is accused of breaking God’s laws, so God will have to state the case against them. Perhaps God will assign some angel to the task, but it will be God’s ultimate responsibility nonetheless.

Finally, who will present the defense? Well, that will be up to us, won’t it? We, humanity will have to present our own defense. We will have to justify our own lives.

Now, under these circumstances, there is no doubt what the outcome will be. God is the judge. God is presenting the prosecution. We have to defend ourselves. And we are clearly guilty of breaking God’s laws. There is no question about it. Case closed. We are guilty. And the sentence for our crime is death.


Under normal circumstances, that is the end of the story. But, Paul says, these are not normal circumstances. God has decided to change the rules. God knows that humanity, and especially gentiles, could never be found innocent of breaking God’s laws. There is simply too much accrued guilt and sin.

But God doesn’t want to condemn all gentiles to death, so God comes up with a new plan. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God changes the rules. God changes the way this case is going to be handled.

Just like in JAG, the question is about who is going to sit in which chair. In one particular episode, a suspected terrorist was on trial. In order to ensure that he got the best defense possible, the admiral in charge of the JAG Corp decided to defend the case himself. He never argued cases himself, but this one he did. And he assigned one of his chief deputies to sit second chair, to assist him in the defense.


Something similar has happened in the divine trial of humanity. God is still serving as the judge. No one else could do that. But God is also going to serve as the defense attorney. “It is God who justifies,” Paul says. In this context, it might be translated, God is the defense attorney. God is the one who is going to make things right. God is the one who is going to make humanity righteous, the one who is going to argue that humanity is in fact righteous enough to receive the reward. God thinks that this case is so important, that God is going to present the defense Godself.

And that is not all. God has also chosen a very able deputy to sit second chair. To assist in the defense, God has chosen Jesus. Paul says, “Christ Jesus, the one who died, rather, the one who was raised, who also is at the right hand of God is also the one who appeals for us.” God the Father is heading up the defense team. Jesus the Son is backing him up. We’ve got ourselves some good advocates on this case.

So God is judging. God is also presenting the defense, along with Jesus. But who is going to argue for the prosecution? Who is going to present the case against us? And this is the truly interesting part. As I translate it, Paul says, “If God is for us, who is against us?… Who will bring charges against God’s chosen ones? God is the defense attorney. Who will (dare) be the prosecutor?”

The simple answer is, no one. This is the image we are left with. God is sitting behind the bench as judge. God is also sitting at the defense table, along with Jesus. But the prosecutor’s chair is empty. With God on the side of the defense, there is no one who will argue for the prosecution. And without a prosecutor, there is no case at all. Charges must be dropped. The accused must be set free. We, humanity, must be released from the eternal punishment of death.

“Who will separate us from Christ’s love?” Paul asks. “Oppression or calamity or persecution or famine or want of clothing or danger or dagger?… No, in all these things we are overwhelmingly victorious through the one who has loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, neither heavenly messengers nor earthly rulers, neither things that are beginning nor things that are lingering, nor armies, neither height nor depth, nor any other created thing will have the power to separate us from God’s love, which is in Christ Jesus, our master.”

If God is for us, who can be against us? No one. Who can separate us from the love of God? No one. God loves us with a love that is beyond our comprehension. God changes the rules on our account. God defends us even though our sins are indefensible. Nothing, nothing at all, can ever separate from God’s love for us that is displayed in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Notes-N-News

Good Day! We’re blessed to have this rain to help keep any forest fires away, but hope you are all warm and dry.

++           Attention all you master gardeners, orchardists, or anyone with a green thumb:  the Celebration worship service is looking for someone who knows how to graft. If this describes you, please contact Linda Boris.

++           Our August Women’s Spiritual Group will be on August 2 (Saturday) at 9:00am in the church office building. We have also received our 2015 Mt. Angel Retreat dates. The retreat will be the weekend of March 6 (2015). Beth and Pamela have volunteered to lead the retreat! (Thank you Beth and Pamela!!) More details to come.       –Carol Kyger

++           From Billie Stevens of the FISH Food Bank –  Concert in the Park  The Oregon Good Sam Club is inviting everyone to enjoy a fun afternoon and all it costs is a non-perishable food item.  The food they are collecting will all go to FISH. Free Watermelon; Alcohol-free Event.

Kerry Williams & The Huckleberry Pickers Singing Group

When: August 2, 2014      Time: 2:00 to 4:00 PM
Where:  Hood River County Fairgrounds (park area by front entry area)
Admission: Donation of Non-perishable Food Items
Bring: Lawn Chairs

++        Sign-ups for the Aug 9th annual church yard sale will be in the Narthex.

++        THANK YOU Michael Hustman for sanding down the raised/warped boards on the office deck. Now we don’t have to worry as much about where we are stepping!

 

Blessings!
Jennifer Fowler
Office Manager

Sermon: I Did Not Know It

Sermon given at 9:00 Traditional Service
Asbury Our Redeemer Partnership
Hood River, Oregon
Sunday 20 July 2014
The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

by Rev. David D. M. King

Genesis 28:10-19a & Matthew 13:24-30

We have two texts this morning. The first is a rather familiar story known as Jacob’s Ladder. Well, maybe the story isn’t all that familiar, but the song is familiar. And the second, is a very unfamiliar parable (although it is one of my personal favorites): the parable of the wheat and the weeds. Two texts, seemingly not related, but one message all the same.

Let’s start with the story of Jacob’s ladder: Jacob is in bad shape. Do you remember the story? He has managed to cheat his brother Esau out of both his birthright and his father’s blessing. But Esau, rightful upset at this unfortunate turn of events, is plotting to kill Jacob. When their mother, Rebekah, overhears Esau’s plan, she warns Jacob to flee for his life and to find a wife among the daughters of her brother, Laban, back in her hometown of Haran.

So off Jacob runs. He doesn’t take the main roads. No, he runs up into the hill country, either because he’s only concerned with running or because he is trying to avoid detection by his murderous brother. And he finds himself up in the hills in a place called Luz. He is homeless—alone. He’s left everything that he knows—on his way to seek refuge from relatives that he’s never met. Mind is racing. What good was it to trick his brother if he can never return home again? He has instructions to go off and marry one of his cousins, which I guess might not be that weird when your own parents are cousins and your grandparents are siblings, but still seems a bit frightening to our modern ears. So he’s there, exhausted from running, up in the mountains, alone, and the only pillow he can find is a big rock on the ground. It’s there that he falls asleep.

And it is there that he dreams a magnificent dream. He sees a ladder ascending to heaven, with angels going up and down. God appears before him and assures him that he will be blessed, that God is with him, and that he will return to his homeland someday. God reveals Godself to be with Jacob always and in every place, even when he is in a strange land—God is with him everywhere.

And how does Jacob respond? He gets it all wrong. Rather than recognizing that God is present everywhere, Jacob assumes that he must have stumbled into some special place, the Gate of Heaven, where God’s presence is especially strong. He names the place Bethel, which means House of God, and says, “Surely God is in this place and I did not know it.” Surely God is in this place, and I did not know it.

Verse 1: UMH 563 Father, We Thank You

But, you know, Jacob didn’t need to be in that special place in order to be in God’s presence. God’s promise was to be with Jacob all of the time, wherever he might be.

But don’t we make the same mistake that Jacob made? Don’t we seek to confine God to the places where we think God should be, places where God belongs? And don’t we work very hard to separate what is sacred from what is secular? When we do, we are missing the point.

Now, sometimes it can be good to separate out special places for God. We set aside this building for God. We set aside this hour in our week for God. We set aside a certain amount of our money for God. We set aside special prayer and devotional times just for God.

But, we should not be fooled into thinking that God ends at the border of what we call sacred. If we think that God will leave us alone once we spend an hour in church each week, then we are sorely mistaken. If we think that God’s territory ends at the door of this building, we will be disappointed. If we think that once we give our share to the church and charity that God doesn’t care how we use the rest of our money, then we will be surprised. God has a knack for showing up in the places where we least expect. Over and over God shows us that if there is any place where we think that God does not exist, that is precisely where God can be found. God will be in that place, even if we do not know it.

Verse 2: UMH 563 Father, We Thank You

Two thousand years after Jacob, a man from Galilee whose name is Jesus tells a story. It’s a rather interesting tale about a farmer and his field. He has his servants plant the field with good seed. But, in the night, while no one is watching, one of his enemies comes and plants the whole field with weed seeds. That is quite a dirty trick, isn’t it? Imagine you had spent all this time on your garden, planting each seed in its proper place, and in the night your neighbor jumped the fence and blew dandelions and thistles and all sorts of other nasty things all over your freshly tilled soil. Not very nice.

So, when the field started to sprout, the whole thing was an awful tangle of brambles and briers throughout the crop of wheat. The wheat and the weeds were all mixed up together—and there was no way to pull the weeds without destroying the whole crop. So, confounding his servants, the farmer let the weeds grow right along with the wheat. The farmer knew that there was still good in that field—a good that could not be quashed by the mere presence of a few weeds.

Verse 3: UMH 563 Father, We Thank You

When we look at the world, do we fail to see the wheat through the weeds? Do we see only the evil, only the pain, only the trouble, and assume that no good could be there? Do we think that God could not possibly exist in a place so filled with turmoil?

Sometimes we do. We look out at the world and call it Godless. We see acts of terrorism and violence around the world and we call it Godless. We look at the state of political polarization and contention and we call it Godless. We see conflict in the church, even, and we call it Godless. We get discouraged because no matter where we look, we can’t find anything that is wholly pure, completely good. We can’t find anything that is unblemished. When we look for the fruit of God’s kingdom, all we see is a field full of weeds. And we wonder what that means. Some of us are so concerned that we think the end of all things must be coming soon, because we can’t tolerate the imperfection that we see around us. We can’t find God in the broken and Godless world around us.

Jesus invites us to look more closely. Jesus invites us to look out on the world with new eyes. God is doing a new thing… do you not perceive it?

Jacob did not expect to find God in the godforsaken hill country of Canaan. And the servants did not expect to find good fruit in a field full of weeds. In just the same way, we don’t expect to find God in our broken world.

But God is there to be found. In the peace of silence, or in the raucous shouts of praise; in the green fields, or the rugged mountains, or the parched deserts, or the city streets: God is there. In the patience of a teacher, or the diligence of an accountant, or the toil of a laborer, or the passion of an advocate; in sighs of the aging, in the questions of the middle-aged, or in the cries of the newborn: God is there. In the wide eyes of the innocent, the might of the powerful, or the struggle of the oppressed; in singing, speaking, listening, or screaming out in pain: God is there. In learning, welcoming, smiling, or suffering; in waking, working, or resting: God is there. In friends or enemies, loved ones or strangers; in the strong, the weak, or the disabled; the beautiful or the ugly: God is there. In Genesis, in The Origin of Species, or even in Harry Potter: God is there. In black, brown, and white; in English, Spanish, Japanese, Russian, Chinese, Greek, Hebrew, or in Arabic; in straight or gay, old or young, woman or man, rich or poor: God is most certainly there. All we need do is open our eyes and ears and mouths and noses and hands in order to find God.

All we need do is open our hearts, our minds, and our doors. For when we truly seek God, and when we are not afraid to see God in the most unexpected places, we will certainly not fail to find God. Right here, right now, and all around us, the kingdom of God is at work, sprouting forth in all its glory, in new and amazing ways, if we only have the eyes to see it. And perhaps we will be brought like Jacob to say, “Surely God is in this place… and I did not know it.”

Verse 4: UMH 563 Father, We Thank You

FISH Food Bank Groundbreaking

We will be breaking ground for the long-planned-for FISH Food Bank, Monday, July 21st, at 4:30 pm. The FISH program was started by Gorge Ecumenical Ministries (GEM). The new building will be right here on the campus of Asbury Our Redeemer and will help to serve needy persons throughout Hood River County. Thank you to all those who donated their time, energy, and money to make this project a reality!

Future FISH Food Bank

Call for Peace from Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton (ELCA)

Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton (ELCA)

Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton has called for all ELCA congregations to observe a minute of silence in prayer for peace in the Holy Land. Read her letter here. You can also learn more about the Israel-Palestine crisis in a new resource from the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society: Working for a Just and Lasting Peace in Israel and Palestine.

News-N-Notes

We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labor pains up until now. And it’s not only the creation. We ourselves who have the Spirit as the first crop of the harvest also groan inside as we wait to be adopted and for our bodies to be set free. –Romans 8:22-23

In the short space of these two verses, Paul uses two different images of parenthood. First, Paul speaks about the creation groaning in labor pains. It is struggling to give birth to God’s new reality. In this new reality, which Paul thinks is coming very soon, the world is no longer subject to the powers of death and decay. The creation itself achieves the status currently held by “the children of God,” that is, freedom from slavery to sin and death. It is a struggle in the here and now, but all creation, not just humans, will be saved from death.

Second, Paul makes clear that God’s human children are children of adoption. What is significant about adoption is that it does not happen by accident; adoption is always a conscious choice. If God is adopting us as children, then we know that God has chosen us as children.

In the Roman world, adoption was typically a contract between two adult males for the purpose of inheritance. If a prominent man did not have a male heir, or thought his heir was unsuitable, he could adopt someone—usually an adult—to be his heir. For example, Julius Caesar adopted his biological nephew, Octavian, the future Emperor Augustus.

The fact that God chooses us for adoption, means that God chooses us to be heirs of the divine inheritance: immortality. It also means that we have been chosen to be God’s agents in the world. It is our duty and our joy to be about God’s business on this planet. Being a child of God is both a grace and a responsibility.

Yours in Christ,

+Pastor David


++ Meetings: Mon 21st  5pm – Staff/Parish, Tues 22nd  6pm  – Financial committee

++ Newsletter items are due by Wed 23rd.

++  Books for the fall retreat book study, The Noticer, are in! You may get yours from Kris White. Cost is $8.75 . (Scholarships are available for books and the retreat. Contact Jennifer in the office).

++ UMCOR items may still be donated for disaster relief kits. See the newsletter or the bulletin announcements for a complete list.

++ Annual church yard sale is Sat August 9th. A sign- up sheet will be in the Narthex for those wanting to volunteer.

++ Card Class meets Sunday 20th at 1:15 in the Fellowship Hall.

++ Food on the 4th is Sunday 27th.

 

Pastor David and family have moved into the parsonage.

May their new home be filled with laughter and joy,
be a place where love abounds,
be a place of refuge and safety,
and be where they can experience God’s magnificent grace.

Notes-N-News

Those with Ears to Hear

One of Jesus’ favorite ways to teach was through parables—short, fictional stories used to make people think. The thing that makes parables so enduring is that they can never be fully figured out. They seem to defy explanation. The same person can hear the same parable many times in a lifetime and come up with a different meaning each time. And each one of those different meanings can be correct. Parables have the power to help us make meaning across the broad range of our experience. That’s part of the reason Jesus so frequently says, “Those with ears to hear had better listen,” after he speaks a parable. They are meant to be wrestled with. They are meant to be heard new each time, to be interpreted fresh in each situation.

The gospel writers were sometimes uncomfortable with the ambiguity created by Jesus’ parables. They wanted to settle in on established, orthodox meanings for Jesus’ sayings, so they inserted explanations after the parable so people wouldn’t be quite so confused. We just need to be careful not to forget that parables never have just one meaning. Even if we know one way to interpret Jesus’ words, we still need to listen again and again with ears to hear what the Spirit is guiding us to learn today, in this time, in this place. This month, as we read several of the parables of Jesus in worship, I encourage you to listen with ears to hear. Perhaps these words, that you may have heard many times before, will say something new to you, will reach you in just the way that God needs to reach you, in this place, at this moment.

+Pastor David


++ Church Yard Sale will be on Saturday, August 9th. Be thinking about any items around your home, attic, garage or basement that you would like to pass on. No adult clothes please.

++ UMCOR Health Kits: items still needed are hand towels (not kitchen), large combs, nail files (metal), fingernail clippers, and money donations to help with shipping.

++ This is the last Sunday to get your donations to Martha Hoskins for the American Cancer Society, in time for Relay For Life.

 ++ All women are welcome to the Women of the ELCA Bible study, meeting July 22nd at 2pm.

++ Women’s Spirituality meets Sat, July 12th at 9am in the Fellowship Hall. All women are welcome.

++ The construction trailer for FISH is here! Please keep an eye out for future news concerning parking and other updates!

Sermon: Grasp

Sermon given at
10:30 Celebration Service
Asbury Our Redeemer Partnership
Hood River, Oregon
Sunday 13 July 2014
The Fifth Sunday After Pentecost

by Rev. David D. M. King

Genesis 25:19-34

 

This morning we are going to look back in on the story that has been unfolding this summer in the Book of Genesis, the story of the beginnings of Israel. You may remember the story of how God made the barren Sarah pregnant at age 90, and how she responded by laughing. Today we have the story, one generation later, of another unlikely pregnancy, and the consequences it will have for a family, a nation, and the world.

Isaac, who was Sarah’s child of laughter, has grown up and taken a wife for himself. Rebekah, like her mother-in-law, is also barren. Isaac prays to God that she will have a child, and eventually, 20 years after they were first married, Rebekah becomes pregnant.

But it is a difficult pregnancy. We don’t know for sure what the Hebrew means, but it seems that Rebekah is having a great struggle, to the point that she wonders if she will survive it, or if she wouldn’t be better off dead. So she prays to God for an answer. And God answers her. Rebekah receives a prophesy.

And in the prophesy, God tells Rebekah that the reason she is in so much pain is that there are two nations, two peoples struggling inside her womb. When I’ve been around mothers who are pregnant with twins, and they they certainly seem less than comfortable. But imagine if those two little babies were fighting, wrestling with each other. And then imagine that they aren’t babies at all, but nations, armies, waging war inside her belly. That would be more than just uncomfortable.

God doesn’t just tell Rebekah that there is a war being waged in her womb. God also says that her younger son is going to rule over the older, that he will take the rightful place of his firstborn brother. Whether this is because God is choosing the younger over the older, or whether God simply foresees that this will happen is unclear.


Some months later, the twins are born, the firstborn, Esau, and his brother, Jacob, grasping onto Esau’s heel, trying to hold him back, trying to be first. The struggle that Rebekah had prophesied was evident in the birth.

As the boys grew, they became very different men. Esau was a hunter, an outdoorsman. He is portrayed as being strong, but not very intelligent. In short, a thug.

Jacob, on the other hand, is a much milder man. He stays around the camp, watches the sheep. He’s not strong like his brother, but he is wily. In short, he is a swindler.

And it is these differences in character that lead to the unlikely conclusion: Esau sells his rights as the firstborn to his younger brother, Jacob, in return for a bowl of lentil soup. Esau the unthinking wildman. Jacob the conniving trickster.


Now it’s quite certain that the way this story is written has been effected by the later history of Israel and Edom. By the time these stories were finally committed to writing, Israel was trying to control the neighboring nation of Edom. Portraying their ancestor as a crude and brutish thug who cared more about a bowl of stew than about his inheritance was a good way to justify their war of dominance. So we want to be sure not to read too much into the racial overtones in this story, recognizing that they are influenced by the politics of a later time.

However, we are still left with same circumstances: two sons, the younger supplanting the older by rather underhanded means. And that younger son becoming Israel, the father of God’s chosen people.

Jacob is not a particularly sympathetic character. I suppose you could think of him as the hero of wimps everywhere, who outwits his older and stronger brother to win the greater share of the inheritance. But even if he does represent the victory of brain over brawn, trickery and exploitation are not the character traits we usually associate with a man of God.

But perhaps that is precisely the point. In many respects, Jacob really is not a very good man. And as the second son, he does not have the same rights and respect afforded to his older brother under tradition, even if they were born only minutes apart.

And yet God still uses Jacob. God chooses a flawed and crafty man and makes him the father of the nation of Israel. God uses the weaker brother, rather than the stronger. God uses the unexpected rather than the expected. God uses the upstart rather than the one who has authority.


In our society, we assign people value and status based on who we think they are. We may not use the same standards that were use in ancient Canaan, but we still prejudge which people are good and capable and upright and which are not. Wealth, family name, education, class, nationality, race — all these things effect the way we see and judge people.

But God doesn’t use our standards. God doesn’t care about where you come from, how much money you make, or who your parents are. God doesn’t even seem to care about who is the best qualified. God will use whomever God chooses in order to bring about the divine purposes. If God could use a weakling, mama’s boy with questionable morals like Jacob, then God could use anyone, regardless of what we might think about it.


And so that means two important things for us. First it means that God could use us, you and me. It doesn’t matter what faults you think you might have. It doesn’t matter what you think you’ve done wrong, or how weak you think you are, or how unqualified you might be. None of that matters. If God chooses you to do something, then God will give you the strength and the gifts to complete it. Don’t ever think that you are too small or too insignificant or too unworthy to do God’s work. God will choose whomever God will choose, and it just may be you.

But that also means that God will choose whomever God chooses, and it may be someone else. God may choose someone you think is rather unqualified, or undignified, or unlikable, or uncouth. But none of that matters, because God can and does use anyone, even the people we don’t like, even those who don’t have experience, even those who rub us the wrong way. And it is our job, if we love God, to make room for those whom God has called, to allow God to work even in the most unlikely of places, and not to stand in the way of the work God is doing just because we don’t approve of the worker that God has chosen.

If we recognize that God is the God of all people, and God will use any person, regardless of what we might think is proper, then we will not only be able to accept God’s call on our own lives, but we will also be able to support and encourage the call God is placing on those all around us, and we will do it without prejudging each other, and without prejudging ourselves.