Sermons

Go, Bless (Genesis 27:1-4, Genesis 27:15-24, Genesis 28:10-15)

Joan MacPherson, September 24, 2017
Part of the Sunday series, preached at a Sunday Morning service

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Go, Bless
Genesis 27:1-4; 15-24; 28:10-15
Its now many, many years after that horrific walk up to Mount Moriah. Isaac has married Rebekah and they have twin boys, Esau and Jacob. Isaac is ready to do the fatherly practice of passing on his blessing. This is what Father’s did/do. They pass things on to their children. It is a profound act of love and deep connection. In this story it has an even deeper level as this family has been given a particular blessing from God and has been tasked to pass it along and use it to bless others. Listen to the part of our sacred story found in Genesis chapter 27 verses 1-4.
“When Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see, he called his elder son Esau and said to him, “My son”; and he answered, “Here I am.” 2He said, “See, I am old; I do not know the day of my death. 3Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field, and hunt game for me. 4Then prepare for me savory food, such as I like, and bring it to me to eat, so that I may bless you before I die.”
Issac is preparing the scene and setting the stage for this significant time in his life. There is going to be savory stew and time with his son. Issac is setting this up to be one of those times that really matters because what he is about to do really matters. He is preparing to entrust to Esau all the blessing and life that God has given to him. He is anticipating his death, he recognizes his mortality and he is ready to enact and celebrate the truth that God’s story will continue. The call and possibility to create life that is good can be passed on to the next generation. Can you imagine/feel the emotion/hope/curiosity/love churning in Issac as he readies himself to confer/pass on the blessing to his first born? All the wonder of God’s creating power, all the strength of God’s love, all the breadth of God’s grace entrusted to him and through him to be passed along and shared with others. Can you feel how powerful that moment was? That opportunity was? God, the fullness of God and God’s way, palpable and being shared one generation to another, one generation to another. Can you feel the power and possibility? This is what the church has been given. This is what we are to pass on to others.
song
Esau has gone out to hunt as his father has instructed him meanwhile back at the ranch… Rebekah is in cahoots with the younger twin and together they are prepared to grab the blessing before Esau returns. Listen to the part of our sacred story found in Genesis chapter 27 verses 15-24
15Then Rebekah took the best garments of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob; 16and she put the skins of the kids on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. 17Then she handed the savory food, and the bread that she had prepared, to her son Jacob.
18So he went in to his father, and said, “My father”; and he said, “Here I am; who are you, my son?” 19Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, so that you may bless me.” 20But Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” He answered, “Because the Lord your God granted me success.” 21Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not.” 22So Jacob went up to his father Isaac, who felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” 23He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him.
All the power, hope, blessing of God transferred from one generation to the next. Except that is doesn’t go in the way that the passer of the blessing had anticipated. It doesn’t go in the way the one who had been prepared, nurtured, raised to inherit the blessing had anticipated. All that was anticipated, all the way it was supposed to be is not what is. Jacob and his mother have lied and tricked. They have not played by the rules. Aging vulnerable Issac has been taken advantage of. Esau has been doing what has been asked of him and while being the dutiful son he loses out. So much of this is not right. So much of this is so real isn’t it? That the things we expect don’t happen. That things are not fair. That trust is betrayed. God, you seem to be rewarding deceit and cheating, you seem to trash the law and family tradition that elsewhere seems so important to you? Rebekah, the wife and mother, turning against her husband and oldest son? Really! Why do you show such favoritism to Jacob? Why let his mother manipulate the family? Why, oh why is all this okay? Surely, there could have been another way, God? You could have used other means that seem more God like, that seem more honest, trustworthy! You who call us to truthfulness and to stand up for justice. You who call us to love one another and to care for our enemies. You who challenge us to walk in your footsteps and to perform mighty deeds and wonders in your name. Then you throw in a stunt like this, that seems to suggest dishonesty is okay, if it suits your ways and purposes?
We are confused, perplexed, befuddled. Questions stream. There are not simple, easy answers. When we turn to God with our questions we get a story like this. A story that incorporates the reality of the complexity of life, where best intentions and human sin bang up against each other - and in which God’s blessing of life remains, endures and spreads. Is this part of the message? That it isn’t our skill and worthiness that keeps the blessing going? God blesses. Period. Our messing up won’t stop the blessing. Even when we fumble, even when the church doesn’t embrace her call, God blesses through us, through the church. This is not an excuse to mess up it is a declaration of the relentless blessing of God in all, through all, despite all.
song
God may be all about blessing in and through what is but what about humans? Our reaction? Our trust? Jacob got the blessing but Esau is going to come back in from hunting and find out. It is not going to be pretty. Rebekeh, who I have come to think might have been the original helicopter mother, works up a plan to spare Jacob from the wrath of his brother. She sends him toward her homeland and arranges a marriage for him. Off Jacob goes. He has snagged the blessing at the cost of being expelled from his family. What a weight he carries. Cheater. Family wrecker. Heavy burdens. Listen to the part of our sacred story found in Genesis chapter 28 verses 10-17
10Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. 11He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; 14and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. 15Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
16Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” 17And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
The cheater. The home wrecker. The guilty. The outcast. Carrying all his history and burden prepares to rest at the end of the day. He is on his way to a new place. He is to find a wife and start a life there. A new beginning or trying to escape his past? Living differently in this new place or still practicing old tricks? The story doesn’t let us into the head, heart and soul of Jacob but rather lets us into the way of God. Regardless of the purity or lack of purity in Jacob, God comes close and God blesses. God is not sitting passively on the side lines waiting for humans to have it all together before coming close and blessing. This is what God does. Brings life. Offers blessing. Like Jacob who awakens with the realization that God is in this place and he hadn’t known it - how much of our world, how many people, don’t know that God is in each and every place, offering blessing, creating life? If any of us are those people, my prayer is that you can accept this truth, God is in this place, God is in your life, God is blessing you, God is creating a future. And I add to that prayer - that with our actions, words, spending, time we take this message to others. God is blessing and creating life in and through what is and for all the world. Through us who may be just as much tricktsters and conivers as Jacob. God works through all. God sends the church to make God’s blessing visible and real. Go, bless. Amen.

Joan MacPherson
Main Street Congregational UCC
September 24, 2017

Note: This manuscript was prepared for oral delivery only.
It contains excerpted material not properly cited.
Please do not redistribute without permission.

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Genesis 27:1-4

27:1 When Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see, he called Esau his older son and said to him, “My son”; and he answered, “Here I am.” He said, “Behold, I am old; I do not know the day of my death. Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me, and prepare for me delicious food, such as I love, and bring it to me so that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die.” (ESV)

Genesis 27:15-24

15 Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her older son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. 16 And the skins of the young goats she put on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. 17 And she put the delicious food and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.

18 So he went in to his father and said, “My father.” And he said, “Here I am. Who are you, my son?” 19 Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me.” 20 But Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” He answered, “Because the Lord your God granted me success.” 21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not.” 22 So Jacob went near to Isaac his father, who felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” 23 And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau's hands. So he blessed him. 24 He said, “Are you really my son Esau?” He answered, “I am.” (ESV)

Genesis 28:10-15

10 Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. 12 And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! 13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. 14 Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (ESV)

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