Mortal Wounds

Worship Time
10:00 AM
1 Church Street
East Harwich, MA 02645
Tel: 508-432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

Genesis 45:1-14

45:1 Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it.

45:3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.   Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.   And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.   For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest.   God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.   So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.

45:9 Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay.   You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have.   I will provide for you there–since there are five more years of famine to come–so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.

45:12 And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you.   You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.”   Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck.    And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.

Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
11:1 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.  God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.

11:29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.  Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy.  For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.

Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28
15:10 Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.”

15:12 Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?”

15:13 He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.”

15:15 But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.”

15:16 Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding?

Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?  But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, and slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”

15:21 Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon.

15:22 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.”

15:24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”

15:26 He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”  She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

15:28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Rabbi Schwartz and Father O’Malley were at a diner enjoying lunch

Father O’Malley put down his ham and cheese sandwich and commented, “This sandwich is so good! Kosher dietary restrictions made sense in ancient times, but when are you going to join the modern age and eat delicious, wholesome food like this?

Without missing a beat, Rabbi Schwartz replied, “At your wedding.”

Mortal Wounds
Matthew 15:1-20
20 August 2023
The Rev Dr. Dianne ES Carpenter

 

The passage this morning has 2 parts.The interaction of Jesus with the Pharisees and the interaction of Jesus with the Canaanite woman.

The faith of the Canaanite woman is legendary – in fact, I shared one of my favorite reflections with you the first summer I arrived, and we worshipped in the parking lot.  Like the Canaanite woman, we are Lucky Dogs to be loved and blessed by the Lord!

I want to include the first 10 verses of chapter 15 this morning because it is the reason for verses 10-20.

Matthew 15 New International Version That Which Defiles

15 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’[a] and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’[b] But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’[c]

10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

As usual, Jesus has a scripture answer for the accusations of the religious leaders.  It is easy to assume this is a passage concerning the dietary laws if you begin at verse 20 but the issue is:

“Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

Not to belittle tradition, it was a tradition, not a “Law” that hand washing before breaking bread was required.  Jesus calls the Pharisees back to the “Law” of honoring Mother and Father – Commandment V and quotes Isaiah:  concerning the authority of traditions and the words we speak.

These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’[c]

This is what Jesus interprets for the crowds and disciples in vs 10-20!

First, Scripture has primacy and tradition is not as authoritative however, traditions are very powerful.

Tradition- at its best- is our attempt to enact scripture – an attempt – and as such is qualified by the intent.  I love tradition.  I change my vestments and the altar clothes to match the liturgical season.   I bring out the Christmas tree ornaments for the holiday.  I make special meals for birthdays.

But some interpretations of scripture have caused us to squish God’s diversity into molds of similarity and to deny people their God-given human rights.  Scripture has often been twisted to justify tradition and in order to serve self-interests.  Let me rephrase Jesus’ accusation of the Pharisee’s tradition.  On the basis of certain interpretations, we create traditions that have ranged from beneficial to heretical.  And these interpretations have sometimes divided us in our faith from our brothers and sisters.

Traditional justifications of slavery, homophobia, and the glass ceiling in employment as well as traditional male and female roles are all examples of traditions dominating practice and until questioned [oh no!] being given the authority of law in our public sector!

However, what grabbed my attention in this passage was Jesus’ interpretation of his interaction with the Pharisees:

15:17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?  But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles.  15:19 For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.   These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.

Remember the saying: “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me!” This is what we were taught to say to people calling us names.  What we know today is that angry, hateful, racist, bullying, denigrating words Mortally Wound people who are valuable members of God’s handy work at the personal level and set the stage for injustice perpetuated at the social level.

Think back to when you have encountered a verbal attack on your person [ or when you have blurted out hateful accusations …]

Conrad Henri Roy III (September 12, 1995 – July 12, 2014) was an American teenager who died by suicide at the age of 18. His girlfriend, 17-year-old Michelle Carter, had encouraged him in text messages to kill himself. [The defense: protected free speech]

Racial slurs: n-word [lynchings] s word when Hispanic folk were outside their ghetto …. Canaanite ”dogs” etc.

Targeting weight…  family of origin [single parents etc.]

Hate speech, i.e. speech that promotes hatred toward an individual or group on the basis of a characteristic such as race, gender, sexuality, nationality, or religion, is known to cause considerable psychological and social harm to the members of the group targeted for hate.1 Nevertheless, in liberal societies, there is ongoing debate on whether hate speech should be legally restricted. For example, a common argument against restrictions on hate speech says that since such restrictions curtail freedom of speech, they cause more harm than they prevent.2 A no less common reply to this argument has it that the direct and indirect harms caused by hate speech are sufficiently great to justify legal restrictions on free speech.3  Stefan Rinner in Journal of Applied Philosophy

Name-calling and hurtful divisive language defile the speaker and pollutes the world we all live in.  Soliciting hate agreement as a rallying point is how the Klan fueled destructive social interactions and the “monster” Nazi hierarchy set out to exterminate all people who were not heterosexual Arians! –power politics of domination not freedom of speech justifications…

The defacing of Synagogues and Asian communities are not isolated instances. Hate language reinforces ‘us and them’ mentalities. Jesus called it correctly when he identified ways in which we destroy communities by labeling and acting cruelly toward one another.

We must identify the sewers of our common life and clean them up before they defile an already challenged environment! Amen.

1 Church St, Harwich, MA 02645
508 432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

What’s in your closet

Worship Time
10:00 AM
1 Church Street
East Harwich, MA 02645
Tel: 508-432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

Romans 10:5-15
New International Version

5 Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.”[a] 6 But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’”[b] (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’”[c] (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,”[d] that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”   For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Matthew 14:22-33    New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Walks on the Water

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up to a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

 Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
Joseph’s Dreams of Greatness

Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. This is the story of the family of Jacob.

Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. 3Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children because he was the son of his old age, and he had made him a long robe with sleeves a coat of many colors; (Meaning of Heb uncertain”);”* But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.

Joseph Is Sold by His Brothers
12 Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. And Israel said to Joseph, ‘Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.’ He answered, ‘Here I am.’  So he said to him, ‘Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.’ So he sent him from the valley of Hebron.

He came to Shechem, and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, ‘What are you seeking?’ ‘I am seeking my brothers,’ he said; ‘tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.’ 17 The man said, ‘They have gone away, for I heard them say, “Let us go to Dothan.”’ So, Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan. They saw him from a distance, and they conspired to kill him before he came near them. They said to one another, ‘Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.’ But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, ‘Let us not take his life.’ Reuben said to them, ‘Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness but lay no hand on him’—that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. So, when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves* that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it. Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, ‘What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.’ And his brothers agreed. When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

 

What’s in your Closet?
The Rev Dr Dianne ES Carpenter
13 August 2023
Genesis37:1-4, 12-28

Jacob is already well up in the years when chapter 37 opens. Remember, Jacob had two wives and two servant women, concubines. Leah, the first wife whom Jacob tricked into marrying, was the mother of six boys. Rachel, Jacob’s favorite wife, was the mother of two boys. The two concubines were mothers of four boys together.  The total number of sons of Jacob at this time was 12. Twelve sons. Not bad for somebody who started out with nothing, just hoping to establish a great nation through his descendants.

We already know that Jacob loved Rachel above all the other mothers of his children, but Rachel died while giving birth to her youngest son, Benjamin. So, Jacob was left grieving and clutching tightly to her memory through the affections of the two boys she’d birthed: Joseph and Benjamin.

And this dysfunctional favoritism, unresolved grief, or whatever it was Jacob was dealing with, well, it had a way of rippling down into his relationships with his children and, as a result, their relationships with each other. And that is exactly what today’s story is all about.

Turns out that, though Joseph was number 11 out of 12 sons of Jacob, Jacob had specifically chosen him as his favorite child. I certainly know how it feels to be sure your parents have a favorite . . . and it’s not you. We all often think the favorite is someone besides ourselves!  But if we study the Hebrew text carefully there is no disputing that Joseph was by far the favored child of Jacob.

We’re told that Joseph had been assigned to a supervisory position in the family business, responsible for reporting back on the activities of his brothers—who were busy managing Jacob’s herds and herds of flocks. The text tells us that Joseph was 17 years old when the story begins and, remember, the 11th out of 12, so you might imagine the dynamic of 17-year-old Joseph running home to his Daddy to report that his older brothers were taking extra-long lunch breaks!

To make matters worse, we’re told that Jacob had gifted Joseph with a beautiful coat. The Hebrew descriptive words in that section of the text are unclear, so scholars have translated them to say a “coat of many colors” or a “long-sleeved coat.” The Hebrew phrase Kethoneth passim could also be understood to mean “a coat with special markings” or “a coat with long stripes.” It was the good old King James translation of the Bible from 1611 that popularized the phrase we learned in Sunday School: “Joseph’s coat of many colors.” And the particular Hebrew word for “coat” here is used only one other time in the Hebrew text, in 2 Samuel, when we learn that Tamar, daughter of King David, wore a special royal garment. And to be called by the same name a garment of the king’s daughter would be called, well, we must know that Joseph’s coat was not just any coat, that’s for sure.

Distinctive clothing is often a special sign.  So at graduation, the professors wear their college colors and at ordination clergy wear their best robes – their Red robes or stoles to signify the Holy Spirit and Pentecost.

Whenever he wore this coat, it was clear to anyone watching who had the favor of their father . . . and who didn’t.

Think of the situation like this: when Joseph would come down to the fields wearing his colorful coat, the drab fabrics his brothers wore would pale in comparison. And, in fact, would mark them as less important. So what was in Joseph’s closet was this beautiful status coat!   Do we have status clothes?… the suit that makes the man….  The times when we “clean up” pretty good: you know, Picture Day—when even the class hooligan graduates looking like a person of means.   When the homeless person goes for an interview well-dressed.  When Liza in “My Fair Lady” goes to the royal ball and not only looks the part but speaks the part of a socialite!

Day after day, apparently, Joseph would come down to the fields and strut up and down, his beautiful coat swinging easily around his ankles. And he would return to his father Jacob and report any indiscretions he observed or any questionable behavior he saw in his brothers.

There he was every day, gloating on the sidelines while his brothers managed the flocks and tried to keep their burning anger in check. Remember, if there’s anything we learn from this story it is that every action has a reaction, and Joseph’s ridiculously unfair behavior, totally encouraged by his father Jacob, was bound to have a ripple effect.

And it did. Boy, did it ever. The straw that broke the camel’s back, as it were, was one day when Joseph ambled down to the fields where his brothers were working and proceeded to tell them about some dreams he had had. Remember what they were? They were dreams about all the brothers out in the fields, binding sheaves of wheat when suddenly all the brothers’ sheaves bowed down to Joseph’s. And another dream, about the sun, the moon, and 11 stars, all bowing down to Joseph.

Apparently, Joseph managed to report his dreams to his brothers with a straight face—totally serious, and the meaning of the dreams was obvious to Joseph—he was meant to be in charge, to lord it over all of them. The meaning of the dreams was obvious to Joseph’s brothers, too, and they were sick of it . . . sick of Jacob’s favoritism, sick of feeling second best, sick of Joseph’s arrogance . . . just sick of the whole situation.

I don’t think any of us would dispute the fact that this was a situation of injustice. Jacob perpetuated the dysfunction of his own childhood by repeating it with his sons, who could easily read the writing on the wall. There was no future for them as leaders of the family; even though he did not deserve to have it, Joseph was the one Jacob had chosen to set his sights on, the apple of Jacob’s eye, his favorite. And as a result, all the other brothers’ statuses were bumped down a notch—they were losing out, unfairly, because of the way Jacob was behaving. And Joseph’s gloating, whether intentional or not, was not helping matters in the least. It’s one thing to be the adored baby of the family, but it’s another thing altogether to use your special status to oppress other people.

And so, the brothers plot to kill Joseph out there in the field one day—just do away with him and his silly dreams once and for all. Their plan was to kill him and throw his body into a pit. But somebody’s conscience was pricked—the NRSV says it was Reuben—and Reuben convinces his brothers to sell Joseph to a passing caravan, to get him far, far away and out of their hair forever.

And they staged the whole thing. They killed an animal and smeared that beautiful coat with blood, then they took it back to their father, who made the assumption that Joseph was dead. And Jacob’s grief nearly cripples him, he is so devastated by the loss. Then, life continues, as it always does even in the face of tragedy and violence and pain, with the injustice perpetrated against the brothers seemingly avenged. But every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and you’d better believe the brothers’ behavior had consequences.

Curiously, God is not a figure in this story at all. We’ve come from epic sagas where God is appearing in all manner of ways, to this story, where God never appears. All we have are the actions and reactions of human beings, trying desperately to live in community, in family, with each other, and not doing too well at all. See, every action has a reaction, and we’re stuck, always, living with the consequences of our actions and the actions of others.  The sins of the fathers visited unto the 3rd and 4th generations- not by God as punishment but by human nature and nurture.

It was unjust and unfair, it’s true, and Joseph’s brothers did not deserve the treatment they were receiving from Joseph and Jacob, but they made a choice to address injustice with another act of injustice, of violence, even, and Newton’s third law of motion swung into effect, as we know by now it always does. When we are faced with injustice, as Joseph’s brothers were, we have a choice about how to respond. And remember, every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Simon Wiesenthal was a Jew who lived during World War II in an area of Europe that was conquered by Germany. During the war, he was forced to live in a ghetto and then sent to a work camp where he faced the possibility of death every day. One day in the work camp, Wiesenthal was summoned by a nurse to hear the dying confessions of an SS Nazi soldier. The soldier asked for forgiveness for the things he had done to the Jewish people; he wanted forgiveness as he was dying because he was afraid that his soul would not be able to rest in eternity unless he was forgiven.

In his book, The Sunflower Wiesenthal talks about trying over and over to leave the room because he was so afraid and because he hated Nazis. But he stayed and listened to the dying man out of pity and because the soldier begged him not to leave. Wiesenthal recognized that the Nazi soldier was showing true repentance, but he also knew that the soldier was ignorant, selfish, and a member of the group that had taken away the lives of his friends and family.

Overwhelmed with the heaviness of the decision, Wiesenthal eventually just left the room.  The next day he found out that the soldier had died and left all his things to Wiesenthal; Wiesenthal spent the rest of his life asking the question: “What would you have done?”

The book’s newest edition includes the contributions of many noted Jewish and Christian thinkers who comment on the dilemma Wiesenthal faced. Most agree that Wiesenthal could not have forgiven that soldier on behalf of an entire race of people, but many also note: there’s something powerful in stopping violence and hatred with forgiveness and love.

Desmond Tutu, who presided over the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa after Apartheid writes of Wiesenthal’s dilemma: “It’s clear that if we look only toward a retributive justice, we might as well close up shop. Forgiveness is not some nebulous thing. It is practical politics. Without forgiveness, there is no future.”

Sometimes in life, things happen to us that we can’t control. Sometimes we set out, for example, like Jacob in our story two weeks ago, to marry Rachel and end up married to Leah. But even when these things happen, we always have a choice about how we will respond to the situations in which we find ourselves.

We can respond to the injustice we face with anger and hatred and violence, and maybe some would say a response like that is even justified.

But remember: every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and violence and pain and injustice always . . . always . . . breed more violence and pain and injustice.

What pain could have been avoided if Joseph’s brothers were able to face the unjust situation in which they found themselves and respond, not with violence, but with forgiveness? What pain could we avoid if we train our hearts with the discipline of answering injustice with forgiveness and love?

Every action, you know, has an equal and opposite reaction . . . and I suspect what would happen when violence and injustice are countered with forgiveness and love, might even be something akin to what happened when Jesus came to die for “poor ordinary people like you and like I.”

1 Church St, Harwich, MA 02645
508 432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

One Touch Angel

Worship Time
10:00 AM
1 Church Street
East Harwich, MA 02645
Tel: 508-432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

Matthew 14:13-21

13Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Genesis 32:22-31

22The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had.

24Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25When 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. 26Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” 27So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” 29Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” 31The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

Romans 9:1-5

9I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit— 2I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. 4They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; 5to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

One Tough Angel
Genesis 32:22-31
The Rev Dr Dianne ES Carpenter
6 August 2023

Jacob wrestled the angel of God, and Jacob won.  Is this scene attractive in the same way that when there’s a fight on the playground everyone quickly gathers around to watch?  Do you want to see what happens here, and already know that Jacob wins?  Do we want to see how we do it and what happens afterward?  Are we tempted to shout: why don’t you pick on someone your own size! – at the Angel

Perhaps, even stronger than that is the draw of seeing a picture that we recognize well.  There is something familiar here and something I find refreshingly honest and true to life.  Jacob is wrestling with God.  Not Jacob sitting quietly with God, not Jacob walking faithfully alongside God (In the Garden), not Jacob on his knees speaking and listening to God, but Jacob: a real live human being, wrestling, grappling, struggling with God from dusk until dawn.  It’s a scene that resonates with many people’s experiences.  What is there that you care enough about to wrestle until morning?

The Jacob story brings out into the open what is often experienced as hidden.  It makes public visible what can often be private and invisible—the human experience of wrestling with that which we do not know, can’t understand, and can’t control.  It’s quite common, and quite human, for us to do battle with those mysterious angels…  And to come out on the other side with a blessing, and some bruises.  We are engaged in what Sister Joan Chittister calls “a spirituality of struggle.” 

She says: God is not a puppeteer and God is not a magic act.  God is the ground of our being, the energy of life, the goodness out of which all things are intended to grow to fullness.  Yet it is a struggle…  How can we possibly deal with the great erupting changes of life and come away more whole because of having been through them than we would possibly have been without them?  To do that takes a spirituality of struggle.” (Sister Joan Chester, Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope, page 16)

This scene of struggle happens at an important transition in Jacob’s life.  He is on a journey, between the land of Laban, his uncle, where he had lived his adult life, married, and had children; and the land of Canaan where he is now headed, his place of birth.  Jacob’s time with Laban had been productive.  He came with nothing and had acquired wives, children, servants, flocks, and herds, all the signs of wealth and prosperity of that time.  But he and Laban were almost always at odds with each other, each trying to trick and deceive the other for personal gain.  [sounds like the market place-the rat race]  Interactions that are so common when we try to deal with systems and structures. Our federal and state organizations.

So, Jacob is leaving and heading back home.  To get home he will have to cross paths with his brother Esau.  On this night Jacob is camping by the river Jabbok.  His wrestling match with the angel that night will not be his first conflict or confrontation in life.  The event serves as a sort of parable for Jacob’s life up to that point.

He had always been wrestling-both by nature and by nurture.  He wrestled with his twin Esau in Rebekah’s womb.  Genesis 25:22 says,” The children struggled together within her;” and she said,” If it is to be this way why do I live.” Apparently, Jacob lost the match, because Esau came out first, but Jacob wasn’t giving up as he was born grabbing onto Esau’s heel.  Esau, the infant wrestling champion, had all the legal rights and blessings of the firstborn, but for the slightly younger Jacob, this was just round one.  He would spend much of his adult life trying to wrestle for blessings.  He wrestles Esau’s birthright from him, he wrestles his father’s blessing from him-the blessing had ritual and legal significance, so this was a big prize.  When Esau finds out he is furious and vows to kill Jacob after their elderly father dies.  Jacob flees the scene with his hard-earned blessing and goes to find his uncle. 

So now he is leaving Laban with all the blessings he gained while with him and facing the fact that he will soon be encountering Esau.  How do face what you are afraid of? [a visit to the dentist, relationships – like Thanksgiving gatherings.  At the river Jabbok, Laban is behind him, Esau is just ahead of him, and Jacob gets jumped by God. ************* At the river******* For ages important things happen at the river

Jacob should serve as a model to us because we don’t wrestle enough, perhaps.  There’s no way to handle the hopelessness of the results when most people just don’t care anymore.  “The opposite of love is not hate, but apathy.”

Part of the mystery of the story is the ambiguity around whom Jacob is wrestling.  Is it a God?  An angel?  A human being?  Is it himself?  All of these are possibilities.  From a modern psychological perspective, it’s easy to read this as an internal battle within the anxiety-ridden Jacob.  Quite possible.  The text identifies the opponent as a man in verse 24, who then later tells Jacob that he has wrestled with human and divine beings.  Eventually, Jacob says, “I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.”  The line is blurred here between the struggle with another human being, like Brother Esau, an inner psychological struggle of confronting your own demons, and the struggle with God’s own self.  These kinds of distinctions are ones that the text leaves unclear.

What is clear is that Jacob sees his very real, physical struggle as an encounter with God.

We can relate this to any kind of wrestling match we may be involved in, in our psyche, in our family or friend relationships, in our struggle to promote justice and peace, and in our quest for spiritual and physical healing.  All these encounters are, in hindsight, encounters with God, seeing God face to face.  Recent experiences lying in a hospital …or visiting with friends… unable to do anything … to take away the pain…

Jacob wins not because he pins his opponent, but because he simply won’t let go.  He holds on for dear life- like those in the marches for racial justice and other issues- and refuses to loosen his grip until he gets a blessing.  His victory comes at a cost.  He gets bruised up.  From now on he will limp through life, bearing the scars of his encounter.

Struggle before reconciliation with God who so loves the world he sent his only begotten son—do we struggle enough to internalize that wonderful gift

Struggle before reconciliation with our estranged loved ones

He’ll never quite be the same, and visibly so.  He also never gains complete control over his wrestling partner.  And we come to this wonderful ritual of naming.  Naming plays a very significant role in the Old Testament, like many other cultures.  To name something or someone is to capture the essence of that person.  [Advertising has a focus on naming] Naming also can imply having power over a person.  If you can name something, you have a kind of authority over it, [God paraded creation before Adam for him to name the animals] sort of like us diagnosing and naming a certain disease so we know how to try and gain power over it.  Jacob tries but never gets to name his opponent.  The creature remains unnamable.

But Jacob does get his blessing and he gets a new name—Israel, roughly translated as “God- wrestler”.  It captures his character.  It’s also the name for the nation that came out of its descendants that continued receiving blessings and bruisings through its wrestling with God, and the name that the New Testament gives all people willing to enter the ring with this God.  We too are children of Israel and we are God-wrestlers.

The Hebrew translated wrestles…  “Stirs up the dust” …  We all need to stir up the dust- don’t we?

Genesis 33:3 [Jacob] himself went on ahead of his family, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near his brother.  But Esau ran to meet him, and embrace him, and threw his arms around his neck and kissed him, and they wept….  Esau said, “What do you mean by all this company that I met?”  Jacob answered, “To find favor with my lord.”  But Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep which you have for yourself.”  Jacob said, “No please; if I find favor with you, then accept my blessing from my hand; for truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God since you have received me with such favor.  Please accept my gift that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have everything I want.”

So, for all his wrestling and struggle, the greatest blessing for Jacob is one for which he did absolutely nothing.  He gets blindsided by an unexpected, undeserved, gift of grace from his brother.  And both realize that they have all the blessings they need.  And again, maybe even in a deeper way now, Jacob has seen the face of God.

So, wrestling and struggle are only part of the story.  Blessings also come in the form of unexpected, undeserved, gifts of grace that God hands out generously.  Reconciliation with an estranged family member, the healing of a memory, the healing of a body, or being given peace of mind about an illness that isn’t going to go away any time soon.  This is what theologians simply call grace, and it’s something that happens beyond the wrestling ring with all are striving and sweating and holding on for dear life.

1 Church St, Harwich, MA 02645
508 432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

What Goes Around comes around

Worship Time
10:00 AM
1 Church Street
East Harwich, MA 02645
Tel: 508-432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

Genesis 29:15-28
29:15 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?”   Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.  Leah’s eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful.

29:18 Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.”   Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.”  So, Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.   Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go into her, for my time is completed.”

So Laban gathered together all the people of the place and made a feast.   But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he went into her.   (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.)   When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?”

29:26 Laban said, “This is not done in our country–giving the younger before the firstborn.   Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.”   Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.

Romans 8:26-39

8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.  And God, who searches the heart, knows what the mind of the Spirit is because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.   We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.  For those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.

And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?

8:32 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?  As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,   nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

13:31 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

13:33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

13:45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls;  on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

13:47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind;  when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad.

13:49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous  and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

13:51 “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.”

13:52 And he said to them, “Therefore 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.”

“My kid is turning out just like me. Well played, karma. Well-played.” —Anonymous

There are things we say to children that children cannot understand- like

–“Someday you will have children just like you, and then you’ll understand”–jinx.

 

What Goes Around comes around
Genesis 29:18-35
The Rev Dr Dianne S Carpenter
30 July 2023

Last week we mentioned that Jacob had been a person who gained a birthright and a blessing by less than honorable means.  He had also been a person who encountered God at Beth EL… We know who Jacob was, that he was rightly named.  The name Jacob means cheater each.  He has a propensity to cheat, to reach from behind, to not always play fairly.  While at home, Jacob took advantage of his older Brother Esau, exploiting his weakness, and gaining Esau’s birthright in exchange for a bowl of stew which Esau later regretted.  Then, Jacob was involved in a plot to deceive his father.  Isaac thought he was dying and sent Esau off to kill game and prepare a special venison dish.  Rebekah overhead their plans and schemed to get her favorite son Jacob the blessing as well as the birthright.  It worked.  Jacob ended up with a blessing, lying to his father and the process, but in doing so, he put his life in danger.  Esau was now waiting for the opportunity to kill him.

Jacob flees home and travels far away, sent by his parents to Padanaram, to the household of Laban.  There he met the love of his life.  He has fallen in love with Rachel, the younger daughter of his uncle Laban, his mother’s brother.  In verse 18, Jacob offers to work seven years for Laban and the right to marry Rachel.  Laban agreed, they shook on it.

Jacob is about to meet his match.  His Uncle Laban has welcomed him into the family with open arms.  However, Jacob is soon to get a good dose of himself.  It appears that what goes around, comes around…  It is payback time.

What a story.  Jacob agrees with Uncle Laban to work for seven years for his younger daughter Rachel.  There’s no discussion of Leah.  Jacob has no interest in her, she is not part of the prenuptial agreement.  His love for Rachel is so strong, that those seven years flew by.  Genesis 29:20 says that they seemed but a few days!  At the end of the seven years, there was a wedding.  Everything was going as agreed upon, as planned.  The bride was veiled and brought to the groom’s chamber in darkness where the marriage was consummated.  Then came Jacob’s morning discovery!

In the morning, behold, Jacob said to Laban, “What is this thou hast done unto me?  Did not I serve with thee for Rachel?  Wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?” the word “beguile” in the Hebrew means to deceive, mislead, trick; to deal treacherously with or betray.

Laban becomes the first to introduce the small print tucked away on the bottom of the contract.  His response to Jacob in verse 26, is classic.  “oh yes, didn’t I tell you that we have a custom here in the East?  Here it is,…  written on the contract in small print.  I was sure I told you about it.”

Jacob is beginning to understand how Esau felt, or how Isaac felt when deceived.  All Jacob can do is grin and bear it!  Laban works out another deal with Jacob, giving Rachel to him for a second wife as he works another seven years.  Uncle Laban is smooth!  He marries both his daughters and gets 14 years of labor for them!

How interesting that Jacob thought he had escaped an unhappy, competitive home, and ended up with one of his own.  Here comes the first daytime soap opera- Leah gives Jacob four sons!  And in addition Jacob has two waiting women – each one representing one of his wives – A literal baby war erupts in this household between Leah and Rachel!  Two wives compete for the love and affection of one husband!

The person who recorded this story saw a human tragedy and interpreted what God was doing to bring a measure of justice to Leah,  “And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.” Perhaps Jacoby is getting what he deserves, however, he is not the only one who will suffer.  When we are less than truthful, not just ourselves but others are hurt.  Leah loves Jacob, but it is obvious that she does not have his heart, Leah is locked in an unhappy marriage.  She will suffer for a lifetime through no sin of her own.  And Rachel is saddened by her barren state.

But eventually, beyond this passage, Jacob becomes the father of 12 sons and at least one daughter.  This is where the story really gets challenging.  Gentlemen, can you imagine having 13 children and four women in your tent!  The children named in Genesis were Reubin, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Napthali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulon, daughter Dinah, Joseph, and Benjamin, although Genesis 46:15 suggests that he had 33 grandchildren.

In case you feel badly for Jacob…  Remember that he is still a recipient of a great promise from God who at Beth EL told him:

I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father and the God of Isaac:…  And behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee until I have done that which I’ve spoken of to thee…

What is the God who knows Jacob intimately, who predicted the rivalry between the twins before they were born, what is the God who will fulfill his promise to Abraham through Jacob and has met him at Beth EL doing with Jacob in this challenging time of his life?  And how can God use someone like Jacob?

Perhaps, some have pointed out that, he is molding and shaping Jacob to be a suitable man of God.

Jacob has grown in his encounter with Laban.  He has learned to work hard, to accept life’s strange turns, and to deal with the person who he perceives has wronged him.  After the birth of Joseph –Rachel’s first son –Jacob lives into the promise that he will return to the land where God met him.

Do you feel that God is/has been molding and shaping you and through you, your family, into a suitable person and place for His will to be realized in the world?  Do you see God’s hand at work forming you to be his person? Strengthening you to make choices he would approve and helping you become more than you might have imagined? Are you anticipating that God is working on you or are you imagining you are a self-made person?

And as for his household. If there were to be 12 sons to give birth to 12 tribes, they would have to learn to work together to serve God with a single mind. They do not do this easily. Some days there’s great competition and jealousy between them, but God continually brings his plan for salvation out of their human plans for self-advancement.

We must remember that Uncle Laban is only a tool, an instrument in the hand of God to mold and fashion Jacob. God is the master potter, Jacob is the clay, and the house of Laban is the potter’s wheel, the potter’s oven. Jacob is not at the point in his life where we can say that he has totally learned his lesson, that he has his act together, that he is a finished vessel.  He is still on the wheel and in the oven and will continue to be after he leaves Laban’s house.

You see, Jacob lives his life pretty much like we live ours. We learn lessons along the way. We grow along the way. We begin to exercise a measure of faith along the way, only to go backward as we face the next chapter in our lives. Like Abraham, we have great faith I offer up Isaac, and then we find ourselves lying about something before the lost world, motivated by fear! Two steps forward one step backward. This is the life of Jacob and this is our life as well.

Living in the house that Laban built has been good for Jacob even though it is not pleasant. The truth here is that we grow more in our lives when life is unpleasant than when we are comfortable.  Ecclesiastes 7:2 says  “It is better to go to the house of mourning, then to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men, and the living will lay it to his heart.” Already we can chart some positive steps in Jacob’s life.

Step one: Jacob evidence growth in his identity.

Jacob wants to leave the house of Laban and start a life for himself.  Notice verse 25 “And it came to pass, when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said unto Laban, send me a way that I may go on to mine own place, and to my country. Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served thee and let me go for thou knows my service which I’ve done thee.” Jacob now has 11 sons and one daughter.  He is viewing and self is the day of his own household, rather than as an extension of Laban’s house.

Also, Jacob refuses to be in debt to Laban.  Verse 31a “and he said, what shall I give thee?  And Jacob said, “Thou shall not give me anything.” Jacob had fulfilled his obligation to Laban and no longer wanted to be indebted to him in any way.  He refused to be given any animals whether they be solid, speckled, or spotted.  There are always strings attached to gifts!

Listen, it is healthy and necessary for each of us to establish our own identity.  This is especially true of married couples.  Jesus said in Mark 10:7-8 ” for this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and Cleave to his wife, and those two shall be one flesh: so then they are no more two, but one flesh.” When children grow up and get married, parents must learn a new language, and turn to a new relationship, a new way of viewing and relating to their children.

Step two: Jacob evidence growth in his dependency.

It is interesting that Uncle Laban has put together Jacob’s connection with God.  Notice genesis 30:27.  “and Laban said unto him, I pray thee, if I have found favor in thine eyes, tarry: for I have learned by experience that the lord hath blessed me for thy sake.” Evidently there was something to that vow Jacob made with God back at Beth EL.  Jacob is keeping his vow.  He is living his life in such a way that God can bless him.  Matthew 6:33 says, “but seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Laban asks Jacob to stay and set his own wages. Verse 28 Laban says, “appoint me thy wages, and I will give it.” Jacob responds in a most untypical fashion, by making the worst possible deal for himself. He put himself in a situation of total dependence on the Lord. How? Jacob agrees to supervise Laban’s flocks for only those unborn animals that would be undesirable, because of their markings.

It would be entirely up to God as to how many animals would become Jacob’s.  The dominant color traits of Laban’s flock were the solid color animals. To make things even more generous for Laban, Jacob would not receive spotted or speckled animals from those few that were present of that variety. His future wages would be those spotted and speckled animals that were born to solid color pairs!

This was such a good deal, Uncle Laban quickly took Jacobs’s offer.  Just for insurance, however, Lavin put all the spotted a speckled animals under the care of his sons and removed them from a 3 days journey from Jacob.  There was no way, barring the intervention of God that Laban could not come out on top of this deal!  In a real sense, Jacob is abandoning himself to God.  He’s living by faith, placing his future in God’s hands.

Step three: Jacob evidences growth in his acceptance.

It is clear that Jacob was not living on sour Grapes.  He has not been treated fairly by his Uncle Laban, yet is getting on with his life, accepting what has happened to him and making the most of the present situation.  Jacob is not trapped in the past, he is looking to the future!  Part of our accepting what has happened to us, no matter how unjust and might be, is seeing our own part in it.  Laban’s ways and deception of Jacob is linked in part to Jacob’s ways and deception of his Brother Esau and Father Isaac. 

 

It requires a level of maturity not to get sidetracked by life’s hard knocks and injustice.  The Apostle Paul expressed this in Philippians 3: 13-14.  “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” We cannot live in the past and claim the future.  We cannot move to the second base and at the same time hug the first base.  Instead, we must learn from the past, we must come to terms with our past and press on!

Step four: Jacob evidences growth in taking responsibility.

Notice vs. 29-30.  “and he said unto him, thou knowest how I have served thee, and how thy cattle was with me.  For it was little which thou hadst before I came, and it is now increased unto a multitude, and the Lord hath blessed thee since my coming: and now when shall I provide for mine own house also?” How refreshing it is to see someone who is willing to take responsibility.  Jacob is acting as the head of his household.  He is responsible to provide for his wives and children, rather than let his father-in-law carried him.

Jacob has placed his success and failure in the hands of God, but obviously, he does not sit idle.  He has learned some things along the way concerning cattle.  In Genesis 30:37-43, he uses methods known at the time to either encourage animals to breed and/or alter the color trait of their offspring. There are some who say that Jacob is not at all violating his trust in God for his situation.  Faith requires action on our part.  While we are living in dependence on God we are not to be idle. There are some things we must do.  Someone has said that we should believe as if everything depended upon God, and act as if everything depended upon us!  There is a song as says “I am not what I want to be, I’m not what I’m going to be, but praise God I’m not what I was.”

This is Jacob’s testimony.  Is it our testimony?  Are we taking steps in the right direction?  Are we living our lives in a way that God can bless us?  How are we living in the house that Laban built?  What are we sowing?  What are we reaping?  What are we learning?

Some people see this as a dramatic and compelling love story – Jacob’s love for Rebekah…  A microscopic- detail-laden account of the father of 12 nations.

Some people see this as the story of the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham: The sweeping step back and seeing God’s purposes come to fruition: finally, the 12 tribes are established in the Sons of Jacob

All that is true but here we also see the dramatic reality that although we are individuals with free will: however, perverted at times: we have an awesome God whose will for His people is salvation and triumph and who is willing to walk with us through our formative stages of faith.

 

1 Church St, Harwich, MA 02645
508 432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

Living Stones

Worship Time
10:00 AM
1 Church Street
East Harwich, MA 02645
Tel: 508-432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

Acts 7:55-60
7:55 But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.   “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”

7:57 But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him.  Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

7:59 While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

7:60 Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.

1 Peter 2:2-10
2:2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your into salvation, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

2:4 Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

2:6 For it stands in scripture: “See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

2:7 To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner,”   and “A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.   Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

John 14:1-14
14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.

14:2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.  And you know the way to the place where I am going.”

14:5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

14:7 If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

14:8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”

14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

14:10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.

14:11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.

14:12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.

14:13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

14:14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

A Jewish businessman in America decided to send his son to Israel to absorb some of the culture of the homeland. When the son returned, the father asked him to tell him about his trip. The son said, “Pop, I had a great time in Israel. By the way, I converted to Christianity.” “Oy vey,” said the father. “What have I done?” He decided to go ask his friend Jacob what to do. Jacob said, “Funny you should ask. I too sent my son to Israel, and he also came back a Christian. Perhaps we should go see the rabbi and ask him what we should do.” So they went to see the Rabbi. The Rabbi said, “Funny you should ask.I too sent my son to Israel. He also came back a Christian. What is happening to our young people? Perhaps we should go talk to God and ask him what to do.” The three of them prayed and explained what had happened to their sons and asked God what to do. Suddenly a voice came loud and clear from Heaven. The Voice said, “funny you should ask, I too sent my son to Israel…”

Living Stones
Peter 2:2-10
May 7th  2023
The Rev Dr Dianne ES Carpenter

 

The building we now occupy is the second structure for Methodist worship in Harwich, MA. The cornerstone of this church building was laid in 1811 and the building was dedicated January 1st 1812 as the Methodist Episcopal Church of Harwich.  In 1797 a class was started in Harwich- The cornerstone is always representative of much visioning, work and planning.  The scriptures tell us that Jesus is the cornerstone.  Jesus was God’s plan for salvation and on him was built the vision of the Kingdom of God.

When God laid the cornerstone of the Kingdom, when God poured himself into the person of Jesus and became human, it was an event, that stands at the center of history – marking the end of the planning stage and the beginning of the building stage.

Buildings come in various configurations and are made of various materials.   The First Methodist structure “faced south and there was no paint or plastering about the building.  A broad “isle” [sic] extended from the front door to a roughly finished pulpit.  The men sat on the west side of the aisle and the women on the east.  The seats were arranged in the same manner as schoolhouses of the day.”

Some are brick, others wooden… some are painted outstanding colors and others opt for clean white. A lengthy description of the church is included in a “Manual of the M.E. Church, East Harwich, with a Historical Sketch” written collaboratively by Pastor J.D.Phelps (1878-1879), Jonathan Buck and James Smalley for a Conference report in 1878-79.  The Sketch states the church was painted yellow outside, the sides each contained seven windows in upper and lower levels, the front had a spacious central door and six windows – four above and two below.  I lived in a house with pink shutters.

Peter begins with the concept of the cornerstone that was rejected as found in Psalm 118 and speaks of the church – those who follow Jesus – as LIVING STONES

God chose Jesus and all believers choose Jesus, but many reject Jesus.  Decisions about how we intend to build our lives are made every day.  The first step is to set the cornerstone as a sign of what is to come and a commitment to a particular plan.  Infant baptisms are the setting of a cornerstone in the lives of children and adult baptisms are a personal statement of building on Jesus’ life and teachings.

We can be classic, traditional, colonial, modern or innovative but we are something in our life plans.  People who graduate this year from the technical schools, high schools, colleges and certificate programs have completed the preparation and anticipate beginning the project they will call their life work.  People who will marry these years have completed the preparation and anticipate beginning the project they will call their family life.  And in a few weeks, we will have one adult profess her faith as a completion of preparation.

Choices in work, in relationships and in faith may be traditional or innovative but we must choose to be something in our life plans. These plans may unfold before us and change dramatically as we mature and age. Centuries represent millions of decisions but the most fundamental decision any one can make is still: Will we choose to serve the Lord our God as shown to us in Jesus Christ, or not.

God’s plan, built on the cornerstone of Jesus the Christ is one that respects persons- living stones.  Jesus showed us that Samaritans and tax collectors, women and children, were all equally to be respected.  Jesus came proclaiming liberation of the captives, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked as a work of God.  Sending money and goods away to the people who are hungry, in prison and in need of clothing is well established in our churches.  Social justice has been very important to the Methodist church – social ethics as taught by Jesus is the basis of social justice in America.

In this day when we know more about the human mind and emotions, the encouragement of emotional health, counseling, consoling and uplifting – person to person- is as mandatory in God’s building plan as the work of soup kitchens, relief teams and support of the less fortunate.  In fact, pastoral counseling goes hand in hand with social justice.  People are living stones built up into societies.

Jesus is the cornerstone of a plan in which we are concerned for the whole person.  One of the greatest challenges as a pastor is to see each person as someone who needs God’s love and sometimes to make decisions about how to advise people in their search for the joy which God wants in their lives.  God makes victors out of victims, but not without a great deal of soul searching and courage.  Every Christian is a pastor – a caretaker — the minister is the pastor to you lay pastors.

So God challenges all of us together to make health care, both physical and emotional available to young and old so they can be victorious over bodily handicaps, victorious over loneliness, victorious over things we do not like to face, like the effects of private victimization – rape, incest, marital abuse, harassment.

God challenges us to make welfare available to victims of floods, of poverty and of racial discrimination.  God calls us to help in bringing victory out of defeat.  God calls us to participation in the Kingdom which was laid from the beginning.

The cornerstone of Christ Jesus sends us into the world to offer people the opportunity to stop worshiping social idols and begin a meaningful relationship with one another that reflects God’s relationship to the world for which Jesus sacrificially taught and ultimately died.

When we help persons see themselves as God sees them, precious and loved… when we advocate for them in the marketplace of work and law… when we walk with them thru hopelessness and despair, thru loss and overcoming addictions, then we are living stones built on the cornerstone of Christ Jesus the Lord.  Moreover, when you are part of the building upon the cornerstone of Christ, “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,” as we heard the priest mention at the coronation service of Charles III yesterday.

Jesus’ words are “Truly, truly I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the work that I do; and greater works than these will he do because I go to the Father.’

Christ buildings are held together by healthy faith lives.  Faith is nurtured by study of the scriptures, a constant conversation with God – which we call prayer and attendance on worship and sacrament.  These building blocks for the kingdom allow us to continue until God’s blueprint is realized and God’s will for the world is crowned by a cross lifted high for all to find.

Jesus the respecter of persons

Jesus the teacher for whom we are disciples and disciplined to conform to his will.

Leads to Jesus the peace maker….

People focus on the end time as a time heralded by terrible and frightening disasters.  The focus is come to God for fear that you will be “left behind”.  Jesus’ call is “follow me” for my yoke is easy and my burden light” Jesus calls us to the Kingdom built on him.  We all lose a little when anyone is left behind… Jesus the prince of Peace invites us to victory over fear and death.  Peace will be complete at the end time because the Kingdom project will have been completed and God will occupy the seat at the Head of the Table.

Peace will not be complete until the end of time but the Peace that passes understanding is available to individuals every day.  It is breaking into the world as a sign of the Kingdom.  At Easter people celebrate the opportunity to have resurrections during disappointment and suffering.  Christ is the cornerstone of Peace.  A peace that living stones adopt as a conscious plan, each of us every day until God’s Kingdom come.

Finally, Just as people choose the materials for their buildings beginning with the cornerstone – the choice of a cornerstone for our lives means the rejection of other options. Many people will reject Jesus as the cornerstone… and all he stands for.  Reserving judgment is to place something else at the foundation and run the risk of a shaky construct … built on sand or passing fads.  It is imperative to choose … God chooses the materials for his Kingdom that are participatory in his plan for peace and justice.

The prophet’s statement can be yours and mine:
As for me and my family we will serve the Lord our God and his plan for the Kingdom.

“On this Rock I will build my Church.”  We know that this is the response of Jesus to Simon’s declaration: You [Jesus] are the Messiah, the Son of the living God

1 Church St, Harwich, MA 02645
508 432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

Standing at the Edge

Worship Time
10:00 AM
1 Church Street
East Harwich, MA 02645
Tel: 508-432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

SCRIPTURE LESSON Exodus 12:1 –14

The Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread

12 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb[a] for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. 10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. 11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.

12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.

14 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance.

 

SCRIPTURE LESSON 1 Corinthians 11:23 –26

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

 

GOSPEL LESSON John 13:1 –5, 14-17 Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet

13 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

SERMON    Following Instructions
Matthew 26:36-56 Jesus Prays in Gethsemane

36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch[a] with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on.[b] See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus

47 While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” 49 And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.”[c] Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. 51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant[d] of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” 55 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. 56 But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.

Following Instructions
6 April 2023
The Rev Dr Dianne ES Carpenter

As we discussed Sunday, Jesus was saying goodbye to people, places and His human experiences in the world as he entered Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover for the last time. As we hear in Exodus, God gave very detailed instructions for the People of God to be saved from the death to come as God liberated the people from slavery in Egypt.

Jesus became the sacrificial lamb that sets us free from our mortality.   Like many of us “going on a trip” He knew there was so much to do and so little time to do it!

When you leave home, go on a trip, face your mortality:  Do you leave notes for people to Water the flowers- feed the cat- put the seat down in the bathroom – pick up the mail?

Have you written your Will?

Have you thought about your Memorial Service?

These passages about Jesus and the disciples celebrating Passover have Jesus’ parting instructions to us.

1] Serve each other and the world as I have served you
2] Remember me: with this practice of breaking bread and drinking wine – I am the sacrifice and the way – Watch and pray that you may not enter temptation.
3] Love one another

Interesting instructions…… as each year rolls by we pause to evaluate whether we have been following these Instructions…. Jesus’ final instructions… like his first invitations to a variety of people [Tax collectors, fishermen, accountants, political figures]- Follow Me!

Walk like me!  I will not leave you….

The disciples were not A+ students – but they got better.

That night after Jesus asked them to keep watch while he prayed – they fell asleep- one betrayed Jesus, one denied Jesus and one resorted to the sword.

But the next year they did better. 

Do we keep watch and pray? – Do our actions betray Jesus?  Do our lives deny knowing what Jesus expects?  Do we resort to the sword – cutting off others and speaking in anger? But this next year we can do better. 

Each one of us needs to take stock: How well are we following Instructions?

1 Church St, Harwich, MA 02645
508 432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com