VIII Pentecost

July 30, 2017

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. AMEN.

I was drawn this morning to the lessons from Genesis.  It is truly a love story.  For Jacob, it had been love at first sight.  From the first time he saw Rachel he fell in love with her.

In this morning’s lesson, we see that Jacob approaches Rachel’s Father Laban.  He and Laban begin a conversation about wages, but Jacob quickly uses this conversation to tell Laban of his love for Rachel.  An agreement is made – Jacob will work for seven years so that he can marry Rachel.

Because of his love for Rachel, the seven years fly by – as it says in the lesson “…they seemed but a few days because of the love he had for her.”  This would be a love story with a happy ending, but then there is a plot twist.  We think that Downton Abbey can keep us guessing!

Jacob spends the night with his wife, and in the morning, he finds that he has married Rachel’s older sister, Leah.  There could be great anger, or even murder, as Jacob approaches Laban.

Laban explains that it is not the custom in their culture for a younger daughter to marry before her older sister.  Laban then offers to give Rachel to Jacob if he is willing to work for seven more years.  Jacob agrees to the terms and after seven more years of work, he finally marries the woman he loves.

Let’s get a few cultural things out of the way before I go any further.  First, we all know that until recently, girls were thought to be the property of their Father and then they were given to their Husbands, and they became their husband’s property.  We see a vestige of this in the “giving away of the bride” at a wedding.  Let me say that this is only a note in the liturgy in our prayer book, but to my knowledge I have never performed a wedding in which the bride did not want to be given away!

The other cultural thing is that it was permissible for a man to have more than one wife.  This was for a number of reasons, one of which was because there were more women than men, and since women were thought of as property they needed to be able to be given to a husband.

Those cultural things put aside, can we agree that what we have in this morning’s lesson from Genesis is a true love story!  Jacob ended up working for fourteen years for the love of his life.

But this is not the greatest love story.  At least it is not for those of us who call ourselves Christians.  We believe that the greatest love story is the one in which God loves us so much that He becomes one of us, lives a human life, is betrayed by those who love Him, and dies on the cross for us.  In the process He also conquerors sin and death.

This is, for us, the greatest love story.  Jacob may have worked for fourteen years for his love, but Jesus gave His life for us. 

And Jacob worked for someone who love him just a much.  How about us?  How much do we love Jesus?  How much do we love the One who gave His life for us so that we might live in Him?

This past week, I made my confession to my confessor.  I do this every four to six weeks.  As a part of that process, I – as a penitent – must examine my conscience.  In doing so, I am made more and more aware of how little I give up for Jesus.  He was willing to die for me, and time and time again, I choose my will over His.  How about you?

It would be such a nice sermon for me to simply talk about the great love that Jacob had for Rachel, and the even greater love that Jesus had for us.  I had intended to stop right there.  But then I was reminded that love is a two way street.

How much do we love Jesus?  How hard are we willing to work for Him?  How willing are we to turn away for sin and live in Him?  Let’s face the facts – Jesus’ love for us was perfect.  Our love for Him is imperfect.  It is not possible for us poor sinners to have perfect love for Jesus. 

But we can strive for a more perfect love.  We can work for our relationship.  I am not talking about working our way into heaven, I am simply pointing to the truth that any relationship that is worth something is work.  A marriage, a relationship between a parent and a child, a true friendship – these relationships entail work.  So does our relationship with Jesus. 

Perhaps the point that we can learn from the story of Jacob and his love for Rachel is just that – love takes work.  And that’s okay.  How much work are we willing to do in our relationship with Jesus?  AMEN.