What a wonderous week it has been! The welcome of Jay, preparation of the Hatherley spaces for the impending building site discombobulation, opening of the vicarage for people to say their farewells and share precious memories, and the blessing of the grounds in preparation for what is to come… read more
Over the winter season our Sunday worship will feature a series of “sermons” based on the characters in Genesis, whose stories are told in the first testaments readings each Sunday at this time. Beware… these tales are not for the faint hearted!
Be aware though, that at the 10 am services, the ‘sermon’ may take a slightly different form to the traditional version, and there may be only one bible reading, depending on the topic of the day.
You may like to prepare for each Sunday by re-acquainting yourselves with the story before you arrive (and the stories in between). A list of readings is at the bottom of this page.
July 12: A bit of cultural background- What constitutes ‘Family” in Genesis?
Families were incomplete without children, notably sons.
- Sons are the ones who stay with and contribute to the father’s household.
- Daughters are “given’ (in actuality ‘sold”) to other families.
- They invest in other father’s families as the wives of other sons
- Because a daughter will eventually be lost to the family anyway, the lack of daughters is never viewed with the same disappointment as lack of sons.
- Therefore, daughters-in-law assume priority over daughters
- Sons must have wives for the family to grow and the line to continue, wives who will fit well into the family.
Fathers are essential to families
- Without fathers, families disintegrate into widows and orphans, unconnected and marginalized citizens at best.
What about mothers?
- Essential to families- temporarily
- Needed to bear children, but once children are weaned, they tend to disappear from the biblical narrative.
The stories in Genesis both mine and undermine this understanding of family.
- Fathers are primary, but they are often ineffective.
- Mothers lack the authority of fathers, yet they play prominent roles in the structuring of the family, often shaping the structure of the next generation by determining (by strategy or identity) which son will inherit or be favoured
- Sons tend to end up due to the patriarchal system of primogeniture, in competition and conflict.
- Daughters, when present at all, are for the most part ignored or are used as pawns in men’s business dealings.
- Daughters-in-law exert more influence on the family, usually in efforts to secure their own economic and societal position. They must actively make inroads into the family power structure, which they can do most easily by giving birth to male children who will assume the leadership of the family.
Rebekah is the quintessential daughter-in-law who becomes a mother.
- Leaves her own family to join a family she has never seen before and geography forms a permanent barrier to her family of origin. It is imperative she establish and safeguard for herself a respected place in her own household.
- Rebekah then quickly moves to the center of the action.
o She is a woman of initiative, knowledge and a woman whose story takes a bittersweet turn.
o She is also the woman who upsets the status quo
- When we meet Rebekah in Genesis 24, Abraham is old; Sarah is dead. Isaac, the son of the promise is ready to take his place. Daughters neither exist, not are they missed. It is Rebekah, the daughter-in-law that will make all the difference in this family’s story.
- The story is structured around a patriarch’s commission and a servant’s quest. The objective of the venture is to find a wife for Isaac- a suitable wife. A woman from Abraham’s family is the goal.
- The servant departs with ten camels loaded with gifts to secure his prize. He meets Rebekah at a well. She offers him a drink and volunteers to water his camels. Her timely generosity and her lineage convince the servant that she is the woman for Isaac.
And who better to tell the rest of the tale, that the woman herself- Rebekah…
at ten o’clock on Sunday!
Extreme Faith (June 28) Click HERE for this week's meditation
In my opinion, the only way to describe our reading from Genesis this morning is X-treme. And no, I haven’t made a bad spelling error this time! I use X rather than ‘ex’ on purpose because X is used whenever there’s an unknown factor to account for- an ‘x’ factor-in this case it stands for the mystery of God. It also stands for X-tremely uncomfortable, as I am confronted with what being X-tremely faithful really could mean.
The notion of God telling Abraham- or anyone for that matter- to sacrifice their child- is more than x-tremely uncomfortable. It’s morally and ethically reprehensible, and has, when taken literally, led to some unspeakably atrocious acts claimed to be done in the name of God. For instance, in 1990, Christos Valenti killed his beloved daughter in supposed obedience to this scripture. “It was an order directly from God”, he claimed. “How could I say no?’ A verdict of insanity was returned by the court.
After much prayerful consideration, I believe that this story, as every part of the Bible, is inspired by God and does have something vitally important to tell us. But I can only hear what God is telling me through this story if I do not take it literally. If I can see it as a metaphor, identifying with Abraham comes to represent the challenge of keeping faith when all I most value in life is stripped away from me. Keeping faith- keeping a relationship with God under the most x-treme conditions that life can throw at me….
God who sees (June 28)
Genesis 21:8-21 Sarah tells Abraham to cast out Hagar, then God tells Abraham to do as Sarah has asked. Abraham, though distressed, casts out Hagar and their son into the wilderness. Hagar and her son are about to die of thirst when God opens Hagar’s eyes and she sees water. “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy.” (v. 17)
Are you in the midst of some sort of wilderness? Is the path ahead unclear? Perhaps in some way you feel as if you are about to perish. Are you, in some way, crying out for help? May you, like Hagar, the slave and outcast, sense that God hears your cries and asks you to pour out your heart, knowing you are heard by the God who has not forsaken you, even if others have. May you hear those oft-repeated words, “Do not be afraid.” But this time, may you hear them on a deeper level, allowing them to find their way from your thoughts to your feelings to your core sense of identity. You are a person who need not fear. Not this wilderness. For you are not alone. You are accompanied. Heard. Understood. And may you sense God opening your eyes, to show you exactly what you need, perhaps what was right in front of you, all along.
Abraham and Isaac
Genesis 24: 34-38 42-49, 58-67
Isaac and Rebekah
Genesis 25: 19-24
Genesis 28: 10-19a
Jacob between a Rock and a Hard place
Genesis 29: 15-28
Jacob, Leah and Rachel
Genesis 32: 22- 31
Jacob crossing the Jabok
Joseph and his brothers