July 12 – Worship Service – Esau and Jacob

Beacon United Church – Welcome Back
April 3, 2020
July 19 – Worship Service – Jacob’s Ladder
July 27, 2020

July 12 – Worship Service – Esau and Jacob

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Words of Welcome

Welcome, everyone.  So as those of you who are joining us in person this morning can see, there have been a few changes in our sanctuary.   No matter how much you might want to greet each other, you are reminded that we MUST stay 6 feet apart at all times.  As a result, passing anything through the congregation is not allowed, so our offering plates are in the entrance, and you are asked to simply drop any gifts you have into those plates.

Perhaps the hardest thing, and certainly the hardest thing for me is that there will be NO singing.  It’s hard to imagine worshipping without singing, but we are very blessed that we will have instrumental music. You just need to remember, no matter how familiar the piece may be please do not sing with it.

The other part of our worship that will be missing is our social time after the service.  Unfortunately, there are still very strict regulations around any gathering where food or drinks are served and we are not able to do that at this time.

After our service you will be asked to remain in your seats until the row you are sitting in is asked to leave.  If you are on the left side of the sanctuary (my right) you will be asked to go to the left aisle and leave by the parking lot door.  If you are on the right side of the sanctuary (my left) you will be asked to move to the right aisle and leave through the narthex.

The Life and Work of Our Church

Please remember in your prayers this week the family of Doris Trask who died Wednesday.  Her funeral will be here at Beacon on Friday at 2 pm.  Also, remember as all those named in our prayer jar.

Birthday celebrations this past week:    Monday – Clark Sollows

Tuesday – John Hood

Thursday – David Sollows & Jim Brown

Today – Stephanie Welton

Celebrations this coming week:    Tuesday – Steen Sollows birthday

Friday – David & Judy Sollows anniversary

Saturday – Stephen & Janet Sollows anniversary

Lighting the Christ Candle

As we light our Christ Candle this morning, let us remember that its light is not limited to one space or one gathering.  The light of Christ is with us everywhere.  So as we light our candle this morning, let us remember that we have been called and challenged to not only recognize Christ’s light wherever it shines but also to take that light out with us wherever we go.

Acknowledgment of Territory

Wherever we are in this wonderful province of Nova Scotia, we are reminded that we gather on lands that are, by law, the unseeded territories of the Mi’kmaq people.  We gratefully and respectfully acknowledge this.  We also respectfully honour their traditions and spirituality along with the spirituality and traditions of the Métis people with whom we also share this land.

Call to Worship

With all our strengths and all our weaknesses, we come to worship.

With excitement and energy or with aging aching bodies, we come to worship.

With strong vibrant faith unafraid to question or with hesitation and uncertainty, we come to worship.

With eager laughter and joy or with painful whispered prayers, we come to worship.

Filled with saintly determination or deeply aware of our human failings, we come to worship.

Made strong by the promise of unending love and gracious acceptance, we come to worship the One whose love calls us here.

Opening Prayer

Let us pray;

Revealing God, in the mirror that we call scripture, we see ourselves for who we are and who we are not.  In the Bible, we see men and women who are as weak, as foolish, and as prone to sin as we are. Every page, every story reveals to us our own brokenness. Yet every page, every story also reveals the amazing presence of the One who longs to embrace us in love, to encourage us in hope, to lead us in justice, and to challenge us to become all that we can be, a people created to reflect the Divine love, hope, and justice that can make us whole.  Open our hearts and our minds to accept who we truly are, knowing your love is with us.  Open our hearts and our minds to who we could be, and give us the courage to live more fully into your image.  Amen.

Theme Conversation/Current Events

Name one good thing that has come from your Covid-19 experience.

Scripture Reading

The past 2 weeks, while I have been on study leave and vacation, our Hebrew scripture reading has been about the story of Isaac, the son of Abraham and Sarah.   In some ways, Isaac’s role in the story is much of a supporting character rather than as a lead.  He is the promised son, the sacrificial offering, and the father of Esau and Jacob, through his cousin Rebecca.

But it is the story of Isaac’s son Jacob that fills the next 8 chapters of Genesis and it is the story of Jacob’s sons, especially his son Joseph, which fills the rest of Genesis.  So today we will skip over the stories of Isaac and begin to look at Jacob and Esau.  We begin with the story of how Jacob first tricked Esau’s out of his birthright as the first-born son and then how he tricked him out of the blessing that his father had intended to bestow on Esau.

Genesis 25:19-34                

This is the story of Abraham’s son Isaac.  Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebecca, the daughter of Bethuel (an Aramean from Mesopotamia) and sister of Laban.  Because Rebecca had no children, Isaac prayed to the Lord for her. The Lord answered his prayer, and Rebecca became pregnant.  She was going to have twins, and before they were born, they struggled against each other in her womb. She said, “Why should something like this happen to me?” So she went to ask the Lord for an answer.

 The Lord said to her, “Two nations are within you; You will give birth to two rival peoples.  One will be stronger than the other; The older will serve the younger.”

The time came for her to give birth, and she had twin sons.  The first one was reddish, and his skin was like a hairy robe, so he was named Esau.   The second one was born holding on tightly to the heel of Esau, so he was named Jacob.  Isaac was sixty years old when they were born.

 The boys grew up, and Esau became a skilled hunter, a man who loved the outdoors, but Jacob was a quiet man who stayed at home.  Isaac preferred Esau because he enjoyed eating the animals Esau killed, but Rebecca preferred Jacob.   One day while Jacob was cooking some bean soup, Esau came in from hunting. He was hungry and said to Jacob, “I’m starving; give me some of that red stuff.”

 Jacob answered, “I will give it to you if you give me your rights as the first-born son.”

Esau said, “All right! I am about to die; what good will my rights do me?”

Jacob answered, “First make a vow that you will give me your rights.”

Esau made the vow and gave his rights to Jacob.  Then Jacob gave him some bread and some of the soup. He ate and drank and then got up and left. That was all Esau cared about his rights as the first-born son.

Genesis 27:1-41

Isaac was now old and had become blind. He sent for his older son Esau and said to him, “Son!”

“Yes,” he answered.

Isaac said, “You see that I am old and may die soon.  Take your bow and arrows, go out into the country, and kill an animal for me.  Cook me some of that tasty food that I like, and bring it to me. After I have eaten it, I will give you my final blessing before I die.”

While Isaac was talking to Esau, Rebecca was listening. So when Esau went out to hunt, she said to Jacob, “I have just heard your father say to Esau, ‘Bring me an animal and cook it for me. After I have eaten it, I will give you my blessing in the presence of the Lord before I die.’  Now, son,” Rebecca continued, “listen to me and do what I say.  Go to the flock and pick out two fat young goats, so that I can cook them and make some of that food your father likes so much.  You can take it to him to eat, and he will give you his blessing before he dies.”

But Jacob said to his mother, “You know that Esau is a hairy man, but I have smooth skin. Perhaps my father will touch me and find out that I am deceiving him; in this way, I will bring a curse on myself instead of a blessing.”

His mother answered, “Let any curse against you fall on me, my son; just do as I say, and go and get the goats for me.”  So he went to get them and brought them to her, and she cooked the kind of food that his father liked.  Then she took Esau’s best clothes, which she kept in the house, and put them on Jacob.  She put the skins of the goats on his arms and on the hairless part of his neck.  She handed him the tasty food, along with the bread she had baked.  Then Jacob went to his father and said, “Father!”

“Yes,” he answered. “Which of my sons are you?”

Jacob answered, “I am your older son Esau; I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of the meat that I have brought you so that you can give me your blessing.”

Isaac said, “How did you find it so quickly, son?”

Jacob answered, “The Lord your God helped me find it.”

Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come closer so that I can touch you. Are you really Esau?”  Jacob moved closer to his father, who felt him and said, “Your voice sounds like Jacob’s voice, but your arms feel like Esau’s arms.”  He did not recognize Jacob, because his arms were hairy like Esau’s. He was about to give him his blessing, but asked again, “Are you really Esau?” 

“I am,” he answered.

Isaac said, “Bring me some of the meat. After I eat it, I will give you my blessing.” Jacob brought it to him, and he also brought him some wine to drink.  Then his father said to him, “Come closer and kiss me, son.”  As he came up to kiss him, Isaac smelled his clothes—so he gave him his blessing. He said, “The pleasant smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed.  May God give you dew from heaven and make your fields fertile! May he give you plenty of grain and wine!  May nations be your servants, and may peoples bow down before you. May you rule over all your relatives, and may your mother’s descendants bow down before you. May those who curse you be cursed, and may those who bless you be blessed.”

Isaac finished giving his blessing, and as soon as Jacob left, his brother Esau came in from hunting.  He also cooked some tasty food and took it to his father. He said, “Please, father, sit up and eat some of the meat that I have brought you, so that you can give me your blessing.”

“Who are you?” Isaac asked.  “Your older son Esau,” he answered.

Isaac began to tremble and shake all over, and he asked, “Who was it, then, who killed an animal and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came. I gave him my final blessing, and so it is his forever.”

When Esau heard this, he cried out loudly and bitterly and said, “Give me your blessing also, father!”

Isaac answered, “Your brother came and deceived me. He has taken away your blessing.”

Esau said, “This is the second time that he has cheated me. No wonder his name is Jacob.  He took my rights as the first-born son, and now he has taken away my blessing. Haven’t you saved a blessing for me?”

Isaac answered, “I have already made him master over you, and I have made all his relatives his slaves. I have given him grain and wine. Now there is nothing that I can do for you, son!”

Esau continued to plead with his father: “Do you have only one blessing, father? Bless me too, father!” He began to cry.

Then Isaac said to him, “No dew from heaven for you, No fertile fields for you.  You will live by your sword, but be your brother’s slave.  Yet when you rebel, you will break away from his control.”

Esau hated Jacob because his father had given Jacob the blessing. He thought, “The time to mourn my father’s death is near; then I will kill Jacob.”

Esau and Jacob

So how many of you know of a family where 2 brothers don’t get along?  Perhaps there is a good reason for one of them to resent the other or even for them to resent each other.  Well, welcome to the reality of Esau and Jacob!

Esau and Jacob were twins, but because of the inheritance laws of the Hebrew people of the time, Esau, as the first-born would inherit a double share of their father’s estate but even more significantly, he would be the one who would inherit the leadership role within the extended family.  He would be the one through whom the family name would be passed on.

Now, this may have been something that the two of them could have worked out between themselves except for the influence of their parents.  We are told that Isaac favored Esau and we are led to believe that he did not hesitate to show that favoritism.  He seemed to have very little concern for Jacob.  Rebecca on the other hand preferred Jacob.  Perhaps this was motherly protection intended to compensate for the son that was less loved by his father or perhaps, like Isaac she just didn’t worry about how her favoritism would affect her other son.  But before you are too hard on Isaac for showing favoritism you should remember how Abraham treated his own first son, Ishmael!

Anyway, regardless of the original causes or the influence their parents might have had in its development, the animosity between Esau and Jacob was clear.  Isaac favored Esau.  Rebecca favored Jacob.

So one day, when Esau returned for hunting he found Jacob preparing a bean soup or as the traditional story goes, a stew.  He immediately demanded that Jacob give him some.  Now you might think that Esau was being rather rude by demanding the meal rather than asking for it, but you must remember that, as the first-born son, he had legal authority over his brother.  Jacob however, responds that he will only give his brother something to eat if his brother first promises to give him the rights of the first-born son.

What must have gone through Esau’s mind when this request was made?  How could Jacob suddenly become the elder brother?  How could any two siblings switch places?  If they are identical twins they might be able to fool some people, but even identical twins would have a hard time fooling their parents for long and Esau and Jacob were definitely not identical.  Perhaps Esau saw this as just a petty way of trying to humiliate him, a way for Jacob to try to make himself feel more important.  Perhaps Esau saw it as being a silly request that simply could never be fulfilled.  Regardless of how Esau may have view the request, he agreed to surrender his birthright for a bowl of stew, or in the version, we heard today, soup.

But how could this ‘change of status’ between the two brothers be accomplished?  How could the agreement be enforced?  If Isaac refused to recognize Jacob as having the rights of the first-born, how could he force his father to do so?  Could their simple verbal agreement be binding?  There were no witnesses to the agreement, so what if Esau simply denied the entire thing?  But this is not where the story ends.

Nothing much seems to have changed for some time until we are told that Isaac is very old and blind.  Isaac, aware that he could die at any time, summons his eldest son, his first-born and chosen heir, in order to bestow upon him the blessing of inheritance.  Although Esau had surrendered his birthright as the firstborn son to Jacob, the rights of inheritance, including both the right to lead the family and the right to inherit a double portion of the family wealth, did not become official until the current head of the family, in this case, Isaac, passed that inheritance on through his blessing.

Isaac tells Esau to go hunting, to prepare him a meal, and to bring it to him and then he will give Esau his blessing.  Notice that Esau never mentions that he had given up his birthright to Jacob!  Anyway, Esau heads out hunting but Rebecca, who has apparently heard the entire conversation and, we assume, knows about the deal between Esau and Jacob immediately calls Jacob. She instructs Jacob to go out and kill two of his young goats which she prepares to fool Isaac into thinking they are the meat that Esau would bring home from the hunt.  She then dresses Jacob in Esau’s clothes and wraps skins around his arms to make Isaac think he is his much harrier brother.  The ploy works and Isaac gives Jacob and not Esau his blessing.

No sooner has Jacob left that Esau arrives with the meal he has prepared for his father.  At this point Isaac realizes that he has been tricked, but it is too late.  Once the blessing is given it cannot be rescinded.

In anguish Isaac cries out, “Your brother came and deceived me.  He has taken away your blessing.”   “I gave him my final blessing, and so it is his forever.”

  Esau pleaded with his father: “Do you have only one blessing, father?

 But it is too late.  “I have already made him master over you, and I have made all his relatives his slaves … there is nothing that I can do for you, son!”

Is it any wonder that the passage ends with Esau determined to kill Jacob?

Now you might think that this is all about the financial implications.  As the one who has received his father’s blessing, it is now Jacob and not Esau who will inherit the larger portion of his father’s estate.  But this is actually the least important aspect of the blessing.  As the head of the household, Jacob will now have the final say on all family matters.  He is the one who will decide how the family property will be divided in the future.  He will decide what business agreements the family will enter into and what agreements will be rejected.  He will even decide on who has permission to marry who.  In effect, he becomes the CEO of the entire family enterprise.  Everyone else must adhere to what Jacob decides.

Today, if you didn’t like the decisions your family was making, you would simply choose to leave and make your own way in the world.  That was not possible for Esau.

The family unit was the fundamental foundation of the entire society.  If you rejected your family you would, in return, be rejected by your entire society.  There would be nowhere for you to go.  Esau is caught in a no-win situation with no possible way out.

So, although this is part of our collective story as Christians, what does it have to say to us today?   Well, I come back to the same question I asked a number of weeks ago when we first looked at the story of Abraham.  Why would someone like Jacob be chosen as one of our ancestors in faith?  Why would someone who rose to power through deceit become a model for all future generations?

Perhaps, like Abraham, the answer is, “Why Not?”

Jacob was definitely no saint, but perhaps there were things in his character that could eventually be developed and expanded that would make him a good leader.  Perhaps God saw, in Jacob, something more than this story would lead us to believe.

The truth is that God often chooses the very people that we would tend to dismiss.  God sees beyond the surface, beyond the obvious.  God sees in a way that none of us are capable of seeing.  Perhaps the lesson we need to remember for the story of Esau and Jacob, or at least this part of the story, is to be very careful about how we judge others.

Even if we can’t see it, each and every person has tremendous potential to be much more than any of us could imagine.  When we dismiss someone because of our own preconceptions or our own ideals and expectations, we might just be forgetting that we do not know the whole story.  Perhaps the very person we dismiss will turn out to be the very one that God chooses.  Perhaps, who knows, God might even choose us!  Amen

The Gift of Music

Prayer of Blessing (Gifts and Prayer Jar)

Let us take a moment of silence to remember all the gifts that have blessed and enriched our lives.  Let us think about how we can use these gifts, the gifts of our time, our talents, and our treasures to enrich the lives of others …

Let us offer our thanks for the many gifts we have received;

Divine One, for all that we have, for all that we are, for all the wonder and love that surrounds us each day, we offer our thanks.  We ask your blessing on the gifts we have been given and upon the gifts, we offer in return.  Amen.

And let us take a moment now to offer our silent prayers for all those named in our prayer jar and all those in our thoughts, our minds, and our hearts … Amen.

 Minute for Mission

Prayers of Gratitude and Concern

Divine One, as we think about our world today and our own place in it, we are deeply aware of our need for your love, your guidance, and your grace.  And so we bring before you, our prayers for this world in which we live.

We pray for a world filled with people crying out to feel loved, wanted, cherished, and unique.  Remind us that just as we are loved and cherished, we must also love and cherish others …

We pray for a world torn apart by conflict and war, a world that lives uneasily in a climate of fear with no clear vision for future days.  We are especially aware of the fear and uncertainty brought on by the worldwide pandemic.  It becomes easy for us to look around and blame others for the severity of the pandemic and to accuse others of being short-sighted and uncaring in their response.  Remind us that it is only our own reaction that we can control and help us to see beyond the present situation with openness and hope to whatever may lay ahead …

We pray for a world that often thinks less of others than of self, a world where the division between nations, race, religion, neighbour, and family leads to distrust, a world where economic considerations are often given precedence over concerns of health, safety, and care of the most vulnerable of people.  Remind us that we are all part of the same creation and that everyone, no matter what their situation, matters …
We pray for a world that is so often short-sighted, too busy to enjoy this world you have created, too preoccupied with living to appreciate life.  Remind us that as human beings we are only one part of your creation.  Remind us that we have a responsibility to appreciate and to care for all that has been created …

We pray for a world where spiritual longing is often ignored or temporarily satisfied by passing fads, popular ideals, and empty self-gratification, where all that seems to matter is the current moment and no thought is given for tomorrow.  Guide us to the deeper peace that we can only find by opening ourselves to your Divine presence with us and within us …
We pray for a world that needs to know your love, your hope, your peace, and your joy, a world that needs to know it is special, unique, and uniquely loved by the Wondrous Divine Mystery, to whom offer this prayer. Amen.

The Gift of Music— based on material written by John Birch.

Sending Out

God’s love extends beyond these walls.  God’s love extends beyond anything we can imagine.  God’s loves knows no bounds.  And so we are called to go out from here and take God’s boundless love with us wherever we go.  But don’t worry, because we don’t do this alone.  God is with us, Christ’s example leads us and the Spirit accompanies us each step of the way.  Go with God!

 

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