A sermon on Jacob. Text: Genesis 27
During this season of Lent, we will be hearing the stories of some of our Biblical heroes – people whose stories have been passed down to us as great, heroic stories. But we will not be focusing on their greatness, but their brokenness. So many of the heroes of our faith were beyond imperfect in the eyes of the law. They were thieves, murderers, easy women, persecutors of Christians or people who walked away from God. Repeatedly. And yet… God was able to take their brokenness and make them beautiful. God redeemed Jacob, Daniel, Jonah, the woman at the well, Peter, and Paul – just as God redeems all of us. God sees in us beauty that we don’t see, and, through God’s love we become even more beautiful. That is why I have used the word kintsukuroi for these worship services. Kintsukuroi is an ancient art of repairing broken pottery with gold, making it more beautiful and valuable not in spite of, but because of its brokenness. This is the same thing God does with us. Takes our broken pieces, makes us whole and more beautiful than ever before. But, at one point or another, we all end up broken.
Jacob, the father of Joseph, the one blessed by God with a dream of a ladder that reached heaven, the one escorted through his travels by hosts of heaven, who wrestled with God and lived. Jacob, one of the great fathers of Israel, was a broken man, a sinful man. He did many things throughout his life that were not right in the eyes of God, but this is where it begins. When he steals his brother’s birthright.
Now, I don’t want to let his mother off easily – she had a favorite son and worked tirelessly for one son and not the other. She coerced her young son to steal his brothers’ inheritance. But her story will be covered some other time. Right now, this is about Jacob.
You see, even though Rebekah put the plan in place, Jacob made it happen. Jacob followed through. To take his brother’s birthright was to take his livelihood – he would now receive twice the land Esau would. Jacob not only lied to his father, a clear violation of the fourth commandment, he also tricked a blind man, which was expressly forbidden by Hebrew law. ON top of that, he caused Isaac to violate the law. Hebrew law stated that the birthright HAD to go to the firstborn son. To give it to anyone else was a violation of the law. Jacob, in his brokenness, causes others to become newly broken.
Reading Genesis, I don’t really ever like Jacob. He’s not a likeable character, really. He does little that I find redeeming, he’s not the flawed but loveable protagonist. And yet – God bestows upon him dreams, angels and even God’s own presence to guide him. I may not find anything in him that is redeeming, but God does. God uses him. And, to my reading, Jacob never even asks for an apology. This just seems so unfair!
When I was 19, I was in a bad state. I was miserable; I was lost. I felt like I was going the wrong direction in life. I really, really wanted to drop out of college, but I know that my parents would be so hurt and angry and I couldn’t stand the thought of letting them down.
That winter, I went to the Christmas/New Years gathering at the camp I went to for most of my childhood and worked at throughout college. One summer, we had a very broken director. She did some things that were in total violation of her call as minister. Then she fired all of the people who knew about it. She was incredibly cold, often mean (I would much later find out that she was going through some serious stuff of her own). As far as I was concerned, she had ruined my camp. She had broken the lives of many people I love and call family to this day. Many people would never come back to camp after that summer. She would be presiding over our worship service that winter, and I didn’t want to go. I couldn’t see how anything good could come out of it
Then, in her sermon, she starts talking about how, if we are going the wrong way on the highway, there are all these signs saying “no u-turn.” But, God isn’t like that. If we are going the wrong way on the road of life, we should flip a u-turn right there and go the way we need to be going. I just started to cry. I felt a friends arm around me. That was exactly the sermon I needed to hear. God was speaking through a woman I positively despised. She was an instrument of God.
This is always a sticky space, because there are some people we need to not have in our lives, some people we need to keep a distance from and I never want to come off sounding like I don’t get that. There are people we need to stop giving chances to, people we need to say no too. God, however, never stops giving chances.
Like that pastor in Ohio, like Jacob, everyone can be an instrument of God. Everyone. God uses some people in spite of their brokenness, some people because of it. But that chance for redemption is always there. There is always the possibility that God can use a person who appears, in our eyes, irredeemably broken. Even us.