July 3, 2011: Another Test


Sermon
The Rev. Dr. C. Steven Teague, Rector
Third Sunday after Pentecost

Time is running out on Father Abraham. Wife Sarah has died. Their boy Isaac is still a bachelor. How will God’s promise to Abraham come to pass if Isaac has no wife, and thus no children?

So how did eHarmony work before the internet highway? You send a servant, on a “seek and find” mission. You give him your expectations for a daughter-in-lay. You send him off with camels and presents to let in-laws-to-be know their daughter will marry well. An angel acts as GPS to guide the servant back to Abraham’s kindred. Find the right girl, and if she won’t come back to marry Isaac, that’s it. The servant is to return bride-less. Maybe by now Abraham trusts God will figure it out – even if the Lord habitually moves too slowly for Abe.

When the servant arrives, he tests the Lord: “At this well, I’ll ask for water. Lord, the one who gives me a drink and offers to water my camels will be the one. Got that?” And before top servant finishes his prayer, Rebekah, comes to the well, gives him a drink and offers to water the camels. The narrator says she’s a looker, and a virgin to boot (how does the writer know that). “Who’s your kin?” he asks. She answers and he learns she’s related to Abraham – Hot Dog! – looking good so far. The servant reaches into his luggage and pulls out a big gold nose-ring and two heavy bracelets for her. So moved, she invites him to spend the night with the family.

Rebekah runs home to say, “Guess who’s coming to dinner.” Big brother sees the bling, runs out to meet this fellow, and says, “Why are you and your camels standing out here. Come on in, O blessed of the Lord. We have your place ready.” Handing around some nice presents never hurts in making a deal.

Top servant explains his wealthy and “blessed of Yahweh” master needs a wife for only son, and tells them about the test. The final Jeopardy question – will they let her go back with him. They say, “She’s yours.” Right answer! Top servant unloads even more valuable gifts and prizes for Rebekah, mom, and brother Laban. The next day, Rebekah’s packed and ready to go with a blessing that Rebekah to be fruitful and multiply.

Things go well when they get home. Isaac and Rebekah spot each other. Rebekah quickly veils her face, the proper courting thing to do. Isaac is sufficiently smited with love. She becomes his wife, and the narrator says, “He loved her,” a nice conclusion to a desperately arranged romance. At the Bible study this past Wednesday, someone noted that Isaac’s grief over his mother’s death is now assuaged. So Isaac and Abraham can be at peace. God faithfully keeps the promise.

Notice that neither God nor angel has a speaking part in this story. God is in the shadows now faithfully working to make good on the promise. Can you name a time you when you got such a clear indication of God’s will as the servant finds? Me either. God rarely works this way for us. Often we don’t see what God is doing – or know for sure what we choose is God’s will for us.  What appears disastrous at one moment turns out to be a necessary step in getting us where we need to be. We only see that later, and some believe God is present, even in times when God seems absent, and has forgotten your name. No one really knows what God is up to. Thus, we’ll be uncertain we follow His will. Notice that as Abraham grows older, he matures in faith. While he seems intent on getting the right wife for Isaac, he also is willing to let go if his servant can’t bring home a bride for Isaac. God’s will sometimes is to let go, ask God’s strength to keep us holding on.

The promise continues to unfold. God’s providential care prevails. That doesn’t mean life will be wonderful. Yet we know when it isn’t, God still is with us.

Can we believe in such a God? Jesus says that sometimes those long on wisdom and intelligence are so short on imagination they have a hard time seeing things which are hidden. Such truth is entrusted to ones willing to trust without sufficient evidence, to stake their life on a world unseen. Their faith is as simple as an infant’s, but as deep as the ocean – and they sense a voice, a vision, a nudge just might be from God. They won’t fret over whether it is or is not God. For they trust Jesus’ invitation to come to him from the weary struggle of life. Worldly comforts and peace come and go. Everlasting peace comes from resting in the one who finally fulfills the promise and reveals God’s promise. That promise is God’s everlasting love for all of us. Nothing breaks that promise. God’s will – That we know His love, rest in it, and share the love – and give thanks for our lives. For you see, we now are the ones to continue the promise.


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