July 20, 2014
I have missed our worship together every Sunday very much. But I must say that the slower pace has given me opportunity to plan. And I am a planner. I love a good plan and so I have been busy, planning for worship, confirmation, Adult ed, how to welcome our new CE director.
In my old job at Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program I was responsible for planning many speaking events and presentations. I am afraid I might have been being particularly demanding of our IT folks because Lee, a particularly soft spoken man said to me as we were setting up for an event and I was running through this and that scenario, “you really out to have gone into disaster management.”
But the point of a good plan is prevent disaster, right? To control the situation so that the unexpected does not arise and if it does that there is a way to deal with that too so that things to not go from bad to worse.
As much as I get great satisfaction out of a good plan, what I have come to realize is that a plan may be the most beautiful thing ever but if it arises out of a place of fear, no matter how good it is, how ever shrewd and perceptive and well-crafted it may be, it will tend to lead to more fear. Motivation in a very real way influences, perhaps even determines destination. When planning flows from a place of creative imagining, trust and hope the plan can lead to new arising beyond one’s imaginings, but when planning comes from the tight place of fear and the perception of scarcity – of not enough-ness, even a “good plan” in the sense that it is well crafted will more than likely lead to suffering.
So it is in our Scripture passage this morning.
The section that was read this morning is a small slice of a larger narrative. You remember the story? Isaac, Abraham’s and Sarah’s son has grown up and married Rebekah and together they have non-identical twin sons, Esau and Jacob. Now as the story opens, Isaac has now gotten quite old and enfeebled. He can barely see and knowing that his days are numbered, Isaac asks that Esau his first born, to prepare to receive his blessing. Rebekah overhears her husband, and fearing for Jacob’s future for she “loving Jacob best,” she makes a plan. She and Jacob plan to get Esau’s blessing by tricking Isaac into thinking that Jacob is Esau. And it works. Isaac thinking that Jacob is Esau gives Jacob his blessing. When Esau discovers what has happened he is furious. And so Rebekah has to come up with another plan to send Jacob away because she is afraid that Esau will kill him.
And so Jacob runs. He runs out from his home towards a relative’s house that is at a great distance. When we meet him in scripture this morning, it is at the close of that first day. He is on the lam. It is getting dark. He is in the middle of nowhere. Darkness brings dangers and so he finds a place to hunker down for the night with nothing but a stone for a pillow.
This is the story of rock bottom, so to speak. It is a story of a family undone. A plan well crafted but where did it lead? It led to wife pitted against husband, brother against brother. It leds to a dark night, alone, vulnerable and afraid.
But this is more than a personal narrative of one family, isn’t it?
What I love about the Bible is that it uses the form of story to excavate deep truth. The story of Jacob and his family, is also the shadow narrative of the human family. I hear in this story is that Jacob and Esau, Isaac and Rebekah lived in a closed system, a zero sum paradigm of limitation and scarcity. The father can has only one blessing to give. Rivalry, and competition are written into the narrative. One has to pit oneself against the other even if that other was one’s own brother.
This is our fall story. This is the narrative that crept into our human consciousness and has corrupted our humanity since that day in the Garden when Eve ate of the fruit because the snake introduced into the narrative the possibility that God was holding out on her, keeping something from her, that scarcity lay at the heart of reality and that one had to look out for number one because no one else, especially not God was apt to do so. These are stories, but they speak of deep motivations that shape our realities still.
How many of the calamities of our world are the consequence of this narrative of scarcity? Our children over their children. My border over your border. My right to exist over yours. This push and pull of humanity has not only propelled us far from the garden, but has landed us up on the borders of hell.
But, thank God, it turns out that God is also a lover of a good plan. And this plan of God flows out of God’s paradigm of original blessing and abundance, flows out of the vision of Eden as the place of balance and plenty and peace among all creatures and peoples of the world. Jacob went to sleep afraid and alone lost in the narrative of scarcity, but he awoke in awe at God with him and at the outpouring of God’s blessing on him and all the earth.
If ever there was a time when we needed to wake up to a good plan it is now. We need a good plan for helping these children on our border. We need a good plan for resolving the conflict between Israel and Palestine. We need a good plan for peace in Syria and Iraq. We need a good plan for keeping people safe as weather episodes become more violent and frequent in the face of climate change and we need a plan for reversing the damage we have done to this plant. If ever there was a time when we need a good plan it is now.
But we do not just need a good plan, a shrewd well crafted plan. We need a plan that arises out of hope, trust and possibility and one not born of fear. And that is where we all come in. We may not be experts on mid east politics, climate change or immigration policy, but we are the resident experts on hope, trust and love and are to witness to what can arise when we live out of God’s paradigm of abundance. We are to be the dreamers, the holder of the vision, the champions of the promise.
The bible records Jacob’s vision that night that vision of angels acending and decending, but I cannot help but wonder if Esau too did not have a vision that night. For the story does not end rock bottom. Years later, Jacob will return from the distant land and he will meet Esau in this place. He will try to lavish Esau with gifts perhaps to soften the blow of his deception and trickerly years ago, but Esau will have none of it. Prosperous in his own Right, Esau will rush to embrace his wayward brother, forgiving him with a forgiveness that I believe must have been inspired by some angelic vision, some night time visitation. A new narrative, the inbreaking of a new paradigm. Redeemption for the brothers, the family, all of us, again and again.
Every day when our feet hit the floor we have a choice to make. The Biblical witness tells us that intentionally choosing hope, possibility, life helps the arch of the universe bend towards hope, possibility and life and the realization of dreams. And so, in which paradigm do you choose? Out of what reality are you going to live?
But of course, the good news of this passage and of God with us is that even if we make a mistake. Even if like Jacob we succumb to the paradigm of fear and scarcity, for surely how can we not when it is the ferocious undertow of our time, if we are open to it, God will show up and show us the way.
Yesterday I had a vision of this God that Jacob met that night, the God that is ready to meet us with blessing, I believe at every moment and in every place. I had a vision of this God when some of us had gathered to do some weeding of the garden out front. I had arrived early and was standing there just kind of staring at the tangle of weeds that were choking the life out of the juniper bushes out front. I was just kind of standing there not knowing what to do or how to get started when Vickie shows up with a smile as wide as her wide brimmed hat. She says to me, it looks like you could use some help and she sets about showing me how to use this spade like things to dig out the roots of the weeds. She gets me started and then moves on to do her own weeding or to encourage and direct another of us weeders.
That is the image of God that arises for me out the scripture today, the God that Jacob met in his dreams.
There are a lot of weeds choking the life out of this good garden of ours, this blessed creation, weeds of hate and fear and scarcity and rivalry.
So let us make a plan a good plan for pulling them all out, digging out their roots so that they don’t come back. But lets make sure that all the plans that are made and will be made as we confront the challenges of our time arise out of God’s paradigm of love, hope and promise. Let us be dreamers, bearers of the vision, tenders of the garden. Amen