One of the Bible readings for this weekend’s worship services is the continuing story of the patriarch, Jacob. The story this weekend really starts in the middle of a longer story about Jacob being married (twice in a week) and the start of the twelve tribes of Israel. The longer story about this aspect of the saga starts about chapter 29 and continues through chapter 31. These chapters chronicle a series of deceitful acts within the extended family of Rebekah (Jacob’s mother), Laban being the tribal patriarch, i.e. Rebekah’s father.
These chapters read like a scandalous recollection of the worst of family members. Jacob comes to his mother’s kin and, at first, he is well received but, as the story progresses, scandalous behaviors get more and more numerous until after a 20-year period, there is again the threat of murder in Jacob’s family. The reading for this weekend is at the point of the first obvious deception within this family unit.
This story encourages one to reflect on families and the dynamics within them. Whereas the Scriptures present a culture significantly different than our 21st Century American culture, the problems of the Jacobean family seem as relevant and as familiar as a made-for-TV movie. Or possibly the back story of a newspaper or news magazine story of a famous family with troubles. Suffice it to say, a very messy picture is presented.
Which brings me to contemporary families. All families have difficulties. The difficulties exist because each family member is unique and individual, thus, unique and individual needs that may or may not blend together. Many families find themselves working to navigate these differences to varying degrees of success. Some families come out well “on the other side” of struggles. Some don’t. Most get help and encouragement from friends, church, other family members, or professionals because family conflict can cut deeply and even sever. These conflicts happen in every family to lesser or greater degrees because we are not all the same even in the family.The scripture for this weekend can offer every family a sense of encouragement regardless the degree of struggle. For in the scripture story God was with them all, even the ones causing the difficulties. In the midst of deceitfulness and jealousy and hot anger, the word of God still is heard. This is just as possible today if we are willing to hear. But what the aggrieved persons in this story had to do was to listen and receive God’s word of transformation. By that the transformation reconciliation was possible, and God’s promises continued on.
The same can be true for all of us. If we allow the words of God notably spoken by Jesus of Nazareth, to transform us especially in times of anger and anguish, reconciliation is possible and the promise of abundant life can continue. However, just as in the story of Jacob in Genesis, we’ve hot to allow ourselves and our families to be formed by God’s words of compassion and hope. May our families, individually and as the greater family of human beings, hear the transforming Word of God, who loves us all.
Pastor Jeff Blackman