Old Testament: Genesis (29:15-28)
Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.” So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her. Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” Laban said, “This is not done in our country—giving the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” Jacob did so and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.
The Response: Psalm (105:1-11, 45b)
1 Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name; *
make known his deeds among the peoples.
2 Sing to him, sing praises to him, *
and speak of all his marvelous works.
3 Glory in his holy Name; *
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
4 Search for the Lord and his strength; *
continually seek his face.
5 Remember the marvels he has done, *
his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,
6 O offspring of Abraham his servant, *
O children of Jacob his chosen.
7 He is the Lord our God; *
his judgments prevail in all the world.
8 He has always been mindful of his covenant, *
the promise he made for a thousand generations:
9 The covenant he made with Abraham, *
the oath that he swore to Isaac,
10 Which he established as a statute for Jacob, *
an everlasting covenant for Israel,
11 Saying, “To you will I give the land of Canaan *
to be your allotted inheritance.”
45 That they might keep his statutes *
and observe his laws.
The Epistle: Romans (8:26-39)
The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The Gospel: Matthew (13:31-33, 44-52)
Another parable Jesus put before the crowds: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. ”Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
by the Rev. Canon Manoj Zacharia
“And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac….
Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, …. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
This assurance is given to Jacob as he flees the wrath of his brother Esau with the blessings of his father Isaac and mother Rebecca.
Both Isaac and Rebecca are worried about the future of their offspring and admonish Jacob to be on his way to Laban, their relative, for the sake of his physical safety and moral safety.
They did not want Jacob to fall prey to the temptations of society.
He is admonished not to take wives from the people of Heth or Canaan and to live “apart or a consecrated life.”
Jacob travels and arrives to present day Syria.
Upon inquiring about his relative Laban, the bystanders point to a beautiful young woman who catches his eye.
She happens to be Rachel, the daughter of Laban.
After an interesting introductory exchange that I encourage you to read in Genesis 29:1-14, we come to our text for today.
Laban sees in Jacob a strong worker and they come to terms on wages.
While it is hard to bracket our concerns over human trafficking and for girls and women who have no say in their future and destiny, Jacob agrees to work for Laban in exchange for the hand of his beautiful daughter Rachel.
After 2557 days or 61368 hours, or 3,682,080 seconds of counting and anticipation, Jacob stakes claim to the love of his life.
Laban agrees and the wedding feast begins…
When morning comes around, he discovers that he has been cheated….
Imagine, after seven seasons of harvesting, reaping, grazing, and toiling the earth, rather than being with the love of his life, Rachel,….
He is wed to Leah, the woman with “weak” or “beautiful” eyes according to the particular translation of Hebrew you want to use.
Some would argue that this is poetic justice for Jacob… It is karma that caught up with him for cheating his brother Esau out of his birthright and stealing his blessing.
Some would say that the ultimate schemer met his match in Laban.
For, us, as Americans and Reformed Christians, with contracts and fair labor practices what Laban does is unfathomable and unjust.
And, in many ways, we come out feeling extremely sorry for Jacob.
I’ve been there..… I worked hard for something and then —poof— , outcomes that I anticipated, dreams that I dreamt, were all shattered instantaneously.
My question here: In this time of devastation, where your entire world collapses, where what you have worked for totally vanquishes, how does anyone rest on God’s promise?
Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, ….
I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
Seriously… How do we reconcile this?
What if, we are seeing the text from another angle?
What if this text reveals the nature of a deeply loving God who cares for all his children, particularly those who are cast aside.
While God gives this promise to Jacob, God is also the God of Leah.
Rabbis throughout history have grappled with this text.
Some commentators have argued that Leah, as the first born and possible twin of Rachel, was supposed to have been married to Esau.
In fact, according to this reading, some commentators suggest that Jacob pursued Rachel because he did not want to usurp the claims of Esau for a third time by marrying Leah.
Yet, Esau’s character and his marriage to local women prevented a marriage between him and Leah.
According to this reading, Rachel and Laban were complicit in setting up Jacob for they were concerned about Leah’s welfare and future.
Whatever our reading of the text is, we read that Leah is a victim of circumstances and as a consequence is consistently not favored by Jacob even after marriage.
Jacob’s favorite wife is Rachel and Jacob’s favorite offspring are those born to Rachel… both Joseph, who flaunts his status consistently to his brothers, and Benjamin.
Nevertheless, despite Jacob’s favoritism, Leah has a special place in the Biblical tradition.
While it is Rachel’s son Joseph who saved the entire family from famine,
It is Leah’s direct descendants in Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, who led the Israelites out of Egypt into the journey towards the promised land…
While it is Saul the Benjaminite descendant of Rachel who becomes the first king of Israel, it is David of the tribe of Judah, the son of Leah, who becomes the most remembered King of Israel.
In fact, our savior Jesus’ earthly legacy comes from a woman, considered “not good enough” by human standards but sufficiently regarded by God.
Perhaps Leah’s story is a reminder that God’s justice is not our justice and that God’s will is done through mysterious ways.
Our gospel portion speaks of the smallest of seeds, the mustard seed that becomes the greatest of shrubs and trees.
In other words, what is considered insignificant becomes majestic through the handiwork of God.
St. Paul reminded us today that:
it is the the Spirit helps us in our weakness and that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit[c] intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.[d]
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
In a world and a society where so many feel unloved and neglected, isn’t the church that is called to radiate this very love of God?
In a time and place, where so many feel victimized, bullied, and oppressed, isn’t the church that is called to intercede as a haven of comfort and strength?
Through Leah, the neglected, the promise of God to Jacob has been actualized.
She is the matriarch through which Jacob’s destiny has flourished and his name is remembered throughout the annals of history.
In one of my favorite lines from a movie: “Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.”
The church becomes victorious in living out its mission when we remember that our purpose and legacy is centered on people whom society considers weak that God makes strong to live out the purpose of building God’s kingdom of love and peace in the world.
So, when you feel broken and feel that your entire world has collapsed, rest assured that the God, will not leave you until God has done what God has promised you.”
What better way to realize God’s presence than through receiving the sacrament of His Body and Blood today.
May this sacrament be for us an assurance of our redemption and God’s lived presence in us to do the work that we have been called to do.