Passing Comfort

Passing Comfort – July 9th, 2017

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Song of Solomon 2:8-13

8   The voice of my beloved!
Look, he comes,
leaping upon the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
9   My beloved is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Look, there he stands
behind our wall,
gazing in at the windows,
looking through the lattice.
10  My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;
11  for now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
12  The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
13  The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away.”

 

The Song of Solomon is the Bible’s version of a Shakespearean sonnet or a Barry White base/baritone ballad. The Psalms have poetry and prose, but this book is a long love letter between the author and the beloved. The language might seem foreign, but the intent in timeless.

Some of the best loved rock and roll songs took a short time to write.

Yesterday, by the Beatles, took less than a minute – it came to Paul in a dream, and he scribbled down some notes.

On the other hand, Bob Dylan once said “Tangled Up in Blue” took him ten years to live and two years to write.

We’ve been in Genesis for the past few weeks, and we’ve heard about the birth of Isaac, the ouster of Hagar and Ishmael, and God’s call to Abraham to sacrifice his first born son. It’s the kind of unbelievable plot we might expect from an afternoon soap opera or daytime salacious talk show.

In today’s passage, both Abraham and Sarah are well advanced in years, and Abraham is trying to get his house in order. He does not want his heir, Isaac, to marry one of the local Canaanite women, and he charges his top servant to locate a wife for his boy.

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67

34So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant. 35The LORD has greatly blessed my master, and he has become wealthy; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, camels and donkeys. 36And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and he has given him all that he has. 37My master made me swear, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live; 38but you shall go to my father’s house, to my kindred, and get a wife for my son.’

42“I came today to the spring, and said, ‘O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going! 43I am standing here by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,” 44and who will say to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also” — let her be the woman whom the LORD has appointed for my master’s son.’

45“Before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah coming out with her water jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’ 46She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder, and said, ‘Drink, and I will also water your camels.’ So I drank, and she also watered the camels. 47Then I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her arms. 48Then I bowed my head and worshiped the LORD, and blessed the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to obtain the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son. 49Now then, if you will deal loyally and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so that I may turn either to the right hand or to the left.”

58And they called Rebekah, and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will.” 59So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men. 60And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,
“May you, our sister, become
thousands of myriads;
may your offspring gain possession
of the gates of their foes.”
61Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way.

62Now Isaac had come from Beer-lahai-roi, and was settled in the Negeb. 63Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming. 64And Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel, 65and said to the servant, “Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself. 66And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. 67Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

 

The first movie I watched with Sarah when we started dating was, “The Princess Bride.” I know many of you have watched it before. It is one of the most quotable films of all times.

“…And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva… So tweasure your wuv.”

It’s a love story – not like most we hear. It comes from the Bible, but it’s not exactly a storybook story or a date night romantic comedy. There might not be a lot of romance, but there is such beauty in this narrative.

The story would seem to fit with the best places to meet people – supermarkets, church… the old watering hole? It’s a long story, and we’d be in trouble if we only look at it as the way “The Way I Met Your Mother.”

  • Servant goes far away
  • Servant makes a deal with God.
  • Servant waits by the well.
  • Servant talks to a strange girl.
  • Servant gives gifts.
  • Girl agrees to go far away to get married to a complete stranger.
  • Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, right?

 

It wasn’t really about what Rebecca needed…it’s what she offered. It wasn’t love at first sight, but trust with the first interaction. Will you go with this man? Will you believe this is all part of a bigger story?

So many things are going on behind the scene.

It would be a lot easier to do what Matthew and Luke did. So and so begat so and so. Just do the lineage already, but that’s not what the text really gives us here, is it?

Perhaps, it would be easier to say, “Rebecca saw Isaac in the field, their eyes met, they ran towards each other, and the rest, as they say, is history.”

 

 

There is more to the story. Rebekah is walking on faith and not sight.

“It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech. Overnight success is a fallacy. It is preceded by a great deal of preparation. Ask any successful person how they came to this point in their lives, and they will have a story to tell.” — Mark Twain

This story shows that while inspiration might come in an instant, there are a lot of things leading up to these interactions. We went to Diamond yesterday for George Washington Carver Days. We saw lots of great exhibits and finished off the afternoon with a walk along the trail. There were so many beautiful wildflowers smiling at us in the hazy summer sun. They are here today, and they might be gone tomorrow. Their beauty is now, but bulbs have been in the soil all year. The joy is exploding today, but they’ve been growing for months. Jesus reminds us,

“And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:28-30, NRSV.)

The beauty of the lilies are here today and gone tomorrow. Nothing is more splendid…If God clothes the fields, won’t he do the same for you. God will provide.

All things work together for good for those who trust the Lord.

Church, we might not see everything in motion, but it doesn’t mean the machine is not running. I had an interesting conversation with one of my children yesterday.

“Dad, how long did it take you to become a pastor.”

“Well, I guess it takes 7 years if you include the four years of college and the three years of seminary.”

“Why does it take so long to become a pastor? Why can’t you just do it?”

I don’t know if I liked the question much when she first asked it, but it’s an important one to ask. I needed time in the soil. I needed time to grow. I needed to learn and learn to love better.

Why can’t First Presbyterian Church just get an interim minister or a new installed pastor in the next couple of weeks or months? Why does it have to take so long?

You need more time in the soil. You need time to grow. You need time to learn and love better. Look at the beauty of the wildflowers. Look at the story of Rebekah.

Unexpected beauty in commitment and comfort…Even as time marches on…

 

A pastor’s relationship with a church is a little like the relationship between a husband and a wife, and when the time comes to move on, it can feel like a little bit of a divorce or death (as we get tangled up in blue.) It’s natural to be confused, be filled with grief, and even be a little angry. As a minister, I’d much rather have sadness than jubilation with a departure.

But, we have to believe there’s a plan…even though we might not be able to see it yet.

God was, is, and will be…long before the Lord moved the hearts of a dozen (or so) believers to begin the First Presbyterian Church in Joplin nearly 150 years ago. God worked through countless members and ministers (remembered now) in names on felt banners in the “history hallway.”

Our God is already working for whatever is next for the Burgess family and First Presbyterian Church here in Joplin.

I hope this is a comfort to you all, but it is also a commission. What’s next? What do you need to do?

A favorite high school football coach was fond of saying (or yelling), “You play the way you practice.”

A good relationship isn’t easy, and it’s not the stuff of poems, poetry, or love songs. Love is work…so keep on working…

Rebecca first saw Isaac in a field, but it wasn’t love at first sight. Love is work…and just as Abraham believed God (and it was reckoned to him as righteousness), Rebecca heard the strangers story and believed him…and she became a part of the story.

Church, continue to become a part of the story. Continue to live into the people God is calling you to be moving forward…and, love, true love will follow you forever, so treasure your love.

 

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

 

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