The First Reading from Genesis 25:19-3419These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, 20and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. 21Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. 22The children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?” So she went to inquire of the Lord.23And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.” 24When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. 25The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. 26Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. 27When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. 28Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob. 29Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. 30Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore he was called Edom.) 31Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” 32Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” 33Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew 13:1-23
13That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow.4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil.6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9Let anyone with ears listen!” 10Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.12For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 13The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ 14With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. 15For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.’ 16But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it. 18“Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
God’s Generosity of Grace a homily by Mother Beth
The story is told that one day a beggar by the roadside asked for alms from Alexander the Great as he passed by. The man was poor and wretched and had no claim upon the ruler, no right even to lift a solicitous hand. Yet the Emperor threw him several gold coins. A courtier was astonished at his generosity and commented, “Sir, copper coins would adequately meet a beggar’s need. Why give him gold?” Alexander responded in royal fashion, “Copper coins would suit the beggar’s need, but gold coins suit Alexander’s giving.”
This week we pick up our Genesis reading with Isaac and Rebekah. Isaac prays to the Lord on behalf of his wife because she is unable to have children. Isaac is forty when he starts praying and the he is sixty when the children are born so although the response to Issac’s prayer is handled here in one verse and sounds like a quick response to Isaac’s effective prayer – recognize that there is time involved – there is patience involved – there is faith involved. Isaac believes through all the years of difficulty that Rebekah will bear children. Often it is easy to lose hope and to assume that God has forgotten us or chosen not to answer us but do not despair – God is faithful.
As Rebekah carries the children – it is not a comfortable pregnancy – the twins wrestle within her. And when she asks God what is happening – He tells her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”
So Esau and Jacob are born and we are given the detail that Jacob is born second but comes out of his mother’s womb grasping the heal of Esau and we recognize that this will be significant because we have already heard the prophecy that the older child will serve the younger.
And if we had any doubt that parents really do love all their children the same it is refuted right here – Isaac loved Esau but Rebekah loved Jacob.
Favoritism happens in families – we are more comfortable with someone’s personality or we are proud of so and so’s accomplishments. We are drawn more easily into dealing with certain situations and things just get too complicated with that person – whatever our reasoning – we choose our favorites.
So one day Jacob was making stew and Esau came in from hunting and was very hungry. Esau demands that Jacob give him some of the stew. And Jacob sees this as an opportunity. HE asks Esau to sell his birthright for a bowl of the stew. I am sure that many times children – boys or girls – barter with their siblings. I often hear my boys negotiating a deal – if one of them has money and the other needs some – or if one is buying or getting something then the other will encourage or advise what to buy so that it will come out to their advantage or at least so that they can both benefit from the transaction.
Jacob is an opportunist. He sees how hungry his brother is and I am sure that he has learned from past experience that Esau is all about instant gratification, so he strikes on this particular opportunity. Esau sells his birthright for a bowl of stew.
Honestly it seems to me that neither of these men are painted in the best light. Who thinks so little of their birthright that they would sell it for a meal? Who is that impetuous? But, we could also say, who is so opportunistic that they take advantage of the situation and offer so little?
Who would take the birthright from their own sibling?
Now, we know that God had already prophesied that the older would serve the younger AND that both men will be great nations and be blessed.
God chose Jacob before his birth – a choice that is more about who God is than about who Jacob is. God is generous with grace and he gives as a sign of who he is and not because of who the receiver is.
In the gospel reading for today we hear the parable of the sower. And many times I suspect we have focused on the different kinds of soil that the seed is planted into. And the parable does emphasize the fact that the difference in the soil makes the difference in the growth of the plant. I remember when we lived in North Bay and we bought our first house. I was exploring the property and there was a small shed just along the property line. I went to look around the shed as I was planning where I would plant a garden and as I looked behind the shed in this sheltered location – there blooming in all its beauty was a clematis. I was struck by how ridiculous this seemed – no one could see this plant from most of the yard. You literally had to step back behind the shed and crane your neck around to see it. But there it was blooming away – loving that secluded spot. A clematis wasting away its beauty in some hidden spot reminded me of how extravagant God is. God’s grace extends to all and there is no way to earn it – it is not about how well we are situated – it is not about being nice people or being born into the right family.
The sower scatters the seed generously – and some seed falls on the path – some seed falls on rocky ground – some seed falls among the thorns and still other seed falls on good soil.
God is generous with grace and he scatters it liberally. That is the good news – God’s grace is extravagantly tossed about.
Sometimes it occurs to me that we are too careful with it. We want to know that we are only sowing in good soil. We want to know that the person deserves to hear the good news or that they will respond positively before we tell them. We are stingy with the love and grace of God. We are calculating – not wanting to waste what God has so generously bestowed on us. God gives to us generously so that we can generously give to others. God chose Jacob – extending grace to him – not because he deserved to be chosen but because God uses whomever he chooses. The sower sows the seed generously in order to get a generous harvest. The parable is a picture of the faithfulness of the sower – to keep sowing extravagantly all around.
Only God sees the heart – only God knows when someone is ready to hear the word and receive it. We need to seize any and all opportunities to sow the seed generously and to trust that God’s grace extends toward us and toward others. We do not get to decide who will respond or when they will respond just as others could not decide for us.
Wayne Gretzky has been quoted as saying, “This one thing I know that you miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take.” And the same is true for us. We may not know who is ready to respond to God’s love and grace but if we never sow the seed then you can be sure that we will not have had a hand in the harvest.
God chooses who he will and we need to leave the results to him. As we have generously received from God’s hand so we should generously give without partiality. May God help us to love unconditionally, to be gracious and merciful to those around us and to sow generously into the lives of those in our community. Amen.