Monday, July 11, 2011

Will Sell Birthright for Food

The menu for the Sunday readings included the famous parable from Matthew about the sower and the seeds, a parable I have written on before HERE and its Lukian counterpart HERE.

But my task of the day was to share with the congregation the birth of two nations: Esau, the hairy red- headed hunter, and Jacob, the intellectual younger twin brother of Esau.   According to the rules of how things go, Esau, being older, should be the one who inherits everything from his father Isaac.  But that's not in the cards for this story, or for many other stories in the Book of Genesis for that matter.  It seems to be the younger sibling who has the favor of God.

In this story, the favoritism gets established as we see that the quickest way for a man to fall out of favor with God is through his stomach!

Esau is famished, having been out in the wilds hunting and sweating and grunting.  Jacob is at home in the tent, making a lentil stew.  Esau demands a bowl of that "red stuff" from Jacob.  And the cunning Jacob says, "Give me your birthright and you can have some of my 'red stuff', red guy!"  Esau, without thinking about anything except his stomach, says, "I'm gonna die.What's a birthright to me?" and swears away his birthright to his younger brother.   Or, as in the words in Genesis, Esau "despised his birthright."

There were two things that hit me as I was going over this passage.  First was how the desire for instant gratification can be costly.  And this was the link that I saw to the Gospel message about the sower of the seed.  All these seeds spread all over the place, and the ones that grow are the ones that land in the fertile ground and take the time to pull in all the nutrients from that ground to grow and flourish.  Seeds that are on rocks never develop roots.  And I know from my high school biology class what happened when I overwatered a seed because I was determined to make it grow, dammit!  If all we want is the immediate reward of a mature plant from a seed, we may find the object of our desire molds and dies in the dirt.   Esau was hungry.  And he didn't give a damn about the consequences or his future.  He just wanted that bowl of stew right now.  So whatever seed that was in him was drowned in a red lentil stew.

The other thing that struck me was that I didn't dislike Jacob in the same way that I have.  Instead, I was struck at his metrosexual qualities.  Not gay, but rather one of these straight men who have enough feminine qualities that he's not some knuckle-dragging macho man.   Jacob was making a stew.  He was performing the "traditional female role", but I don't get the sense of him being passive.  As I said, he's the intellectual of the twins.  And he is the more sensitive one.   And as much as we humans look to the male to be the hunter a la Esau, we desire some smarts in those who will lead and guide us, as well as some understanding and compassion.  This is why Jacob is the one who is to wrestle with God and become the one who is to be called Israel. 

I don't take Scripture to be a literal telling of history, but I do take it as a commentary on the nature of human behavior.  And I have certainly behaved like an Esau and a Jacob.  And I have been rocky soil, soil choked with weeds, and good soil.  My "take away" from the lessons on Sunday was one of paying attention to those qualities and nutrients that are in the good soil: my intellect, my intuition, my quiet "sit" in the tent mode, my patience and seeing how those are the means of honoring God and using the gifts that God gave me.  With such attention, I will get fed daily and will have more than just the one bowl of red lentil stew when I'm famished. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As always, you have made the Bible easier for me to understand and enjoy.