I gave the following message this morning in St. Paul’s UCC in Eureka. I originally titled it Communication and the Art of Saying No! James agreed that the title was pretty much a miss. He understood the scripture part of saying no, but was waiting for the part when we say no. I sort of had that early in the week, but waited too long to type the sermon and apparently lost the point. The whole thing ended up being about perspectives and photos and such. I like the new title much better. At any rate, it is what it is and hope you enjoy. I will say you might miss some of the interpretation without the voices. There were parts that I used sarcasm and such. Maybe I will go through and put some hints into (..). Scriptures used were Genesis 29:15-28, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 and Romans 8:26-30. Title on my copy was “Saying NO!”
I apologize that I didn’t’ take the time to play with visual images as I wanted to today, but it just didn’t work out this week. First off, I was forgetful about grabbing my projector to see if it would even work with the lighting, and secondly, it is probably best, since I don’t have Paulina along as she would have had to be my assistant on a trial run. At any rate, I do intend to get to the point where we can have some visual images just for fun in church a few times. For today’s purposes, I guess you will just have to keep using your imaginations, which from the expressions I see at this angel, it seems those work fairly well around here.
Here is what I would have done with a projector and some images. I wanted to show pictures of the church from different angles. In your mind now, go outside and imagine what it looks like coming straight up the large steps. What about going off to the street side and checking the angle from that new sidewalk. Some of us don’t like that angle too well right now. What about the other side of the church and seeing the angle of using the back entrance that brings us to this door here off to the left, which is a bit of a different look again.
I got to thinking about these angles of entering the church earlier this week as I thought about the perspective of today’s scriptures. I first learned about artistic perspective in a high school art class. We started with some simple drawings and a tool that I fell in love with I think the first time I touched it, and the tool was a T-square. I looked how it made your drawing move from something flat and boring to a three-dimensional picture just because you square up the front focal plane and then run all the other lines back to the horizon. It was all about putting the picture into perspective.
I don’t draw anymore. I think it is because I have gotten too lazy. I tell myself it is because I am not really that good, and I would rather do something easier, yet, it is laziness. Now, I would rather pick up a camera and play with the lens and backgrounds and angels and where you stand to get a shot rather than sit down to draw it out. Paulina does this far better than me. She has more patience than I do. She often plays with taking pictures of a some simple object or just a single flower moving around it to change the background for different framings or angle the tilt up or down, or …on and on. As I said, I must be getting lazy, I just want to take the shot and have it done, but I am seeing that even a picture of something can change dramatically just depending on the angle, the perspective.
Now let’s take that same thought and move it to a story, or perhaps a scripture. Those of you who attend Bible study will likely be able to relate a bit to what I am about to mention. Last week after church Pastor Di and I had a conversation about Jacob, and lo and behold we found that we have different opinions about him. I mention Bible study because it seems we have had this happen with most of the stories we are studying. I will be honest with you; for a time this difference of opinion concerned me. In fact up until last Sunday it was starting to nag at my self-confidence. It seemed to me that perhaps (unlike the Paul Simon song: Kodachrome, where he says, though my lack of education hasn’t hurt me none.) my lack of education is hurting. And then last Sunday, Pastor Dianne and I had this great conversation on Jacob, and it was all clear to me. Yes part of it is the education and time reading and such, but that will come with time. The real difference we have is that we point the angle of the lens in a bit of a different direction when we shot the picture. It isn’t the right or wrong of it, it is just the perspective is different.
I need to get off the lazy of the single perspective and turn the camera more. I need to look at the stories in the way that Paulina makes her camera look at the flowers: from the top and all of the sides and the bottom, and even sometimes from the inside out. I want to look at Jacob with the lens and the eyes that I used when I first met him. This story that we read today about how Jacob this poor young man who was traveling all alone to a land he didn’t know to people he had never met before was one of the first Bible stories that I read as a young probably pre-teenage girl. I was reading it more as a story rather than a Bible story, and I was starry-eyed young girl.
Actually let’s face it, I was a nerd when it came to reading and stories and such. I was a sponge and a nerd, or maybe I should say nerd and sponge, whichever. I saw Jacob as this (dripping with sweetness) poor, lonely, young man in search of a wife, and he falls in love with this beautiful young Rachel, and he works for her father for seven years so he can marry her, and then on his wedding night, he is duped and given the older sister. Oh the poor guy, what a horrible thing to happen to this young man. (Harsh and realistic voice) Or NOT.
How about I take my little girl, starry-eyed nerd lenses off and get a good look at this guy, Jacob. First he stole from his twin brother with the help of his mother. Next he is sent by the father that he misled to find a wife from the house of his mother’s brother. He certainly knew the customs of his time concerning marriage. Somewhere along the line there should have been a conversation about older/younger daughter. And how is it that Jacob, who could swindle his twin brother out of his birthright, this same Jacob can’t figure out what Laban has in mind? And it is not as if they are running out of time to hold the wedding. There is a span of seven years here. And really, who wakes up the morning after the wedding to find out that they married the wrong sister. This is worse than a bad soap opera.
I guess I have to agree with Pastor Dianne that Jacob is NOT “poor” Jacob. He is someone not to be trusted, and perhaps Laban was the one best able to see through him, though, really a simple up front conversation about customs could have taken a whole lot of drama out of this story. Laban could have changed most of what seemed so tragic to me as a young girl by simply saying “No Jacob, you cannot marry Rachel unless Leah is already married.” Sometimes, we just need to have a simple conversation to put things into perspective.
On the other hand, we might be tempted to think it served Jacob right for what he did to his older twin brother Esau. Finally the big swindler got what was coming to him. He got his and Esau didn’t even have to lift a finger. Reminds me of what my Great Aunt Mandy always said in teaching us that revenge was not something we had to try to gain. She always said that what goes around comes around, and you don’t have to do anything to help it along.
But this scripture lesson for us isn’t about getting even. God doesn’t want us to look at this to learn the importance of someone getting what they have coming to them. God wants us to realize that even in the worst of situations, even in the smallest of things; God is there to guide us, to give us the correct perspective, and to show us the way we are to go. God looks out for us. God takes care of those who love him. It is what Paul writes to the Romans in chapter 8: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God.”
Jesus in the parables that we read for today keeps repeating the theme of how something small something that seems so trivial, ends up becoming something of great importance or great worth. Jesus speaks of the little tiny mustard seed and how it becomes a large plant that even the birds can sit in. Then he mentions yeast. If you have ever baked bread, you know just how small yeast is, but it is able to make bread rise, and feed many.
What we can learn from all of these passages is that God is able to make good come from the worst situations and the smallest of things. If God is able to grow a large plant from a little tiny seed, or turn a swindling conniving youngster like Jacob into a Patriarch of an entire nation, what more can be done for us and with us? We just need to check our angle to make sure we have the correct perspective and that we are focused on Jesus. Amen!