Rev. Bryan Cones
Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
So far this summer and pretty much until fall,
we'll be reading the stories of the so-called "patriarchs,
the “founding fathers” of Jewish tradition,
--except that they are really stories of the matriarchs, too—
and sometimes more about the women than the men.
Take Rebekah, for example:
her husband Isaac, after nearly being sacrificed by his dad,
doesn't really do anything else other than father his two sons,
Esau and Jacob.
The real protagonist of the story is Rebekah:
She's the one who accepts the servant's invitation
to leave her home and marry Isaac,
and later she will be the one to choose
which of her sons inherits the legacy of Abraham—
by engineering the theft of a father's blessing
for her younger, favored son, Jacob.
Yet to this day it is Do-nothing Isaac's name that we remember.
And why's that?
One thing, I think, is the way we tell the story.
Today's first reading is a perfect example.
This whole scene between Abraham's servant
and Rebekah's brother Laban occurred
just a few verses before:
except instead of the servant telling Rebekah's story,
she speaks in her own voice.
How is it that our lectionary,
created by churches that all ordain women,
still produce a Sunday reading in which the heroine
gets only one line of two words?
Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised
when we hear talk of the "god of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob"
instead of "the god of Sarah and Hagar, of Rebekah,
of Leah and Rachael, and of Zilphah and Bilhah,"
without whom there never would have been 12 tribes in Israel.
All of this is a long way of saying, simply,
that who gets to speak matters.
It matters who tells the story,
who gets remembered, and who forgotten.
And I think it should matter to us as those who follow Jesus.
I'm guessing that those who were weary and heavy burdened
were not the ones who ever were able to tell their stories.
Nobody listened to them.
Nor has the church necessarily been all that good at it either
--if we had been paying attention
to the stories of our own founding,
it seems pretty unlikely that it would have taken us
more than 1800 years to have women leading us,
as they did in the early Christian movement.
Which leads me to wonder:
Whose voices are still unheard in the church?
What stories need to be heard?
And how would we go about hearing them?
Is it young people, whether teenagers or young adults?
Is it older adults? Persons with disabilities?
Are we sharing our stories and voices as honestly
and truthfully as we can? Or do we hold back?
The truthful sharing of stories and hearing of voices
seems to me crucial in a Christian community of faith,
maybe even the difference between a dynamic
and outward focused church
and one that's disconnected from the world around it.
I'd even suggest that it's our job as a church
to be both telling our stories and listening to others.
It also sounds like the kind of church that this world needs;
in fact I think that making sure every voice is heard
and every story told
may make us better citizens of this country,
separated in so many ways across so many boundaries:
red and blue states, divisions of wealth and education and class.
What might be different about our politics or our society
if we practiced curiosity about our neighbors and their stories
rather than judged or categorized them
according to their tribe or party: tax collectors and sinners.
I don't think for a second that it's an easy task.
I know for myself this week
I have not found myself curious about protestors
chanting “USA” and blocking busses of migrants in California.
I’ve no doubt that my vision for this country and theirs
is quite different,
but I'm not sure that my gut reaction to them
is any more helpful than theirs.
As long as I'm not interested in their stories,
in what drives them to stand in the road
to turn back 120 refugees,
we are probably no closer to bridging
the yawning gaps in our culture and country.
Pope Francis recently said
in relation to the Israel-Palestine conflict
that the world is dying from a lack of dialogue.
I think he may be on to something there.
And the heart of good dialogue is the willingness
to hear the voices and receive the stories of others,
especially those different from us,
especially those that are chronically unheard.
May it be so here, and in every community of Christian faith.