Proper 10: July 12, 2020
Updated: Jul 16
PRELUDE: Listen and sing along to "Tis the Gift to Be Simple".
OPENING SENTENCES (MGV)
Leader: God, the fulfiller of promises, we are here.
God, provider of life, we are here.
God, the giver of grace, we are here.
Praises and worship express our gratefulness.
God, our Creator, Redeemer, Comforter, we are grateful.
HYMN: Listen and sing along to Mungu Ni Mwema (Know That God is Good) GtG 659.
God, you have given us undeserved salvation and grace, because we are your children. You created us in your image and made us good. But we have forgotten your gifts and sometimes behave like ungrateful children.
Forgive us once again, like you have done before. Fill us with your love, and transform us, so that we can live in a way that honors your work in our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
PARDON AND PEACE (Romans 8: 1-11)
So now there isn’t any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and death. We don’t live according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Listen to the good news of the gospel. In Jesus Christ, we receive forgiveness for our sins. We can live in peace.
PASSING THE PEACE
Take time to think about one thing during the week that has given you peace. It can be the sound of birds chirping, flowers coming out, or hearing from someone dear. Share it in some way... tell someone, post it on social media, etc.
PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION (MGV)
Holy God, whose voice is heard through the loudest of noises and through the deepest of silences, speak today to your people, by the power of your Spirit, that we may hear and be transformed by your word. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
SCRIPTURE: Genesis 25: 27-34 (CEB)
27 When the young men grew up, Esau became an outdoorsman who knew how to hunt, and Jacob became a quiet man who stayed at home. 28 Isaac loved Esau because he enjoyed eating game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. 29 Once when Jacob was boiling stew, Esau came in from the field hungry 30 and said to Jacob, “I’m starving! Let me devour some of this red stuff.” That’s why his name is Edom. 31 Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright today.”32 Esau said, “Since I’m going to die anyway, what good is my birthright to me?” 33 Jacob said, “Give me your word today.” And he did. He sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 So Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew. He ate, drank, got up, and left, showing just how little he thought of his birthright.
REFLECTION: With Great Privilege Comes Great Gratitude (Rev. Marissa Galván-Valle)
One of my favorite lines from a movie comes from Spiderman (2002 version). Uncle Ben finds out that Peter has beaten the school’s bully and says “Just because you can beat someone up, doesn’t mean you got to do it. With great power comes great responsibility.” Spiderman is all about that line, that has been said in different ways in all the movies about the superhero. He is just a high school kid with no abilities to play football or anything like that and out of nowhere gets bitten by a genetically enhanced spider and acquires superpowers. Out of nowhere. Does not have to do anything special or anything to deserve it. He just turns into Spiderman and Uncle Ben, acting as his moral compass tries to lead him to a great lesson: with great power comes great responsibility... not great choices... not great freedom... but great responsibility.
The passage about Esau and Jacob reminds me of this saying. Peter Parker obtains a great privilege without having to do anything to earn it... and so does Esau. He is the firstborn of twins. Therefore, he is the one that will inherit everything that belongs to his father. The laws of his people say as much, and so Jacob, born with his hand grasping his brother’s heel... gets something, but not as much as his brother.
Esau does not have to do anything to earn his father’s blessing and his father’s riches. He does not have to work hard. He does not have to be his father’s favorite, even when apparently, he is. He does not have to pull himself up by his bootstraps. He is just the firstborn. And so, he lives his life, worry-free, hunting and loving the outdoors...knowing that he will get his oldest son’s rights.
The interesting thing here is, that since Esau does not have to work for his rights when the times come about when someone asks him to negotiate them, he has no problem exchanging them for a bowl of stew. Jacob was cooking and Esau came in from the feel hungry. He sees Jacob’s food and says that he is starving. Jacob wants something in exchange: “Sell me your birthright today”. And Esau, since apparently, he is dying of hunger says “What good is my birthright to me?” And proceeds to sell his birthright to Jacob.
As I was reading this, a phrase came into my mind: “Ungratefulness leads to an ease of selling your soul to the most undeserving of bidders”. Esau has this right, this privilege that has been given to him just because he was born first. And he does not appreciate it. He does not realize what a privileged person he is. The CEB says that this shows “just how little he thought of his birthright”. And in thinking so little of his birthright, he is not grateful. And in disregarding it, he sees no value in the gift. And in looking down on it, he sells his soul for a bowl of lentil soup.
There are two things here that connect to some of the things that are going on now and that are affecting our capacity to be the kin-dom or family of God. The first one is the understanding of privilege. That word is being used a lot lately, especially in connection to another word: white privilege. There are people that complain that the word “privilege” is negative. That we should use other words to describe the station of white human beings because no one likes the “teacher’s pet” and so people react negatively to it. But privilege has nothing to do with being a “teacher’s pet”. Peggy McIntosh, one of the first people speaking about white privilege describes it as “a set of unearned assets that a white person in America can count on cashing in each day but to which they remain largely oblivious.” Many people don’t believe that this is true, because as some say, “not all white people are privileged”. But the way that Christine Emba explains it in the article “What Is White Privilege?” ... “It is the idea that just by virtue of being a white person of any kind, your part of the dominant group which tends to be respected, assumed the best of, and given the benefit of the doubt. And that just isn’t the case for people of other races, no matter how wealthy, smart, or hard-working they might be”.
Esau was part of the dominant group because he was the firstborn. He was respected because he was the firstborn. People assumed the best of him because he was the firstborn and he was given the benefit of the doubt because he was the firstborn. And still, he sold all of this for a bowl of lentil stew, which brings me to the second thing that I wanted to mention... and that is gratitude.
To me, Esau shows no gratitude for the gift and privilege that God has given him. He does not appreciate it at all. And so, he can afford to sell it. His ungratefulness and his lack of comprehension allow him to sell it to the worst bidder... in this case Jacob, that will demonstrate time and time again his envy and his ambition.
One of the frustrating things for me as a person not born here and that used to belong to the dominant group where I come from is... why didn’t I do enough with my privilege back home... where I was a Puerto Rican, a light-skinned woman that got to go to college and get an education and got ordained to be a pastor. And the second frustration while living here is, why are there people that don’t realize the privilege they have and see it as a responsibility to give more and to do more?
Diana Butler wrote a book called Grateful. In it, she states that gratitude is more than an emotion: it is an action or a habit that we have to procure as a spiritual discipline. She writes: To live gratefully involves a number of skills: noticing when a kindness is done or a benefit is received; returning the gift of thanks to the giver or embrace the sense of awe instilled; and sharing benefits with others as we are able. Like love, gratitude multiplies through giving and receiving. Both love and gratitude can become far more than ephemeral emotions—with practice, they become habits. (Bass, Diana Butler. Grateful (p. 53). Harper One. Kindle Edition.)
I believe that one of the greatest sins of the United States right now is the sin of ungratefulness. This individuality that is so celebrated allows us to think about immediate needs, leaving behind our responsibility to honor the family that God has given us. It is easy to sell our souls for our particular vision of “America” when one is not grateful for those that have contributed to what this country is today with their hard work. It is easy to sell our souls for a bowl of lentil stew when we think that the only one that matters is me... and my hunger... and my comfort... and my interests.
Some of us have firstborn rights. That is real. Some of us are seen by society as second, third, and even fourth children. We are all called to look at what God has given us and to be grateful. We are all called to go beyond the emotion of gratitude to practice the habit of gratitude. But… to those that are firstborn… with great privilege comes great gratitude. May God help us understand privilege as something that is not based on merit or effort so that we can use privilege to be allies, to be thankful, to keep building the kin-dom or family that God wants to see... where all receive God’s grace and love... undeserved gifts that God has given to all humanity... always.
HYMN: Listen and sing to "In the Lord I'll Be Ever Thankful GtG 654 (This refrain from the ecumenical monastic community at Taizé, France, is meant for repeated singing. A wonderful quilt of psalm-like phrases, it would be appropriate at any time but the concluding emphasis on the nearness of the Lord makes it especially fitting for use in Advent. TEXT: Taizé Community, 1986 Text © 1991 Les Presses de Taizé (admin. GIA Publications, Inc.). All rights reserved. Used by permission. Author. Glory to God: Words-Only Enlarged Print Edition. Geneva Press. Kindle Edition )
PRAYER OF INTERCESSION: Take time to think about prayer requests, and pray for them. Pray for the situations in your home, your community, your city, your country of origin, other countries in the world that face difficult situations, and the country where you live. HYMN: Listen and sing to "I'm Gonna Live So God Can Use Me GtG 700
A STORY: Watch the film "Cogs". Wonder what you can do with the gifts that God has given you to change the world around you.
May the road God has laid
Rise up to meet you.
May God keep you and bless you,
Shine God’s light upon you,
And give you peace.