Thoughts for Monday 27th July 2020

Psalm 65:8-13; Genesis 30:25-36; James 3:13-18

Monday 27 July

All three readings today are linked by references to farming. Our psalm is a utopia. It’s a pastoral idyll. I was out for a walk a while ago, and my companion was understandably exercised by evidence of fly tipping. It wasn’t pleasant, but my advice – which I couldn’t entirely follow myself – was to raise your eyes and look beyond problems and difficulties which are immediately insurmountable; look to the green fields and blue sky instead. For there are times when what our soul needs most of all is just the sort of balm Psalm 65 is able to provide.

Our other two readings provide enough realism. Genesis 30 is part of the story of Jacob and his Uncle Laban. Laban’s name means ‘white’, and because of this Laban at times has been characterised theologically as a representation of purity. That, though, I think, is to misrepresent him. For it’s an extremely sympathetic interpretation for scholars to cast him as someone whose motives

1) for tricking Jacob to marry Leah were pure, as otherwise she might never have had a husband to look after her, and

2) for preventing Jacob from leaving were pure, as he was concerned for Jacob (and his family’s) future welfare in Canaan. Why leave Mesopotamia were you have become so settled, and safe?

My reading would be that from the start Jacob became almost enslaved by Laban. That previously brief visits by family members had turned into 7 years had turned into 14 years had turned into 20 years meant that Laban was never going to allow Jacob to leave, and that his only option was to escape the clutches of someone who had come to rely on his superior husbandry skills, but who was also jealous of them, and worried about how he might mis-manage his estate once Jacob was no longer there.

If you are able to read the whole of the story in chapters 29-31, we are glad when there does seem to be a happy conclusion, both men (neither of whom could be said to have been pure beforehand) eventually parting on good-ish terms (although Rachel’s rash action does almost spoil the day). I do like the cairn at 31:44.

Although James’s use of ‘harvest’ is metaphorical, it’s interesting, I think, having just read about Laban that James then cites ‘purity’ as the first virtue in a list that, whether it comes from above (verse 17) or within, is never on the surface. Two members of my family have been reading ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ out loud in the evenings, and I’ve listened sometimes and been reminded how, with its theme of race, the whole (Christian) point of Harper Lee’s novel is MLKJr’s point that people ought ‘not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’

Let us pray: 

Behold, Lord,
An empty vessel that needs to be filled.
My Lord, fill it.

I am weak in faith;
Strengthen thou me.

I am cold in love;
Warm me and make me fervent
That my love may go out to my neighbour.

I do not have a strong and firm faith;
At times I doubt and am unable to trust thee altogether.

O Lord, help me.
Strengthen my faith and trust in thee.

In thee I have sealed the treasures of all I have.

I am poor;
Thou art rich and didst come to be merciful to the poor.

I am a sinner;
Thou art upright.

With me there is an abundance of sin;
In thee is the fullness of righteousness.

Therefore, I will remain with thee of who I can receive
But to whom I may not give,

Amen (Martin Luther).

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