Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org


Listen to the Sermon

July 6:

Call:       Matthew 11: 28-30
Text:       Genesis 24: 34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Reading:    W&S #180
Psalm:  Psalm 72
Closing:    Communion


I love God.

And one of the things that I love about God
    Is the fact that so often we encounter Godly irony.

This morning, we find that irony in the fact that this is
    Independence Day weekend
        When day we celebrate freedom
            And the great document that proclaimed it
        When we remember
The twin victories
at Gettysburg and Vicksburg
which marked the turning point
in freedom for slaves.

As we know, our Bible also talks a lot about freedom

A check of my concordance reveals
    25 instances of the use of "freedom" or some form of it:
Three times in the OT
twice in the Exodus, Once in Psalms
        22 times in the New
Twice in Acts, Three times in 1 Peter
Once each in Hebrews and Revelation
And sixteen times in Paul's letters
    One might say that Paul wrote so much about freedom
That he was the Thomas Jefferson of his day.

And yet on the weekend we most often think of in    dependence
    The scripture is the story of Rebekah becoming Isaac's wife.

On Independence Day weekend
We hear the story of an arranged marriage
        Of a woman to a man whom she had not met

On Independence Day weekend
We hear a story not of independence
But of dependence.

But we hear it because
    Despite the less than free human aspects
    The dependence in the story is about
        Our dependence on God.

And this completes the intertwined trio of concepts in Abraham's faith
    Obedience to God:
which we looked at in Abraham's exclusion of Ishmael from the household

    Trust in God:
        Which we looked at in Abraham taking Isaac up the mountain prepared to sacrifice him.

And now dependence on God:
        Which we observe this morning with Isaac & Rebekah

And while I picture God  sitting in a heavenly easy chair,
Smiling, smirking, and thinking
        "Have fun with the timing of this one, Jim."

I think it is a reminder
    That while we prize and seek independence as a country
        And often as individuals
    Our relationship with God needs to be one
where we know we are not independent of God
but rather that we are  in  dependence  on God
and where our lives and our thinking
reflect that dependence.

And for those of us in 21st century America
    That is not easy.

You and I are always trying to lead our own lives.

When we have problems
    We often seek our own solutions
And     just as often we seek to assign the blame to someone else.

The beauty of this story about our dependence on God
    Is that it is not about a conflict
And there is not    anything    to blame on someone else.

It is simply a story of relying on God.

Before we pick up the specifically identified text,
    Let's set the stage.

Abraham's wife Sarah has died
    Abraham decides that it's time for their son Isaac to marry
        Not only to help him recover from his mother's death
            But also to make sure that Isaac has offspring
      After all, God had promised Abraham numerous descendents.
And so he called his servant and made him swear by God
    That he would get Isaac a wife
        Not from the daughters of the Canaanites
        But         from Abraham's home country
And from Abraham's kindred

Initially, the servant was apprehensive
    As to whether a woman would follow him back

But Abraham assured him that God would be with him
    And so confident was Abraham
That he added that if the woman failed to follow
    The servant was released from his promise.

The servant then took ten of Abraham's camels
    As well as all kinds of choice gifts

He went to the city of Nahor
    [Nahor was Abraham's brother]

Just outside the city he stopped by a well,
    Fully aware that it was just about the time
When the women would come to draw water.

Rebekah came to the well.

Now, so that no one gets lost or distracted
by trying to figure out the relationships

The facts are these
    Rebekah was the daughter of Betheul and his wife Milcah
        Bethuel     was Nahor's son
Abraham's nephew
Isaac's first cousin

Thus Rebekah was Abraham's great niece
and Isaac's second cousin.

That is not, however, what matters.

What does matter
 is that Rebekah satisfied all the criteria the servant had listed in his prayer for discernment.

The servant was convinced that Rebekah was the one chosen by God to be Isaac's wife.

When he announced that he needed a place to stay
    the girl ran to tell her mother's household

Her brother, Laban, went to the well, invited him to the house, gave him straw and fodder for the camels as well as food to eat.

But the servant explained
that he would not eat   until he had told of his errand.

It is with that telling of his errand that we pick up our text:
[24: 34-38]

So in just a few sentences
    The servant has stated his purpose:
get Isaac a wife
    The servant has offered assurances to her family:
        Abraham is wealthy and Isaac is receiving all of it
    The servant has brought God into the discussion:
        "The Lord has greatly blessed Abraham"

And then he admits his own doubts, and Abraham assurances
        That God would be with him
        And would make him successful.      [24: 39-41]
And then he shares how he came
    Depending on God's involvement and guidance
And describes how God had
    Directed him to the correct family - Nahor's;
And given him what he had asked - in Rebekah and in her response.
        [24: 42-49]

The servant knew that he had not located Rebekah by himself
    He had not depended on a map or a GPS

He had chosen to depend on God
       And, as Abraham had indicated, God made it a successful trip.

Betheul and Laban were impressed

They responded:     [24: 50-61]

But there is still one more character in the story
    Isaac, the guy who was getting a wife he had not met.

In some ways, his situation was even more anxiety producing than Rebekah's
    She at least got silver and gold jewelry and fine garments

Isaac was getting a total unknown.

And so, the story concludes with their meeting. [24: 62-67]

A good ending
A positive ending
A satisfying ending to a story
    That had its uncomfortable elements
        For the idea of an arranged marriage is discomforting.

But it is a story that teaches us something important.

For it is a story in which,     everyone  depended on God
    Abraham depended on God to pick a wife for his son
    The servant depended on God to make his journey successful
    Rebekah and her family depended on God
         To accept and believe that she should become Isaac's wife
And finally,
    Isaac depended on God to accept that Rebekah should be his wife.

They all used their human gifts in the process.
They did not sit around and wait for something to happen.
    They expended energy
    They gave thought and used reasoning
But ultimately they depended on God.

Walter Bruggeman in his commentary on Genesis
in the "Interpretation" series summarized the story.
    "The faith offered here
        is for those who are willing to be led."

The people in this story were willing to be led.

And so, this week, instead of focusing on the little questions
    Like arranged marriages
Which I cannot fathom
nose rings
which confound me
or  why Rebekah's mother was mentioned more than her father
            which intrigues me

you and I need to ask whether we - individually and collectively -
    are willing to dependent on and led by God.
Do you think we are?