July 26, 2020

“Deep Breaths”

By Rev. Katrina Pekich-Bundy

Genesis 29.15-28

Romans 8.26-39

July 26, 2020

Being speechless is not something a pastor experiences often. Between my theological training and snappy wit I am rarely left without words.

There have been a few times I have been pleasantly surprised and speechless: when my kids were born, at the bicentennial, and other exciting moments in life. There have been times at funerals or grieving when I have not had words. There have been times like now – as the pandemic continues and schools look at reopening, that I also do not have words.

I think that many of us are left with questions and no answers, or questions that we cannot articulate. As the college gears up to reopen in just a couple weeks, I know many are left asking questions they cannot articulate – staff, students, professors.

This pandemic has left many not only breathless but speechless. The pandemic of racism has left people breathless and speechless – although more people are finding their voices and speaking up.

When have you been left speechless? Was it a joyful lack of speech, or was it sad? How were you able to express yourself?

We are able to use our words in worship, but we have had to find new ways because we cannot sing. We can use sign language and gestures, movement, music. We find many ways to express ourselves, though sometimes it might not feel adequate.

There are times that we cannot describe our experiences – in a variety of emotions. This is across the human experience. As humans we are limited. When we cannot find the words or expressions or movement to describe our feelings, we give thanks that the Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.

When we cannot sing because of a pandemic, when we do not have words because we are too exhausted, when we do not have words because we are confused or overwhelmed, God’s Spirit is with us. God’s Spirit is advocating and interpreting for us.

Theologian Fred Craddock writes: “What life has left us unable to say” the Spirit helps us.[1] In this time, life has left us with so much unsaid.

The good news is that there is nothing that can separate us from God. Nothing. In stressful times, we cannot be separated. Coronavirus cannot separate us from God. Politics cannot separate us from God. Masks cannot separate us from God. Being physically separated from each other or the sanctuary cannot separate us from God – and this is amazing news.

Both of our passages today speak to the nature of humanity. Our ways are not perfect and often we find ourselves straying from God. We are finite and limited. We also experience a range of emotions – love, hate, pain, joy, loss, grief, and confusion.[2]

In those emotions we are connected to one another, and we are connected with God. Sometimes our responses to those emotions can lead us away from God, but we are reassured that God seeks us out. The Spirit intervenes and unites us with God again.

The Genesis passage tells more of the story of Jacob. We heard how Jacob and Esau struggled as brothers. This is continuous conflict, and the story shows human weakness and sinfulness – this ongoing dilemma.

Jacob and Esau were twins, with Esau being the oldest and Jacob grasping at Esau’s foot on the way out of the womb. God told Rebekah that Jacob would be more powerful than Esau, with the older serving the younger.

Jacob tricked Esau out of his birthright for a bowl of soup, and he also tricked his father out of the birthright. There is quite a bit of conflict in Jacob’s life and quite a bit of deceit.

We read today conversations between Jacob and Laban. Jacob met one of Laban’s daughter’s, Rachel, at the same well that his father Isaac had met Rebekah. Laban and Jacob make a deal that Jacob will work for Laban for seven years to marry his daughter.

After all that time, Laban turns the tables on the tricky one and Jacob is forced to marry Leah. Jacob was enraged and became angry with Laban.

This is another preference for the younger child rather than the older – Laban makes it clear that in the culture, the older child must be married before the younger – an assumption we would think Jacob would know. Yet, in those seven years, it never came up.

Laban knew that Jacob wanted to marry the younger daughter. Some serious miscommunication happened, but Laban talks Jacob into staying married to Leah, working another seven years, and marrying Rachel.

Later in the story, Rachel and Jacob will trick Laban out of his belongings. This is a dysfunctional family. God isn’t mentioned in this particular portion of the story, but we know that God calls Jacob and leads Jacob to begin the twelve tribes. Part of this story is to explain how Jacob had two wives, as well as maids, who bore the twelve children.

Even with his flaws, even with his trickery, God calls Jacob. God also doesn’t magically save Jacob when he hits troubled waters. This is a reminder that God calls us to difficult tasks, even though we are flawed and will make mistakes.

Being called by God doesn’t mean we always have our way or that we won’t encounter trouble. In fact, most people who are called by God are called into the troublesome areas of the world. God goes into places and the Spirit stirs up chaos, because God creates best out of chaos.

Sometimes God deconstructs before reconstructing. Sometimes God moves in mysterious ways because our minds cannot fathom what God will do next. When all our human ways of fixing have failed, God jumps in, Spirit breathing for us and calming our anxieties, so that a new way can be made.

In this time when so much continues to be uncertain and we are often at a loss for words, let God’s Spirit do the talking. Rather than filling up our calendars and time again, let’s create space and pause for the breath of God to begin creating out of chaos.

Being speechless can sometimes be to our advantage. It is in the absence of words that someone else can speak up. It is in the absence of words that we can hear the Holy One. Thanks be to God. Amen.

 

[1] Fred B. Craddock, John H. Hayes, Carl R. Holladay, Gene M. Tucker, Preaching Through the Christian Year: A, (Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1992), 350.

[2] David M. Greenhaw, “Romans 8.26-39” in Feasting on the Word: Year A, Vol. 3. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 380.