Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 10)
16 July 2023
Sermon By: Rev. Dr. Robin A. Reed+
Sunday Cycle of Prayer
The Anglican Church of Canada
Trinity Church, Vero Beach
Church of the Messiah, Winter Garden
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
God’s greatest gift, our spiritual inheritance, Embrace it!
In late July and early August each year I suspect some of you, and Mike and I especially, begin to get excited about the upcoming NFL football season. And, even those of you who don’t like , watching the games, probably look forward to the Big Game in February. the Super Bowl which now offers something for everyone. The Puppy and Kitty Bowls before the game, the classic gridiron play, the half-time entertainment and of course the Commercials.
One of my favorite commercials ever is the 2010 Snickers Candy Bar ad, petite 88 year-old Betty White plays a young man, Mike, who isn’t having a very productive touch-football game. Betty is slammed to the ground by a hefty opponent, covered in mud and accused in the team huddle of playing like an old lady! Suddenly, Mike’s girlfriend approaches Betty and says to her, “Baby eat a Snickers bar” and you probably remember the rest. Betty White takes one bite of the candy bar and poof she is transformed into Mike himself. The commercial was not only the top rated Super Bowl ad that year but also generated a series of Snickers commercials with celebrity cameos; Robin Williams, Aretha Franklin, and Joe Pesci.
The ad concluded with a powerful tag line, your are not you when you're hungry. You are not you when you are hungry. When you and I are too hungry or angry, lonely or tired as our 12 Step Recovery friends remind us, we are increasingly vulnerable to losing our anchoring in and focusing on Christ. We are at risk of reverting to focusing only on ourselves, losing our long term perspective, making unhealthy, and even sinful life choices to feed our temporary desires.
Snickers, the candy bar filled with high protein peanuts, promises in the ad to be thesolution for people’s physical hunger and as I suspect sometimes it is for our temporary needs.
But as human beings we also hunger to be fed spiritually, our greatest gift from God is our spiritual inheritance. Our birthright in Christ, the firstborn Son of God, the Lord of All is our share His Kingdom, our inheritance from God, our many blessings.
This morning’s Old Testament lesson highlights the human struggle between choosing short-term “stews” from the world or living as best we can walking in and with the Spirit. The Good News is that God’s grace whose is always greater than our sins calls us to focus on Him who forgives and forgets our sins.
Our Old Testament story picks up years beyond last week’s lesson. At age 40, Isaac, a late bloomer, has married Rebekah. Twenty more years then pass, the family is still barren and needs, once again, to focus and depend fully on what God can do. God’ power, timing, and grace to continue their lineage, Isaac prays to the Lord. Rebekah conceives, violent struggling begins in her womb and her heart. Her joy associated with pregnancy is eclipsed by worry about the babies within her, their safe delivery and her very own life. In her suffering, Rebekah, too, calls upon the Lord who reveals to her His plans and the future, the twins will be rivals not only in her womb, but the rest of their lives and God’s Kingdom will be based upon a Great Reversal of the patriarchal system. God will work through the lesser, rather than the greater, the elder will serve the younger. the first will be last, the last first.
So the first twins in the Bible are born and grow up, Esau the first born, hairy, red, strong, a manly man of the field favored by his father, Isaac, for his ability to provide good meat. Jacob the second born a deceiver since birth, as he grips his older brother’s tiny heel, a man of the tents, favored by his mother, Rebekah. Fueled not only by Jacob’s keen desire to supplant his brother as the greater but also their parents’ unhealthy favoritism the sibling rivalry blows up one day. Esau after at least a long day of hunting with his bow and arrow arrives home famished, feeling as if he is going to die of hunger only to discover Jacob, who no doubt has plotted to lure Esau at his most vulnerable moment has prepared a delectable smelling lentil stew. And Esau sells his birthright which was the oldest Jewish son’s double portion of his father’s inheritance, his power and vision as the future family leader, his branch in the family tree, the covenant between Abraham and God, which will bear the promised Messiah. Sells it all for a simple bowl of red lentil stew only meet his immediate need but despises the birthright in the end perhaps as a reminder of his impulsivity.
Over 4000 years later you and I may have wonder how WE relate to this story our culture is not organized around birthrights but we each have a spiritual birthright, God’s best gift to us. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior we are adopted through Christ’s death and sacrifice sanctified in His blood, marked as Christ’s own at our baptism. We are children of God, heirs of God’s kingdom, blessed with every spiritual blessing in the Kingdom and we are expected as Paul writes to set our minds on the things of the Spirit, to walk with Christ and in Christ and to suffer, and all of us have and will in this life knowing He suffers with us and our temporary suffering leads to eternal salvation.
As we turn and focus on Him in prayer, worship, and bible study we become more deeply anchored in our faith and our identity as children of God, less vulnerable to selling our birthright in Christ to relieve the temporary pain from our hurts, habits and hang-ups of the world
The other person we hear who was famished in the Bible was Jesus after 40 days of fasting in the desert before Satan tempted him. Perhaps it is valuable to compare Jesus and Esau responded to being famished.
First of all Jesus identified his enemy right away, Satan the tempter who was trying to seduce him into temporary solutions rather than remain faithful to his focus upon God.
You and I know there are many “Jacobs” in this world, people that try to lure us into giving away our personal information, investing in a lottery or prize scam, convincing us we owe money to the IRS. “Jacobs” are also people who try to convince you that you need the stews of life power, prestige, status and affluence and you need them now to make a living not a life.
Esau, who knew Jacob was a deceiver, did not question or even seek God’s wisdom before he succumbed to selling his birthright. Jesus calls us to name the tempters and the temptations.
Secondly Jesus turned to the Word of the Lord when his physical, emotional and spiritual needs were tempted to strengthen Him, depend upon God, not himself and remember His long term mission.
While Jacob and Rebekah prayed and sought the Lord in major times of life crises we do not hear Esau stopping to pray for the Lord’s wisdom, will, and guidance. Esau’s choices remind us to call upon the the Lord in all our daily life activities, to offer thanks for our blessings, share our sorrows, confusion, and dilemmas, seek to know and understand what God, and not our own egos, are calling us to do and to open our ears and eye, hearts and minds and arms to receive God’s grace and direction.
Thirdly Jesus confronted his Tempter directly, challenging his temptations with Holy Scripture now while we Episcopalians often can’t quote scripture as well as our Baptist friends we can keep our Bibles close and marked and ready to pray and seek the Lord.
Esau, on the other hand, ran away from his problems with Jacob, loping into the field to play into his strengths, wanting Isaac’s approval rather than confronting Jacob about his ever-present threat to steal Esau’s birth rite.
As hard as it can be at times to confront problems and people Jesus reminds us in his interactions with the Pharisees and Sadducees to face our conflicts head on sometimes with words and others with actions alone, trusting that the Holy Spirit will guide us.
Lastly, Jesus, in his temptations with Satan in the wilderness, reminds us to respect what is Holy, God’s Word, God’s relationship with us, God’s promises and provision and perfect timing.
Esau threw away his birthright, sacrificing his long term possibilities and God’s promises for his short-term immediate needs. Perhaps Esau anticipated that Isaac would disregard Jacob’s shenanigans or didn’t want the pressure of being the firstborn. Clearly Esau disregarded his relationship with and in God for the seductive stew of the world.
But Jesus’s actions, famished as he was reminds us God’s greatest gift is our relationship with God, our spiritual inheritance. God calls us to live into our spiritual inheritance, the inheritance God has given and Christ has sacrificed for an inheritance of unconditional love to be and discover our true selves, our true ‘you and me” as children of God so that we can share His love with each other.
This week let us recognize and turn away from the alluring temptations and stews of the world.
Turn toward God, embrace your spiritual birthright as a child of God and embrace others as God has embraced you!
Cover Image: https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/bible-study/how-often-do-you-sell-your-birthright-for-soup-like-esau.html