Monday, July 11, 2011

Real. Dysfunctional. Biblical.

I’m sure over the past ten years or so many of you have developed a new “guilty pleasure” The reality TV show. Maybe you’re hooked on Dancing with the Stars, or Survivor. Some of you might love the drama of The Amazing Race. But, there is a new program out that takes reality to a whole new level. “The Real Housewives of the Bible.” This straight to DVD “reality program” chronicles the lives of 6 “real life” women attempting to keep their marriages intact while also attempting to live more like Biblical wives. The program parallels these 6 modern wives with 6 biblical wives that they are attempting to model their marriages after including Sarah (of Abraham and Sarah) and Rebekah (married to Isaac and mother of the two men in today’s first reading). The creator of the program claims that her hope is by using biblical families as role models, modern day wives and families can learn how to be better wives, sustain relationships and live out their marriages in ways that mirror those of biblical women. The creator goes on to say “I’m frustrated by modern day reality TV.” By getting back to living our lives the way people did in the Bible, we’ll have stronger marriages and stronger families.

I will agree with the The Real Housewives of the Bible on one point--the families found in the Bible may make for good modern day reality TV. Today’s first reading, with Jacob purchasing his brother’s birth rite for a bowl of stew is a classic example. However, I don’t think striving to be more like these families will strengthen us. The stories found in the Bible, and the Old Testament in particular captivate us. They, like reality TV demonstrate a sad reality of our broken creation, which, at times, show the worst that humanity has to offer.

Last week we were introduced to Isaac and Rebekah and discussed the messiness of their relationship. This week things get even more messy in our made for reality TV series as we meet their twin sons, Esau and Jacob. These two boys have been fighting from the moment they were born. The reading even tells us when the emerge Jacob is holding onto his brother Esau’s heal! There is favoritism, with Isaac loving Esau and Rebekah loving Jacob best. I can almost see the TV promo now: “Mom loves you more!” “Dad has never thought YOU could do ANYTHING wrong!” The reading is so powerful, because it is so true! And these boys don’t let up when they become men. Esau, famished, on the brink of starvation, comes to his brother asking for stew. And Jacob’ response “I’ll give you some. If you sell me your birthright.” Who needs TV when you have biblical families like this?

So to review, here are some highlights from our 4 week walk through Genesis: God creates the universe, and it is good. We skipped ahead of Genesis 2-6, so we missed the part where God’s first beloved chosen man and woman get themselves kicked out of the garden. We also missed the first murder—a murder between brothers. But, we did read how God thwarts Abraham’s attempt to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. And we covered the story of 40 year old Isaac who marries his teenage cousin. And now we’re examining Isaac’s dysfunctional sons, Esau and Jacob, who, after fighting within the womb, are so divided that Jacob purchases his brother’s birth rite for a bowl of (what does the text call it?) “red stuff.” What a cast of characters! What an unloveable, disconcerting, annoying bunch of relatives we share in this family of God! What is God going to do with these people? What!? He’s going to call them “chosen?” He’s going to spring forth from this dysfunctional family the Son of Man? You mean these are JESUS relatives?

What are we to do with the reality of these stories? I don’t think we strive to be more like them, as suggested in “The Real Housewives of the Bible.” Sadly, I don’t think we COULD be any more like them. It’s our similarity, our sin that caused brokenness then and continues to today. So, instead of striving to be more like them, we put down the TV remove, and we pick up a mirror. We consider our own reality. That we’re in families where brothers despise each other. That we belong to families where jealousy, betrayal and generational fighting is alive and well. We look in the mirror and wonder what God is going to do with a cast of characters like us.

And, once we’ve looked in the mirror, and once we’ve taken time to wonder what God’s going to do, we turn (pause) and we look to the cross and find our answer. We turn to the cross and see how God has turned a Roman device of torture into a device that unifies our real broken families. That through Christ, there is a new reality, one where our birth rite cannot be taken from us, but instead was purchased on (pause) that cross. We bask in the glory of our birth rite, and no longer despise it. And then, we walk to this altar, and we receive the bread and cup of salvation that will nourish our souls for eternity in a way that no “red stuff” ever could. Then, we walk about those doors, and as we leave, we dip our fingers in the baptismal font, reminding us that we are welcomed into the real, dysfunctional body of Christ, just as we are. That, my friends, is a reality better than any that could be created on television.

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