July 26th Worship Service & Sermon: “Call to Grow Mature in Love”

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July 26, 2020 Seventh Sunday after Pentecost [Green] Genesis 29:15-28; Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

Call to Grow Mature in Love

Divine love of God

Have you ever had an experience where you can really feel someone’s concern even though that person hasn’t shared their thoughts with you? Yes, I am talking about telepathy. Perhaps a good example would be a mom caring for her baby. The baby is crying. No one knows why because it doesn’t say anything. But the mom goes and changes his/her wet diaper, and the baby stops crying. How did the mom know her baby’s problem? Does she really have the power of telepathy? No, it’s not telepathy but her own love that enabled her to sense why her baby was crying.

Our relationship with God is probably like that. Sometimes we don’t want to talk about our problem. We can’t because it is too heavy and painful to express aloud, so we just sigh with frustration and worry about our future. But nothing can shade God’s eyes and cloud God’s judgement. God knows us far better than we know ourselves. How come? Does God have the power of telepathy? Yes, the God we believe is the God of Almighty. He knows all things in the world. But I still want to say that God’s love is so deep and wide, that he knows what we struggle with and what we need for our blessed life.

When we are in love with someone, we want to know more about that person, fulfill what he/she wants, and dedicate ourselves to that person’s happiness. It’s not telepathy but love that makes us live a life of dedication for those we love. We call this life of dedication “sanctification” in our Christian language.

Jacob’s discipline

This Sunday, I want to continue the story about Jacob’ journey to sanctification in the Old Testament. Once again, this isn’t just Jacob’s story but God’s story as well. It is a story about how God disciplined Jacob to grow him to be the source of blessing for all races and nations. In terms of our Gospel language, God discipled Jacob to serve others and bring salvation into the world.

But Jacob wasn’t ready to live a life of sanctification or dedication to others. Rather, he was a very selfish man who lived only for his own interests. In the previous chapter, we saw that he even tried to grab God by making a business contract with him, saying if you bless me, I will give you the ten percent of my income; if you don’t bless me, you will have nothing from me. He was full of himself and didn’t care about serving God and blessing others. What kind of lesson would you suggest teaching someone like Jacob? Interestingly, God disciplined him by the power of love. Once again, love has the divine power to lead us to live a life of dedication.

In today’s chapter, Jacob finally arrived at his mother’s homeland, and he was welcomed by his uncle, Laban. There he fell in love with his younger daughter, Rachel. Jacob asked for Rachel in marriage in exchange for seven years of labor for his uncle. According to the story, “Jacob worked seven years for Laban, but the time seemed like only a few days, because he loved Rachel so much” (v. 20).

The seven years finally ended, and Jacob was eager to claim his bride. On his wedding night, however, the trickster Jacob was ironically tricked himself. Laban gave him his older daughter Leah instead of Rachel. The man who had deceived his foolish brother and his blind father was himself deceived while blinded by night, or by too much drinking and celebrating. What goes around comes around!

But Jacob’s response in today’s story is so amazing. He didn’t act like the same Jacob who was used to tricking others. He didn’t trick his uncle; he didn’t try to take a shortcut; he didn’t hold a grudge or seek revenge against his uncle although he had been tricked by him so badly. Rather, he went back to his uncle’s field and worked hard for another seven years so he could finally marry Rachel. After the marriage, Jacob worked another 4 years for his uncle, but also had to work for Laban for 20 years. This means he gave up all of his youth for his love, Rachel.

What made this trickster so sincere and honest? What made this mama’s boy so passionate and laborious? What made this selfish and ambitious man so humble and faithful to his uncle? What made this young man so patient and tolerable? It was his own love for Rachel that was cast in his heart. For her he was willing to sacrifice his life; he could endure all the hardships of the desert; he could forgive his uncle’s tricks; and he could overcome his homesickness and loneliness in exile.

This is a love story but not a typical romantic story between the lovers. This is a story about how love transforms one’s life forever. Indeed, true love matures us, transforms us, and makes us dedicated to those we love with all our hearts, minds, and powers. In this regard, the disciple Paul is right – love is the greatest gift from God. God disciplined Jacob by the power of love and Jacob overcame his selfishness and became a servant of God who could bless all the races and all the nations.

A treasure in our life

“Friends, this isn’t just Jacob’s story but this is our story as well. This is a story about how God disciplines us to live a life of dedication. We don’t have the power of telepathy, but we have the divine love of God in our hearts. And it is this love that enables us to desire to know more about our neighbors, reach out to those in need, and bless
many others living around us. This story about Jacob’s love helps us look back to how much we love God and love our neighbors.

In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus teaches us that when we find or experience God’s grace, we must not bury or hide it in our backyard or in our ignorance (v. 44). We must show it and bring it to the world. Let us always remember God calls his servants to be blessings for all races and nations, and we can live out this life of dedication and sanctification because God gives us his divine love. Thanks be to God. Amen.”