15 Jul 2017

Biblical Soap Opera

"My Life is a Soap Opera"
CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 by Donna Pool on Flickr
            Last week in my sermon, addressing the passage from Genesis (24.35-38, 42-49, 58-67), I made reference to the fact that this was a biblical soap opera. It has all the drama, a lot of poetic license, some plot twists (and holes!), and the reader needs to overlook some fairly significant events that would raise eyebrows in any culture.
Here's my (slightly tongue-in-cheek) synopsis:
            We're just getting the highlights: Isaac needs a wife, sends a servant to find the best one, just go to the well where all the single girls hang out. Hmm. Awkward! Rebekeh’s brother conspires with the servant, and sends her to the well. There she sees the servant, offers to water him AND his camels. Sidenote: each of these 10 camels will drink some 20-30 gallons at a time. That's a lot of drawing and carrying water by herself.  Yet she does it, and the servant finds her beautiful, freakishly strong, and to sweeten the deal makes sure she's wearing some snazzy jewelry. She agrees to leave her family and homeland to go be with some dude she's never met. Then, - I did mention soap opera drama, yes? - she sees Isaac, and is so smitten by this biblical dreamboat that she falls off her camel.
            Needless to say, this approach certainly caught people's attention. I did bring it back to the main point of the sermon (the reality of God's grace is bigger than anything we can ever expect), but had some fun along the way.
"Camel E"
CC BY-NC 2.0 by Joni Kage on Flickr
            And there have been some fun conversations this week as a result. Why didn't Rebekeh just bring the camels into the well area to drink directly from the bucket? (She might have done, but nobody wants camel poop near the water source.) Why does she have to have a ring through her nose? (That culture's way of saying "spoken for!" - her dance card was full.) Did she really fall off her camel? (Well, she slid off quickly and started all manner of flirting, so...) Did God tell Laban to do this? (Not directly, in the scriptures - in fact in this passage we don't get any mention of God speaking or directly willing action.) Did you really call Isaac a dreamboat? (Yes, I did. Thanks for listening so intently.)
            I admit to having fun with it, and maybe going to the extreme. But I expect that at some point, as this history was being shared within the community of the faithful, people had a bit of a laugh or an eye roll at the drama in it. It's a very human passage, full of some almost unbelievable statements that make one believe there's been some editorialising going on.
            And, as with so many other passages of a similar nature, it conveys the message that God will be where God will be, and God will act how God will act, no matter how unlikely or unexpected we may think. And the pattern of human history is sometimes more dramatic: Isaac and Rebekah had great love, but they also had their problems (look at the twins!) Part of what makes the story so memorable is its very humanness, its drama, its soap opera qualities.

            So if God can work wonders through that drama, we can rest assured that God is equally present in our own lives - on the boring days, and on the days when we think we may have stepped onto a scripted set for TV. Drama happens: God happens through it.

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