Are you familiar with the extent of your birthright? What does it mean to you?
Old Covenant law stipulated that the “actual” firstborn son was to receive a double share of his father’s estate (Deut 21:15-17). Jacob and Esau were recipients of parental anxiety and frustration: Dad loved one son and Mom loved the other. You’ve seen this in your congregation; you may have experienced it in your own family of origin. In any case, this chapter ends with “Thus Esau despised his birthright.” (v 34)
If you have ever watched television’s Two and Half Men, you’ve witnessed a perfect example of not one but two sons that would gladly trade their birthright. “Despise” probably doesn’t come close to describing how Charlie Harper feels about his mother! I sense the perpetual struggle between the brothers Harper to define self and muse over my own family history.
What about you? Do you know from whence you come? When Esau said, “Of what use is a birthright to me?” there could have been several reasons for saying it, but the question has implications for us all.
Due to significant emotional cutoff in the generations, it was not until midlife that I was able to verify my Cherokee Nation lineage. What I have since learned has changed the essence of who I am. Not only would I not sell my birthright, I would do whatever was necessary to defend it. Little did I know that I represented “two nations” while in the womb.
What has happened—particularly during the past 100 years or so—to the meaning of our family heritages? Regarding Jacob and Esau, one may debate the real villain in this story but that seems to be beside the point: a legacy was trashed. The apathy this man felt for his heritage is the real shame.
Your congregants have exponential families that take many forms. Being a support to them as they share the ups and downs inherent in their own legacies is difficult at best. Without knowing your own heritage and occasionally watering the withering leaves, you can’t fully appreciate theirs.
My wife also discovered her birthright as an adult and speaks of it as having freed her. That’s really the essence of it, isn’t it? Christ came to free the captives, and he could not have done this without a clear understanding of his own beginnings.
May the warm winds of heaven blow softly upon your house. May the Great Spirit bless all who enter there. May your moccasins make happy tracks in many snows, and may the rainbow always touch your shoulder.
©2013 Liberal Lectionary resources