God as Matchmaker, Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Plymouth First United Methodist Church, July 5, 2020
Pastor Toni Carmer
Time to go to the well again. Another trip to the well, just like yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that. The well, as important as it was for all of their lives, had become an act of monotony to Rebecca. Nothing seemed to change in this hot and dusty place. She lived in her parent’s tent and had to share a part of it with her greedy brother Laban. Being a woman was no easy thing in this culture. She had few choices, and the ones she did have meant very little in the long run. She walked every day to the well, and she waited. In this time of history, a big part of the waiting involved waiting for a man to notice her, to take an interest. She had noticed several of the young men of the tribe, but it wasn’t proper for her to appear as though she noticed until they made the first move. She had been told that she was beautiful, and she had been trained in the good manners of her people, so she wondered what was wrong with her?! She was daydreaming about all this, and a little unhappy with the whole thing as she moved toward the well one more time.
Standing close to the well today was a man she had never seen before. He was obviously a stranger, and by the look of his dirty clothes and his less than pleasant smell, he had traveled to the well from a great distance. As she dipped her jar into the well to fill it, the stranger moved quickly toward her. He was a small man, and he appeared to be kind, so she wasn’t afraid. He asked her very politely for a drink, and she immediately gave him one. It was custom and common courtesy that she do so. She glanced behind him while he thirstily drank from the cool water, and she noticed a small herd of fine camels, which apparently belonged to him.
Without a second thought, she began to water the camels. She noticed an odd smile on the stranger’s face as she did this. He, a bit too eagerly she thought, asked about her family. She told him, and he suddenly exploded with laughter, and began dancing around praising the name of his God. He then went to one of the camels and pulled out a skin with some lovely presents in it that he gave to her: gold rings and bracelets; beautiful things, beyond her imagining.
This obviously was not your ordinary everyday boring trip to the well.
Rebekah ran quickly back to tell her family about this unexpected meeting at the well. She didn’t know what to make of it, but it certainly was a welcome change from the usual routine of her otherwise boring life! Before her father could say a word, her brother Laban caught a glimpse of the gold and demanded to know where the man was. He began making a lot of noise about “proper hospitality” but she knew her brother well enough to have an idea what he was really thinking.
Rebekah ran to get the stranger, and brought him into their home. Before he would eat a thing, he told his entire story to the family, including her brother Laban. Rebekah listened as carefully as she could as she and her mother worked at the meal, and learned that there was a man in a far-away country who was anxious for a bride, a man from her own larger family.
Rebekah was thrilled at the romance and mystery of it all. It seemed that the ways she had treated the stranger and his beasts at the well had made all this possible. She was more than ready to go right now to meet this prospective husband.
She was so disappointed to hear her family say that she should wait 10 days before leaving. But the stranger was anxious to leave, and so they actually asked HER what she wanted to do! They were actually asking her opinion! She didn’t hesitate. She was ready to go. Today. So she rode off with the stranger, heading west, away from the familiar, away from her family, away from THAT WELL. She didn’t know what to expect, but it was an adventure, it was romance, it was mystery. Rebekah had made her choice, and for the first time in her life she felt truly alive.
Now here’s a sweet story, a strangely peaceful interlude, almost like a fairytale in the middle of all the other stories that make of Genesis.
A very old Abraham has sent his faithful servant back to the land where his family had their roots, to Mesopotamia and the city of Nahor to find a suitable wife for his son Isaac. The servant does all that his master commands, and his faithful actions are rewarded with success; the beautiful Rebekah is brought back home as the wife for Isaac.
For the past few weeks we’ve been talking about Abraham, about the covenant God made with Abraham, and the unfolding drama of his family relationships and how they ultimately serve to accomplish God’s purposes. As we read this story, it seems that God is actively engaged in some heavenly match.com to ensure this family’s continued success. After all, their success isn’t only about the happiness of Isaac and Rebekah, but it’s about all of Israel, and the salvation of the whole human race.
I think I chose this text to preach on today because I have weddings on my mind. Kelsey Heisler and Daren Miller are celebrating their wedding this coming weekend. I’ve seen a number of friend’s posts on Facebook of anniversaries and wedding pictures over the past month or so. We have couples in our congregation who are celebrating their 50th anniversaries this year; Scott and I are celebrating our 45th next weekend (how does time pass so quickly?) I’m officiating the wedding of my sister’s daughter Holly in August, and Scott is officiating our daughter Dominique’s wedding in September. I’ve been looking through our wedding pictures at Dominique’s request so she can display family wedding pictures at her reception. [I admit that it took me awhile to find them!]
I’m guessing that when you look at your wedding pictures, you’ll think something similar to what I keep thinking: we were so young. We had no idea what was ahead. So many beautiful moments and some really challenging and difficult times, too. And yet by the grace of God we’ve made it and I’m trusting there are many more days yet to come.
I admit that when Scott and I exchanged vows, I couldn’t even imagine 45 years into the future. I couldn’t imagine ME 45 years into the future. But now I’m here, and I think of how God has shaped and formed me, and Scott, and us as a couple…and how we’ve raised our children. The dumb mistakes we’ve made, and the good things we’ve done in spite of ourselves. They’re each good people, with good hearts, and I’m proud of them. And I’m absolutely head over heels in love with their kids. I’ve learned that grandparenthood isn’t something to hide, but a gift to embrace. Each of those children remind me of God’s good gifts, and help me to see the world through their eyes, in new and different ways.
When I think of how God is transforming the world, I generally think of big and grand and amazing things. Things we can do through the church, things that we do as disciples of Jesus Christ through our acts of love and mercy and compassion. But what if God’s big task is match-making? Bringing people together to transform the world through human relationships? Not just so we can have a good life, but for larger, more mysterious purposes? For the transformation of the world and the advancement of God’s purposes?
Think of the match-making that happened in this story, which brought together Isaac and Rebekah. Think about the matchmaking that happened in the lives of Mary and Joseph, who provided the upbringing and home for God’s son. Through this match, the redemption of the world was accomplished.
If matchmaking is an important task for God, maybe that’s our task, as well. To bring people together. To create and nurture relationships. Isn’t that a holy thing? To come together as couples, as families, as a church? To learn to live not for ourselves, but for one another?
When Rebekah came to the well that day, a match was made. Perhaps when we meet God at the baptismal font, a match is made there, as well, between God and ourselves, for the sake of the world. Perhaps we, too, will end up traveling to a place we’ve never been before or thought we would go, for the love of God, for the sake of the world.