Duplicity

Genesis 29:15-28

 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.” So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.
Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” Laban said, “This is not done in our country — giving the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me for another seven years.” Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
 “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.”
 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
 I like British mystery movies and police shows. To me the British shows are more down to earth, the characters are more developed, more human and display more human frailty.
The latest British show I started to watch is about two British female detectives. The show is called Scott and Bailey.
The very first episode starts off with Detective Bailey meeting a man at a fancy restaurant. It is obvious that they are a couple, but the man proceeds to break up with Bailey, citing vague references to differences in standards and hygiene etc.
As the episode proceeds, Bailey, at a loss, because she thought the man was going to propose marriage since they had been a couple for two years, digs in further and finds out that the man is actually married and has children.
The truth is that she has been had. The man was never honest and was having, as it termed colloquially “a bit on the side.”
Bailey is hurt and angry and frustrated and devastated and has to try and do her job while dealing with this blow.
I don’t know whether you have ever had to face a real honest-to-God bit of duplicity in your life where someone took you for a long ride with a big fall at the end.
I have listened to a lot of painful stories in my life. And there have been many stories of unfaithfulness, or of somebody having two girlfriends at the same time, or of someone two-timing on their boyfriend.
I remember one of my friends lamenting one day when her toaster died that the toaster had been more faithful and lasted longer than her husband.
I suggested that the husband was “toast.”
Duplicity is everywhere. I know of people cheated out of thousands of dollars by someone’s duplicity.
You hear stories on the news of some Ponzi scheme, where the first few investors get big returns on their money because of later investors’ money, but it is all a set-up to generate investor excitement. When thousands of people start investing the charlatan absconds with millions of investors’ dollars.
I don’t know if you have been taken or had or fooled or betrayed by someone’s duplicity.
It is a sad thing to say but in probably 40 years of working in churches and people coming to the church and asking for money…. Sometime, strangers, or street people, or homeless, but also people with jobs too and occasionally someone from the congregation… coming to the church and asking for money, I have never once been paid back by someone who promised to pay me back.
Not once.
We don’t give out money here at the church any more. It doesn’t seem to help.
Somebody called me from New Brunswick the other day, on their way to Newfoundland for a job. Their car had broken down. The person said that they had attended church here a while ago. I didn’t recognize the person. Would I wire him some money?
It had scam written all over it. And the sad thing is that so many of these things are scams I don’t know whether I could actually pick out a situation that was legitimate.
Duplicity is everywhere. Who do you trust? The one thing that President Trump says that is true, is that there is a lot of fake news. There is a lot of fake news and stories on the internet. Although it seems that sometimes President Trump calls legitimate news fake.
 Who can you trust?
Well. Not Jacob. And not Jacob’s uncle either. In fact the Old Testament lesson might leave the faithful despairing for some kind of message about God.
God isn’t mentioned in this part of the story where Jacob shows up at his uncle’s place and falls in love with Rachel, I assume his cousin.
Jacob makes a deal with his uncle Laban that he will work seven years so he can marry Rachel.
And to the females among us, I apologize if it seems that the women are treated as property, because that is exactly how they were treated. They didn’t get much say in the matter, if any.
Rachel is basically sold to Jacob.
But after seven years it is time for the tables to be turned on Jacob and the trick pulled on him.
Whereas Jacob played the switcheroo on his father and pretend to be his older brother, Laban pulls the switcheroo on Jacob and substitutes the older, presumably uglier, older sister, although the scripture says that Leah had nice eyes.
What I find incredible is that the scripture reads that when the morning came it was not Rachel but Leah.
He spent the night with her and didn’t know it wasn’t Rachel.
I am not sure we should even go there trying to understand that one.
Laban suggests that for propriety’s sake they should wait a week and then he can have Rachel for his second wife, as long as he works another seven years for Rachel.
The story doesn’t get a whole lot better, because there is animosity between the sisters. Jacob love Rachel but not Leah, but it is Leah who has the children. She has four boys.
So Rachel comes up with a plan. “Jacob can sleep with my maid and have children.”
And then Leah thinks. Well if Jacob can sleep with Rachel’s maid, he can sleep with my maid and have children.
 Some people like to make a big point about returning to the good old family values in the bible. This is not the story about good old family values.
Last week I talked about the weeds and the wheat and that Jacob was a weed if ever there was one…
But it seems that it is just one mess of weeds in the story of Jacob and hardly anybody is a good guy. Everybody is duplicitous and selfish and out to trick the other.
And yet, the 12 boys that these two women and their two maids have become the 12 tribes of Israel.
I don’t know, but maybe the point is that in the midst of human frailty and duplicity God is still working…
And maybe we should never give up because God never gives up on us and sometimes through adversity or in spite of sin and moral failings God can break through with love and grace and awesomeness that is much more than even a miracle.
It is the touching of a heart, or the transforming of a person.
It is taking the ordinary and infusing with grace.
Out of this mess will come one of the greatest most honest, most faithful, most spiritual persons and his name is Joseph.
 Who knew?
In the midst of weeds God still works, even when it seems that God is nowhere to be found.
 In fact here is an even crazier idea. That Jesus himself is one of the weeds.
Last week I talked about the weeds and the wheat and the story started with an enemy putting weed seeds into the wheat.
And Jesus says let them grow. Don’t pull out the weeds.
But this week there is an even crazier story.
There is a parable of a man who sows mustard.
I don’t know what you know about farming in the prairies, but you may know that in the prairies mustard is primarily a weed. Mustard will get into grain fields and be a real nuisance.
If you see a field green with a crop and a bit of yellow growing among it, it is probably mustard.
And while mustard as a condiment goes back to Roman days, in Jesus culture and community mustard was not a commercial crop but a weed.
Jesus himself loves to turn the tables on us with the stories he tells and here is a story with a twist. The parable of the Mustard Seed
In fact in Matthew’s gospel, Mathew puts the two stories right together that turn the tables.
An enemy sows weeds in the field. And Jesus turns the tables by suggesting we don’t pull out the weeds
Next story, is a man sows Mustard. The table turning is that is a man sowing weeds in his own field. And what does that weed do. It grows and grows and grows.
Imagine Jesus as a weed.  A pestering weed that you just cannot get rid of. And this weed grows and grows until it becomes a home for all the birds.
Never mind that mustard doesn’t grow into a tree. Just go with the picture here.
This is subversive talk here. Jesus is subverting the regular order of things.
All the things that people thought were important. Wealth and power and position and title and security and safety…
Jesus was infecting it with something….
That all people have value and all people are loved by God.
The poor, the sick, the blind, the lame, the prisoner, the leper, the outcast….
They are children of God and are loved by God.
You. You are of infinite value and are loved by God.
And once Jesus released that truth, and Jesus himself is that truth it grew like a persistent weed.
The early church didn’t grow because they were faithful to scripture. The New Testament was mostly written 30 to seventy years after Jesus and wasn’t formed into a New Testament until some 3000 years after Jesus.
 The early church didn’t grow because they had the right theology. There were no books of theology.
The early church didn’t grow because it had the right view of human sexuality.
 It grew like a weed because it valued every person and said that every person is a child of God and is loved.
There is a scene from the movie City Slickers. Unhappy City Slicker Mitch has gone on a real life cattle drive. He is somewhat unhappy with his life. Something is missing but he doesn’t know really what’s missing.
So on the cattle drive one day Curly, a real life cowboy gives Mitch some advice. He says
Do you know what the secret of life is? and Curly holds up one finger and says This.
Mitch replies:Your finger?
Curly says: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean shit.
Mitch says: But, what is the “one thing?”
Curly smiles and says: That’s what you have to find out.
Later one Mitch helps with the birth of a calf and bonds with a calf as the calf licks Mitch’s face as if Mitch is it’s mother.
And Mitch realizes the one thing. The one thing is his love for his family and if he puts that first, everything will fall into place.
 I remember our big dog Stevie and every once in a while I would be wakened in the morning by a big tongue licking my face.
With Stevie there was absolutely unconditional love. It didn’t matter what I had done, whether I preached a royal George sermon, or laid an egg. Whether I had been gone for ten minutes or ten days.
With Stevie it was always unconditional love.
And that is why I think the early church grew. Because they focused on the love of Jesus. Everyone was loved. Everyone was valued.
That was their one thing.
 And when you experience that love, when you realized how much God has done to love you, forgive you, save you, redeem you, transform you, raise you from the ways of death…
 It is like finding a treasure in a field.
For the truth that grew like a weed was this: God thinks we are the treasure and gave his everything, his own son, to claim us as his treasure.
You are God’s treasure. Jesus will give his life for you.
There are people who don’t like to hear this.
 They don’t want God to love everyone. They don’t want God to love the weeds, or think that God works among the weeds and the duplicitous.
 There are people who think that the weeds should be pulled out and so they pulled out that weed Jesus, who was infecting the order of things saying that everybody was equal and valued and loved.
 “What a bunch of rubbish they thought.” And they pulled out that weed and hung it on a tree to die.
 But the beauty of that weed Jesus is… that Jesus didn’t die, but now lives wherever there is love, wherever there is care, wherever there is forgiveness, wherever there is sharing, wherever there is kindness…
This weed Jesus is still living and growing and spreading…
And lives not only in Christian hearts, but in the hearts of anyone who loves…
 And even lives and works in the midst of weeds and duplicity.
 One reason to never pull out person as a weed, is that you never know that when you pull out that person you might pull out Jesus, because Jesus is working on that weed trying to transform it with his love.
Sometimes I myself cannot believe that Jesus loves everyone and values everyone. Terrorist and rapists and child molesters and brutal dictators and Calgary Flames supporters. Surely not Jesus
And he turns me to the cross and invites me to look.
There is Jesus pulled as a weed, dying on a cross and from that cross he says to every weed in the world.
You are valued. You are loved. You are forgiven.
 And I find that in amongst all the duplicity in the world and all the weeds, that Jesus says there is no one who is beyond hope.
For the truth of Jesus’ love for everyone is a weed that cannot be eradicated
And it is growing all over the world in people who love their neighbours and even their enemies.
Amen.