Friday, February 21, 2014 – Week of 6 Epiphany, Year Two
[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 102 (morning) // 107:1-32 (evening)
1 John 3:1-10
Yesterday morning’s news was a blur of numbers: Facebook paid $19 billion dollars for the company WhatsApp; someone won $425 million in the Powerball lottery; and the author James Patterson gave $1 million to independent bookstores struggling to compete with Amazon. I lost track of the more precise figures in the reports about the declining wages and increasing debts of contract chicken farms, non-tenure track faculty, and platinum miners.
With the exception of the lottery story, all of this news coverage emphasized high costs and low revenues. Even the Facebook acquisition of WhatsApp was considered an extravagant expense, and possibly and anxiety-induced, desperate attempt to recapture the waning interest of young people in Facebook itself.
I haven’t listened to the news this morning yet, but I’m expecting more of the same. It’s a huge relief to take a few moments and enter a very different sort of economy—the economy of enough.
Recall the family history of Esau and Jacob: These twin brothers struggled for space in their mother’s womb, and they fiercely competed to be born first. Then, they were convinced by their father, Isaac, that there weren’t enough blessings to go around. Jacob tricked his brother into renouncing his entire birthright in a moment of extreme hunger. Then, Jacob tricked his father into giving him the blessing that would bring from God “the dew of heaven,” “the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine.” There was only enough affection and prosperity for one son in this family.
But today’s first reading undoes the lie that there is only enough love and wealth for a chosen few. Still living within the limitations of his family dynamics, Jacob approaches his brother in fear, with waves of gifts to try to mitigate the anger he expects Esau to feel about Jacob stealing his birthright and blessing.
Esau, on the other hand, has learned to live in a much different reality. Instead of keeping his distance from Jacob, “Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him.” And Esau is completely baffled by all of the gifts that Jacob is trying to use in order to win his favor. Esau says, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.”
Enough. Esau’s confidence and contentment must have made him almost unrecognizable to his Jacob! Their childhood relationship had been distorted by competition and scarcity, but now, Jacob says, “truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God.” Eventually, Esau does accept Jacob’s gift, but then Esau offers some of his own servants to assist Jacob in his journey.
As it turns out, there is enough to go around. And our relationships with one another improve drastically when we are not systematically depriving one person at the expense of another.
How can we outgrow the lies of scarcity and inequality? Where can we find room for abundance and plenty? It’s likely that we’ll spend most of today in a struggle for survival, at least on some level. We’ll also confront the limitations of time, space, resources, and energy that are part of life in this world. But whatever comes up for us, I hope that we have a few moments to learn from Esau that there may be more to go around than we realize.
Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.