I am going to relate our reading this morning with another very well-known Bible story about families and siblings and parents, different circumstances in life and how people value, or not as the case may be, the celebration of who they are as an individual. The book of Genesis contains much about birth and creation and celebrations of great variety. Of course the word genesis means ‘the origin of something’. Esau demonstrates he has no idea how to celebrate his birthright far less any idea the cost of his actions as he sells it to Jacob. They were twins but not identical in either appearance or in character. Esau loved the great outdoors and the thrill of hunting wild animals while Jacob stayed close to home caring for his father’s flock and pottering around the kitchen with his mother. When Jacob demanded the birthright in exchange for a bowl of stew Esau responded: “Look, I am about to die. What good is the birthright to me?” After swearing to sell it to Jacob Esau ate and drank and left with hardly a thought of what he had just given up. The saddest thing is that he didn’t even realize what he had done until it was all too late. Years later he tried to get back what he had so carelessly tossed aside but the birthright passed on to Jacob just as God said it would. We are born with our own characteristics and as we grow we take on board our surroundings, we take on board some of our parent’s ways and sometimes the mannerisms of friends. Different actions and attitudes influence our world, ultimately though, we are unique and we have the ability to shape and reshape the world around us. Over the past few months many people will have had occasions that in normal times there would have been a gathering of friends and some kind of celebration. I know within our own congregation there have been a few landmark birthdays for example where parties had been organised and then plans reshaped. I know that later this year there should have been weddings in our church which have had to be rearranged. I know of wedding anniversaries that have happened and on Friday past Ingrid and I celebrated our 38th anniversary. A few weeks ago our nephew, my brother’s oldest son, became a dad for the first time. And of course there has been sad moments lately when families could not fully come together to help each other both grieve the passing, and celebrate together, the life of someone they loved dearly. Although the shape and form of the celebrations has looked very different the celebrations themselves have still taken place. These occasions have been marked in the best ways we could. How, where, why and when we celebrate in many ways can be determined by the situations we find ourselves in as we journey through life. In Luke’s Gospel in the parable of the lost son, as the NIV puts it, we have another story about two brothers. The younger son wants all that he is due and he wants it now. The tables look overturned in this second account as he blows the lot and returns with his tail between his legs. What awaits him is an attitude of celebration found in his father and an attitude of resentment found in his brother. Holding the two stories side by side we see one brother acting irresponsibly and one that is hardworking. We see one brother that wastes everything he has been given. We see a brother who can reshape his life and become humble and one hardnosed and hard hearted. We see a joyful family celebration whilst some of the family are left somewhere outside of things. We see one brother who tries to turn back the clock and go back to how it was and one who realises the past should remain just that and it is what lies ahead that is now important. Holding the two stories together side by side we could debate who in each of the stories was lost. I think what each of them does show is that in amongst the everyday things of life celebrations are happening for some when upset and hurt is happening for others. I want to close on a light note this morning. I want to finish by thinking about the future. I want to think of new beginnings. In doing so I am going to tell you another story about birth and celebration it is about three expectant fathers in America who were waiting for word on the arrival of their new babies.
‘A nurse goes into the room and announces to one of the men that his wife has just given birth to twins. ’that’s amazing he said – I play for the Minnesota Twins’. After about twenty minutes another announcement is made to the second man whose wife has given birth to triplets. ’WOW’ – he stated, ’I work for the 3M company’. At this news the third man fell off his chair and fainted, once they managed to revive him, they all asked why he had fainted. He said ’I work for the 7-UP company.
And A Scottish Toast to finish with,
‘May the best ye’ve ever seen be the worst ye’ll ever see,
may a moose ne’er leave yer girnal wi’a tear drap in his e’e,
may ye aye keep hale and he’rty till ye’re auld enough tae dee
may ye aye be juist as happy as I wish ye aye tae be.’