There is something disconcerting about how many persons in scripture play favorites, even God. “Isaac loved Esau . . . but Rebekah loved Jacob.” God “had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard” (Gen. 4:4-5). God chose David and rejected Saul. (See 1 Samuel 16:1.) God loved Israel more than all other nations, choosing them as God’s “treasured possession” (Deut. 7:6).

Today’s scripture deals with birthrights, the privileges bequeathed to the favored firstborn son and unavailable to all other children. Today we have something like birthrights—the baggage we carry from our relationship with our parents—and many of us receive a negative one. We dwell on a negative past in which we were unfavored or felt unwanted.

My negative birthright became clear the day I realized that all I ever wanted was to hear my mother say, “Paul, I love you.” She couldn’t say those words because all she really wanted was to hear the same phrase from her father, who in turn couldn’t because of his negative birthright . . . and the pattern continues. We carry on the sins of our ancestors for generations.

My reconciliation with my mother came only when I could bury a note in her grave: “All we both ever wanted was to be loved. Mom, I love you.” Another piece of reconciliation came through my five daughters. A precious gift came when one of them said, “Dad, you have always made each of us feel as if we were your favorite.” And yet such moments are only a beginning, for it is God’s love that we really need. With God, each of us is the one for whom Christ died.

On this day in 1977, Alice Paul, known for courageously authoring the Equal Rights Amendment to guarantee equality for women, died. God, given your inclusive love, why is it so hard for us to treat as equals those different from ourselves? Forgive us. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

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Lectionary Week
July 6–12, 2020
Scripture Overview

Even great people in the faith have moments of imperfection. Not all biblical stories are biblical examples. Jacob should have fed his brother out of concern, but he takes advantage of the situation and robs Esau of his birthright. The psalmist asks the Lord to show him how to live. God’s word is a lamp to his feet and a light to his path. Paul in Romans contrasts the life of the flesh and the life in the Spirit. Without the power of God, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes in the flesh; but the Spirit sets us free. Jesus reminds us in Matthew that the effectiveness of the gospel is not based on our efforts. We sow the seed, but we cannot control whether it takes root.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read Genesis 25:19-34. How do you experience God’s “nevertheless”—God’s grace—as you work through the baggage of your birthright?
Read Isaiah 55:10-13. How might experiencing moments as if for the last time bring the joy of a first-time experience?
Read Romans 8:1-11. In learning what spiritual practices strengthen you, what practices did you try that did not work? Now that you know what works, how might working on practices you once found unhelpful grow your faith?
Read Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23. In what unexpected place might you sow seeds of God’s love?

Respond by posting a prayer.