the buffoon: proper 9, year a

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Lectionary / Old Testament / Pentateuch

Remember “Sleepless in Seattle?”

It’s a story of romance – romance that didn’t begin over Facebook or Social Media – but over the radio.

The Empire State Building, taken from The High Line. By Rick Morley, 2010.

Jonah was wasn’t just dealing with his mother’s death, but his father’s depression. He wanted him to find someone…though he had to approve of her. He calls a radio show and spills his dad’s beans all over the country. One listener to the show, Annie, not only gets drawn in, but becomes Jonah’s woman of choice.

And so Jonah arranges a meet-and-greet between his father, Sam, and Annie on Valentine’s Day at the top of the Empire State Building.

The only problem is, Sam had no intention of going to New York City to mean someone he had never met, and who in all likelihood, might be a lunatic. He had other plans for the weekend.

Until his eight-year-old son boarded a transcontinental flight for New York. Then he had to go chasing after him.

There’s that moment when Sam and Annie see each other on the top of the Empire State Building, and it all comes together. As if it were written in the stars. It wasn’t the first time they’d laid eyes on each other, but it was the clincher.

They looked at each other, and they KNEW.

The story of the coming together of Isaac and Rebekah is similar in a few ways. Just without all the romance..and stars.
Abraham was a wanderer. Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, was a wanderer. But, Isaac – the one they called “laughter” – well, he wasn’t allowed to wander.

Maybe because he was a little dim-witted. Maybe because Abraham worried about him a little too much.

Isaac needed a wife, because Abraham needed more offspring in the family. God had said that Abraham’s people would number the stars in the sky, and so Isaac needed to get busy.

But, Isaac couldn’t be trusted with this mission. Abraham had to send someone else in his stead to find the right woman.

And, she had to be REALLY special. Like, she had to be able to draw water for a thirsty stranger.

The bar was set high. Ahem…

And, when her father, Laban, agrees that Rebekah can marry Isaac, she heads off to the Land of Canaan to meet her beloved.

English translations obscure what happens next. For when Rebekah is making her way into town, Isaac is off in the field.

Doing something.

It’s hard to tell exactly what it is, (there’s a surprising amount of scholarly controversy over this) but it’s apparently pretty embarrassing, because when Rebekah sees Isaac…doing whatever it was he was doing…she literally “falls off” her camel.

Yep, it was that bad.

And then she asks the question. They question we all knew she’d ask. The question that she knew the answer to before she even opened her mouth.

“Who is the man over there?”

“Oh, him? That’s Isaac. Your soon-to-be-husband.”

And with final comic punctuation she covers her face with her veil.

This is no encounter atop a storied art-deco masterpiece on the Day of Love. This is a scene out of a sit-com.

Once again, Laughter is the cause of laughter.

And, I think this important – it’s not just an irreverent take on a biblical story.

I don’t know about you, but my life is much more Genesis 24 than Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been able to conjure up suave-and-sophisticated a few times in my life…but I’ve had my fair-share of painfully awkward situations in my years.

It’s like the scene in “Dirty Dancing” when Baby gets to talk to Johnny for the first time, and the best thing she can come up with is: “I carried a watermelon.”

I GET Isaac here. I’ve been there. I’ve made a fool out of myself.

I also GET Rebekah here. I’ve found myself far from home and in ridiculous, absurd situations before too.

And, despite the laughter – despite the hi-jinks – God DOES prosper Isaac, and through him a great family and nation is born.

The story of Isaac and Rebekah tells me that God can use a buffoon. A buffoon like me. Great things can come of a buffoon. God can bless people through a buffoon.

Because, it’s not Isaac, or me, or you (whoever the buffoon is at the moment) who does the great thing or the blessing, but it’s God.

It’s God working through us. And, that’s the point of it all.

The Author

follower of Jesus, father of two, husband of one, Episcopal priest, with one book down, one blog up...surrounded by empty jars of nutella


  1. Pingback: Lenten Devotion: Laughter | Congregational United Church of Christ, Ogden, Utah

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