Enough is enough

Jul. 27, 2014

Gen. 29.15-28; Rm 8.26-39; Mt 13.31-33, 44-52

I heard a story that's strange enough to be true, and it involves a divorce attorney whose curiosity was raised when a woman of considerable age walked into his office and inquired about filing for a divorce. The attorney discovered that she was eighty-three years young. And he asked her, "Well, if you're 83, how old is your husband?" She said, "He's 85 and we've been married since we were kids." The lawyer said, "Madam, I have to tell you this just doesn't happen very often. Why in the world are you filing for a divorce after all these years of marriage?" She looked him and said, "Because enough is enough."

More than one person has made the observation, that family can be overwhelming and mostly we don't get much choice about family membership. The tragedy of that realization often escapes us until the holidays come, and we all get everybody under one roof, and things are said and done that often spell r-e-g-r-e-t. Consider the scriptures today. One wonders about ol' Laban, Jacob's father-in-law in the OT reading today. He personifies the rule that one should never buy a car from a family member, because it will end badly, especially if your in-laws are as manipulative as Laban, who is the very definition of "conniving" and "scheming".

He told Jacob, "It isn't right that you should work for nothing, being a kinsperson, so what can I give you in return for your work? ....my daughter? Sure! No problem...take your pick." But then Laban switched the older daughter for the younger one contrary to their agreement, Laban justified it, the oldest should marry first. And so he put Leah into Jacob's tent instead of Rachael ...no problem, according to Laban, you just work another seven years! Genesis kindly observes that Leah, the older daughter had beautiful eyes (and we should probably add that she had a great personality too). Who would you rather go on a blind date with? The one described as having beautiful eyes or her sister, Rachael who was described as "graceful and beautiful"...ouch!

Later in the Genesis story, Laban told Jacob that he could have all the black sheep that were born, but when God made most of the newborn sheep black, Laban changed the rules and said, "OK, only the multicolored ones will be yours!" And strangely, when many newborn sheep were born multicolored (which almost never happens in nature), Laban changed the rules again. Finally, when Jacob had had enough, he sneaked off with his wives and children in the middle of the night to escape this unfortunate relationship. But how do we get to that? How do we decide when enough is enough?

Well, St Paul says that the Spirit of God helps us to know...because he says, "We don't (even) know how to pray, but the Spirit intercedes" to help us. And Paul adds, therefore, "nothing can separate us from the love of God" or God's care or God's guidance. God helps us know when enough is enough. I have family members who are "born again" and for them their relationship with God is about power. Here's an example. A year of so ago, when a tropical storm blew up in the Gulf, and the storm was headed for the panhandle of Florida where they live, as often happens with tropical storms, it turned and headed to the Mississippi coast at the last minute. It turned out to be just a rain event, but my in-laws said to me, "I guess our prayers were stronger than yours"...ouch again! The amazing thing to me is that God is with us whatever side of the storm we're on. And as all of us pursue our own individual needs and goals it's easy for us to try to bend God to fulfill our particular needs, even if it wounds our neighbors or friends. We try to manipulate God and get God to adjudicate for us...we ask God to change the rules to suit our needs. I don't want to be too tough on my in-laws or anyone who wishes to claim power over the world in the name of God, but I just hope we can apply our judgments as mercifully and humbly as Jesus taught us, so we can navigate to the truth about ourselves and the Kingdom of God. But recognizing this truth can be tough. It's said that the Jews don't recognize Jesus. Protestants don't recognize the Pope. And Baptists don't recognize each other in the liquor store. And if the world shapes our vision of the Kingdom, we won't recognize it either.

Jesus describes the Kingdom of God in the gospel today. Yes, it seems small like a mustard seed...but God's Kingdom is universal. Yes, it's like yeast that makes the whole world rise with enrichment. And yes, God's Kingdom is a precious treasure that makes everyone rich who seeks it. But the Kingdom is primarily about the rule of God.

Sometimes there just aren't enough or the right words to fully describe God's Kingdom...true, it's a treasure, or a pearl of great price, yes, it's all this and so much more, but we'll miss it all, if we want God to change the rules to meet our whims. How many times have I asked God not to let it rain on my picnic while the parched earth begs for a drink? Have we not offered powerful prayers that our team would win and the other team be thrown down to defeat? When will we say, "Enough" and walk into God's peaceable Kingdom where there aren't winners or losers. When will we journey to the that place where everyone belongs. It's a place where we're all family and we all belong at the table. It's a place where we don't have to manipulate to get what we need and where the needs of others are respected and cherished. R-E-G-R-E-T isn't found in that place, just thanksgiving and joy. Maybe it's time for all of us to look at the world of war and strife, discrimination and segregation, dishonesty and manipulation, and divorce ourselves from this world and claim God's Kingdom as the place where we want to live and be. It's a choice we can make. It's a life we can live. We take the first steps toward it when we turn from this old world of winners and losers, and just say, "Enough is enough." Amen.

The Reverend WA Ray
St Thomas Church, Diamondhead, MS