Meditation on Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Pastor Karen Crawford
Outdoor Worship with The Presbyterian Church
July 5, 2020
He was movie star handsome. She was two weeks older than him and he never let her forget it.
Paul Hunt met Wilma Spring in the 7th grade at Coshocton Junior High. Wilma saw him out on the playground. He had on a goofy hat with flaps on the sides, and he was on his bicycle. Wilma told one of her friends, “I don’t know who that boy is, but I am going to marry him someday.” In 8th grade, when she walked into homeroom, there he sat. He saw her and liked her, too. Right off the bat. After lunch, she was hanging out with her friends. Paul, with his very distinctive gait, wearing engineer boots, started to saunter past. And Wilma said, “Oh, Paul, there’s an empty seat right next to me.” He sat down and that was it.
Paul and Wilma’s love story had God’s hand all over it. She was “from the other side of the railroad tracks,” she says, “and Paul’s family belonged to the country club.” They dated on and off, going to dances and Saturday matinees. By the time they got to be juniors in high school, there were other girls that had their eyes on Paul. Gretchen told all the girls that if they so much as looked at Paul she would scratch their eyes out. “I didn’t pay one bit of attention to her,” Wilma says. “I always thought he was special. I found myself comparing him to other guys. Nobody else ever measured up.”
They graduated from Coshocton High in 1957. Wilma got a job while Paul went off to the College of Wooster. She saw him on weekends and enjoyed attending dances with him at Wooster, staying up all night in the dorm with the girls. Yet, she was dating other people, too. She didn’t know that Paul knew she was seeing other guys. Until one day, when he confronted her. She was going to have to make up her mind. Was she going to be with him or not?
“From then on,” she says. “I was.”
The engagement ring came at Christmas. Paul graduated from college in 1961 and found out that he was going to be drafted. He enlisted in the Army so that he might choose his vocation. They were separated again, and this time, it was too far to come home on weekends. He was stationed at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana.
The Rev. Harold Kaser married them on July 1, 1962, in our chapel. It was a hot day, and the chapel didn’t have air conditioning. They began their marriage in a rented home off base in Lawrence, Indiana. “I thought he was taking me off to the end of the earth,” she says. “I had never been away from home.”
They did return to Coshocton in 1964 and their love story continued, with raising three children together and numerous stray cats. On July 1, they would have celebrated 58 years of marriage, but Paul went home to be with the Lord on June 29. He was 81.
The love story between Isaac and Rebekah in Genesis 24 is different than Paul and Wilma’s, but also has God’s hand all over it. Not just anyone would do for Abraham and Sarah’s son, born 25 years after God first spoke his promise to the barren couple. Sarah, by now, had passed. And Abraham didn’t want Isaac to marry one of the local, Canaanite girls. Only kin would do for Abraham, who, when he married Sarai, was marrying his niece. Abraham may have been 120 or more when he entrusted his eldest, most loyal and faithful servant to go and find a match for his son. If the girl weren’t willing to leave her family to come to Canaan, then she wasn’t the right one for Isaac. This was the land that God had promised to his descendants, who would number the stars.
The servant set off with a caravan of camels, servants, and gifts from his master’s wealth to offer the bride and family. He headed for Aram-naharaim, to the city of Nahor, Abraham’s brother. The servant’s meeting of the beautiful young Rebekah was at a well, where all the daughters of the town would come to draw water. Wells were often the meeting place for young men and women. Isaac and Rebekah’s son, Jacob, will meet and fall in love with Rachel at a well. Moses, in Exodus, will meet Zipporah, his bride to be, at a well, too.
Abraham’s servant seeks God’s help for this divinely appointed errand, praying specifically that the one who would grant him a drink and offer to water his camels would be the one God has chosen for Isaac. When Rebekah does these things, the servant gives her jewelry, which, weighing more than 4 ounces, would be worth thousands of dollars today! He asks not her name but whose daughter she is and if there is room in her father’s house for him to stay the night. Rebekah is Abraham’s great niece.
Rebekah’s brother, Laban, and their father, Bethuel, see the jewelry, hear the story, and declare, “this thing is of the Lord.” But they don’t make the decision for Rebekah. They ask her if she will go with the man. Rebekah assents to marriage to Isaac when she says, “I will.”
The meeting of Rebekah and Isaac takes place in the evening after a long journey on camels. It is love at first sight, like Wilma and Paul, though the courtship is much shorter. He is walking in the field, looks up and sees her and she looks up and sees him. She asks, “Who is that man over there, walking in the field to meet us?” It’s Isaac. She covers herself demurely with a veil.
There’s no chapel wedding for Abraham’s only son. Bringing Rebekah into his late mother’s tent is akin to tying the knot. They live happily ever after, though they do have a complicated family life—and some struggles raising twin boys. You can read their story, beginning in Genesis 25.
Isaac and Rebekah’s story stirs the question, “Is God, the Creator of all, in the business of matchmaking?” Yes, I believe so, though I wouldn’t go as far to say that every marriage is a match made in heaven. We do make choices, as Rebekah did.
We always have a choice in our relationship with the Lord. God reaches out with love, beckons us to come to him, offers to carry our heavy burdens and give us rest in his yoke, trusting him to guide us all our days. But it’s up to us to respond to the Lord’s love for us and continue to seek him to have a relationship, as Abraham’s faithful servant does in Genesis 24.
Our Triune God is all about relationships. Jesus prays in John 17:21 that all of his followers “may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” The Lord accomplishes his transformation of all Creation and his plan for salvation through relationships.
Our baptism, if you think about it, is a meeting at the well. He lovingly claims us as his own and pours His Spirit into us, giving us gifts to last a lifetime. Like Wilma and Rebekah, and Jim and me, we end up traveling to places we never thought we would go–for the love of God poured into us to pour out on the world.
We, too, are matchmakers. Our job is to bring people together—make disciples and change the world through relationships we create and nurture, as we follow the Lord.
It’s been hard for us, separated in our homes since March. But the Spirit continues to use us to bring people together and nurture relationships, a holy work. We are learning, through all that we do to try to help our community stay safe from the virus, that we live not for ourselves but for one another.
Our love story goes on.
Let us pray. Loving God, thank you for pouring your Spirit into our hearts and sending us out into the world to create and nurture relationships. Help us, Lord, in this time of separation, to grow in love and service to you and our neighbors and be patient until it is your time for us to worship as a congregation in person again. Use us for your holy work as you transform us into your new Creation. Heal our community, Lord, and make us united and whole. We submit ourselves and our lives to you, once again. Please carry our burdens for us. Give us the peace and rest of your yoke. In Christ we pray. Amen.