By the time my German grandfather was old enough to get married, the prospect of marrying one of the daughters of the Swedish farmers from the neighboring town wasn’t off the table. While I don’t know much about their courtship, I can imagine both sets of grandparents suggesting, “why don’t you find a nice German girl, or Swedish boy, instead?” A couple years later my grandfather’s sister married my grandmother’s brother. The German Christs and the Swedish Nelsons seem to have started an intermarriage revolution in their northern Iowa community.
But go back just a generation, and there are many examples when a bachelor farmer would “send back for a bride from the old country.” Maybe you have a story like this in your family? As we learn more about our immigrant neighbors, it’s not surprising to hear similar stories of family origin stories that still involve returning to a homeland to find a partner and then build life together in a foreign land that is now home.
This Sunday our story moves on from Sarah & Abraham and their son Isaac to Isaac’s son Jacob. It’s unfortunate that we don’t get to explore the story more deeply of Isaac’s life, how he becomes married to Rebekah, and they raise not only Jacob but Jacob’s older brother, Esau, as well. Is this starting to jog your memory? Find some time to read in Genesis chapters 24-27 and you’ll capture more of Jacob’s backstory and how the next grand patriarch of the faith started his journey in conflict, with the assistance of an often over-looked grand matriarch.
Abraham and Sarah had followed God to the land of the Canaanites, the home promised by God and the place they would establish a new nation. After Sarah died, the immigrant Abraham “send back for a bride from the old country” so that their son Isaac might have a wife. This is how Rebekah enters the story. Rebekah leaves her family and builds a life together with Isaac in a foreign land that is now the home that God has promised. The sons she mothers into the world set the stage for all that is to follow.
Take some time today to think about the immigrant mothers in our midst who are shaping our shared futures through the love and care they pour into their families. There is no shortage of news about immigrants here and around the world for us to consider. There are challenges and hardships to overcome, just as there are possibilities uncovered and joys realized. May we be blessed by their stories.
May God’s peace find you this day. -Pastor Peter
Let us pray…
Gracious God, we thank you for the gift of families. We are grateful for all of the joy and love that they bring into our lives, and we ask that you provide special protection for all families, particularly those who face hardships as they move in search of a better life. Show mercy to those who travel in danger, and lead them to a place of safety and peace. Comfort those who are alone and afraid because their families have been torn apart by violence and injustice. Open our hearts so that we may provide hospitality for all who come in search of refuge. Give us the courage to welcome every stranger as Christ in our midst. We ask this through Jesus, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.
(adapted from “Prayer for Migrant Families,” US Conference of Catholic Bishops)