Sermon for December 4, 2022 Second of Advent “The gift of Rahab”
Thanks to Joanna Harader and her Advent devotions “Expecting Emmanuel, Eight Women Who Prepared the Way”.
You may be familiar with the old song ‘the walls of Jericho came tumblin’ down’. Well that is part of the story of Rahab. Depending on how you read the story she is either a heroic, courageous and faithful woman who risks her life to protect the lives of the Israelites she chooses to side with because she believes in the power of their God. Or a tragic story of how the selfish and calculating Rahab partakes in the genocide of her people. The truth may lay somewhere in the middle.
It may be helpful to get the one big truth about Rahab out there right at the beginning. She is a prostitute. And yet in all the texts relating to her in scripture she is heralded as a hero (Joshua, James and Hebrews). It forces us to do a bit of a rethink on who can actually be a hero. In this case a woman who in her day and ours is frowned upon.
Rahab is part of the community of Jericho but has also turned her heart to the teachings of the God of Israel. The spies can talk to her freely because of her occupation and for the same reason the leading men of Jericho leave her alone. So in an odd twist of fate Rahab has the perfect location to harbour spies.
Joshua does attack the city, the walls fall, the homes looted and the city burned. I know it is not an inviting image for the second Sunday of Advent when peace is the theme. In all the mayhem of the days what holds true for Rahab, the spies and Joshua is that they all keep true to their word. Rahab keeps the plans of Joshua secret and Joshua ensures Rahab and her family are safe.
The unusual nature of the inclusion of Rahab is that she is a woman, a prostitute, a traitor or hero and is named. Whereas the men in the story are unnamed. And as I mentioned earlier, her heroic deeds are named in James and Hebrews.
For our day and especially in this season of babies, families, angels and stars, Rahab reminds us that families come in many forms. The single, families, couples with no children, families with children from others, couples of the same sex and couples from different ethnic or belief backgrounds. All families are welcome in the household of God.
There is also a reminder that the witness and work of God can come in ways of people we never imagined. The one we walk by or pass opinion on may very well be the one chosen by God. It is a reminded that is God who does the calling. And over the years God has done a great job of picking the right people for the right time and place.
For Rahab the words ‘I am the Lord your God, who delivered the people Israel, who lead them from captivity to freedom’ would not have been familiar. But they rang true for her, she wanted to know more about this God of Israel. She wanted to follow this God…and she did. It is a reminder in our day that to many the words ‘and unto you is born this day, in the city of David, one who is the prince of peace’ do not hold meaning or sway. We never know when those words will change a heart, so we keep on saying them. And that the Spirit so familiar to us, can also work in those who do not believe. Part of the gift of Rahab is knowing when to speak our truth and knowing when to be silent and allow Spirit to touch the hearts of those who have not heard. Part of the gift is knowing that in all our imperfectness, God has named, chosen and called you, with your particular and even unusual skills for the work of the kingdom.
I would like to leave you with part of Rahab’s blessing from Joanna Harader: “For all who have been there (or for wherever you have been). I offer this blessing as a bright crimson cord to disrupt destruction; When you are pushed to the edges, may you insist on your own story with such grit and grace that they have no choice but to tell it. When you are far from center, may you know the power and freedom that God grants to those on the margins. When you face impossible choices, may you act with integrity and courage, resting in the shield of God’s grace. When other dismiss you with a label, may you claim your deep identity as a beloved child of the creator.