The sordid tale of the rape of Dinah and the vengeance of her brothers. There is a lot going on here, though. Jacob, though he is favored by God, has certainly made some bad decisions leading up to this point. For one reason or another, he does not honor his words to his brother, going to Succoth instead of Se'ir and ultimately to the city of Shechem in the land of Canaan. In addition, he doesn't go where God told him to go. Finally, he apparently allows his daughter, Dinah, to go out to "visit the women of the land" without a suitable escort.
So, Dinah is kidnapped and raped by Shechem, who then asks his father to arrange their marriage (bass-ackwards...) For whatever reason, Jacob doesn't go out to meet Hamor about this, but allows his sons to work things out.
Here we have an example of protective brothers "getting even." Certainly what they do through deception and violence can not be justified, as it is totally out of proportion with the offense, punishing folks who had nothing to do with the affair. In addition, they full on disrespect their faith by using circumcision as a weapon of warfare. Jacob himself condemns their actions, but we still have to ask where he was during the whole thing.
It would seem that there is a lesson in here about going where God wants you to go. Jacob's family suffers from him deciding that he knew best what to do and where to go, rather than trusting in God. His reputation suffers as well. The silver lining, though, is that God follows Jacob where he goes, and calls him back. Similarly, even when we don't listen to God's will in our lives, he is always there to gently call us back to him.
As Jacob follows God's instructions, going to Bethel and ultimately to Mamre to bury his father with his brother, Rachel dies birthing Benjamin. It is interesting that she dies and is buried in Bethlehem. I wonder if this is significant somehow.
The famous Shepherd Psalm. My youngest son has a book which is a children's adaptation of this psalm which follows a sheep and its shepherd. He LOVES it. I think this one really speaks to our need to be comforted in times of need. It also speaks to the extravagant love of God, who sets a banquet for us in the sight of our foes. God always takes care of us, providing more than we need, even when we don't realize it. To trust God as the good shepherd is to place ourselves in the most capable care available.
Jesus is in full-on parable mode. We get the parable of good seed and weeds sown by the enemy, the parable of the mustard seed, and the parable of leaven. Matthew again points out that this fulfills a prophecy, and then the disciples ask in private for an explanation.
Certainly the parable showing the good seed oversown with weeds by the enemy is important today. We don't live our faith in a vacuum amongst saintly people. Rather, we grow side by side with weeds, and so we have an opportunity to affect them for the better, and to develop patience in dealing with them. Of course, we also can becorrupted and choked by the weeds if we are not vigilant. I seem to remember reading a quote from a saint about this matter...but it escapes me at the moment.
Here we begin to build the Creed. As such, we must begin at the beginning: "I believe in God." Without that premise, the rest of our faith has nothing to stand on. Without God, there is no creation...there is nothing. The idea that the universe spontaneously erupted into existence without any action goes against everything we know. The existence of our universe is the best evidence we have for God's existence, and truly is all we really need (though we can argue it from many other angles). In my opinion, beauty is God's greatest advocate. In every flower, in every blade of grass, in every leaf on every tree, in every perfectly made ant, and in every imperfect human being I see God's fingerprints, but perhaps only because I have eyes to see. And yet, the precision with which the universe works seems to contradict the idea that all that has come about is from random chance.
So we believe in God...one God...creator of heaven and earth.