50 | 40 | 10 | Devotions Series: March 18, 2020 – Rev. Carla Nelson
Devotions for the week of: March 18, 2020
Genesis 30:14-24 (NRSV)
In the days of wheat harvest Reuben went and found mandrakes in the field and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” But she said to her, “Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son’s mandrakes also?” Rachel said, “Then he may lie with you tonight for your son’s mandrakes.” When Jacob came from the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him, and said, “You must come in to me; for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he lay with her that night. And God heeded Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son. Leah said, “God has given me my hire because I gave my maid to my husband”; so she named him Issachar. And Leah conceived again, and she bore Jacob a sixth son. Then Leah said, “God has endowed me with a good dowry; now my husband will honor me, because I have borne him six sons”; so she named him Zebulun. Afterwards she bore a daughter and named her Dinah. Then God remembered Rachel, and God heeded her and opened her womb. She conceived and bore a son, and said, “God has taken away my reproach”; and she named him Joseph, saying, “May the Lord add to me another son!”
I hear the word “mandrakes” and the picture that pops to my mind is from Harry Potter: a garden nursery full of screaming plants, cultivated for powders made from the root thought to restore a petrified life. Truth be told, mandrake plants, when pulled from the ground, do have oddly shaped roots eerily human in their appearance. So, in the ancient world where medicine and myth were often woven together, mandrake plants were believed to have curative powers that revived life especially to wombs which seemed dead. In addition, the mandrake plant had a delicate flower, gave off a unique aroma and the fruit, which was about the size of a nutmeg seed, was bright orange and nicknamed “love apples.”
It doesn’t take much to imagine a young Reuben, first born of Leah, strolling into camp with his treasure of mandrakes and presenting them to his mother, much like a child returning with a fistful of dandelions. His mother and his aunt, Rachel, both knew the child’s bounty might provide powerful medicine for those hoping to conceive. Both sisters had fertility concerns – Leah with secondary infertility, and Rachel had not been able to conceive. That day a deal between the two sisters was struck. And, we are left wondering whether it was the mandrakes or if it was the rocky relationship between the two sisters that healed a bit. Scripture tells us, “God heeded” and “God remembered” and both women bore children.
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women in the Lutheran Church, the 40th anniversary of the ordination of woman of color in the Lutheran Church, and the 10th anniversary of the ordination of LGBTQIA+2S in the Lutheran Church, this Bible story may have been chosen to explore the complicated relationship between the two sisters. But it was the mandrakes that captured my minds’ eye. This Lent, maybe we should be on the lookout for something like them, and not the powdered potions that restore petrified people. Instead, be reminded of the mystical mind-blowing relationship we have with our God who walks with us through Christ.
Gracious God, help us to recognize what we already have in our midst – Christ Jesus, a mighty savior who restores life and revives us. Amen.
Pastor Carla Nelson
Roseni and Union Creek Lutheran Churches
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