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Generic Christians or Disciples?

Genesis 24:10-21;  Matthew 9:35-38

As soon as I graduated as a schoolteacher, I got a phone call from a high school sponsored by the YMCA in Buenos Aires – to teach Social Studies and Ethics. I was barely 19 years old, and in those days, believe me, I was the shyest of all the kids on the block. Now, most of those high schoolers were ladies, and some of them got my attention right away – yet I was there to teach Ethics, remember?

Just a few days after my debut as a high school teacher, and as we were discussing the pros and cons of dancing – this was a “Christian” institution, after all — one the young ladies asked me point blank: “Teacher, are you the romantic type? If so, how romantic? Very? Just a little? Not at all?”

It goes without saying –I blushed all over — itchy, painful tongues of fire roasting me to the core like a chicken alla spiedo. Regrettably, I don’t remember what, if anything, I dared to respond.

Thanks be given to God that over time I learned to un-shy some, so if you asked me the same question today, I might say, “Kind of.” And I might add, “Enough as to enjoy a good story about the way two people connect and fall in love, to be sure.

Which is what happened with Rebekah and Isaac, here in our own Bibles!


Once upon a time, Abraham was getting old and feeling very lonely after the passing of his adored wife, Sarah. Very lonely, but also very upset that his son Isaac – by then 37 years-old — was still a bachelor, which meant that Abraham would eventually die without grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

I suspect Abraham ended up believing that God had miscalculated, for God had promised him children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren enough to build a new nation from scratch! Which explains Abraham’s new hobby –matchmaking! In fact, for three years he obsessed with finding a suitable wife for Isaac, yet nothing seemed to work.

Abraham had very good connections, but apparently, he was not happy with the local prospects right there where he was living, in Cannan, in present-day Israel. Far away from his own motherland in present-day Syria, and the Canaanites didn’t care much for Abraham’s God.

So, one day he decided to try his matchmaking luck back home where he was born and raised, some 400 miles away from Canaan. He instructed his loyal servant Eliezer to go out such a long distance, and once there, to find a suitable wife for Isaac. The very best candidate he could find — righteous to the point of being kind and generous and compassionate like no one else.


Eliezer’s mighty caravan, with several servants, 10 camels, and valuable gifts to secure the ideal spouse, finally hit the road — 435 miles, no less! Imagine –from here in Buckeystown all the way to Boston, or to some 30 miles beyond Charlotte, North Carolina – on a camel’s back! Since a camel can average 25 miles a day, they must have spent at least 17 days on the desert assuming everything went as planned.

Exhausted and thirsty, the caravan eventually arrived at a spring outside a small town. The women in that town used to go to the spring to fetch water for their homes or their masters’ homes. And here is where Rebekah enters the picture, for she was right there by the well when Eliezer’s caravan arrived.

And when Eliezer asked her for some water for himself and his servants, Rebekah, of all the ladies around the well, gladly obliged. But before Eliezer said anything about his thirsty camels, the young lady spoke the “magic” words Eliezer needed to hear from the woman God had chosen for Isaac. Those words were like a password. “Sir, I will draw water for your camels too.”


Just in case you are wondering, giving water to a thirsty camel is not an easy task –imagine giving water to 10 thirsty camels! A thirsty camel after a long journey will drink between 20 and 30 gallons of water. Unless she got some help, Rebekah must have spent several hours collecting some 300 gallons of water for those ugly creatures.

In the meantime, according to the storyteller Eliezer “kept gazing at her in silence”.

He was astounded that Rebekah was willing to do so much even though they were strangers, even though he had not even requested such a favor, even though she had no obligation whatsoever.

“What a kind and generous and compassionate woman she must be,” Eliezer thought. “After so much matchmaking during three whole years, my boss will be thrilled.”


In a situation like that, I would have simply said to Eliezer, “Buddy, there you have the buckets, help yourself, and write a check for the water!” But Rebekah was a very different kind of soul, for she didn’t mind at all to go for a “second mile,” that little extra distance that can make a big difference to others, and to God as well.

That short, yet meaningful difference that separates a “generic” Christian from a “genuine disciple.”

Christians by name, on the one hand. On the other, Christians by His Name!

The same attitude we always find in Jesus and in all the people around us who do their very best to live like Jesus lived every day. Have you ever wondered how often Jesus went that extra mile moved by compassion?

Quite often exhausted, hungry, thirsty, even fed up with people’s negative, nasty, thoughts and provocations, bullies all over. Yet always literally moved to compassion the moment he realized the spiritual as well as the material needs of both ordinary folks and extraordinary multitudes.

Very much like Rebekah in this love story, the Jesus we follow across Palestine is always anticipating the need, being joyfully proactive, ready to give the very best of himself even if that means an extra mile.


Do we ever ask ourselves, wouldn’t our lives be richer and more rewarding if we just dare to walk a second mile whether at home, or at school, in our jobs, even here as members of this congregation?

The way I see it, Rebekah’s compassion for those thirsty men – and those thirsty camels — points precisely to God’s own attitude day and night: graciously on the alert, always on call, so ready to meet our needs without reservations, even if that means to go an extra mile at three in the morning.

“Here I am,” says Rebekah to the strangers by the well, “I will take care of your thirst and also the thirst of your camels no matter all my other chores, how long it may take me, how tired I may be at the end of the day.”

Such is the measure of a gracious disciple, of someone willing to go the extra mile because that’s how they have experienced in their own lives the wideness of God’s mercy.


Friends, this story has a very happy ending – after a little while Rebekah left everything familiar and joined Eliezer’s caravan all the way to Abraham’s place in Canaan, where he and Isaac were anxiously waiting for the woman who would fulfill their dreams.

Hear the storyteller!

Isaac went out for an evening walk, and he saw camels coming, and when Rebekah saw him, she slipped quickly from her camel and asked Eliezer, “Who is that man over there walking in the field to meet us?” “It is my master Isaac,” Eliezer said, “[your husband to be],” so she covered herself with her veil, and Eliezer told Isaac everything that had happened. Then Isaac invited Rebekah to her tent, and they got married, and he loved her forever.”

The moment old, cranky Abraham met Rebekah, he welcomed her as his own daughter –and all his anxiety, all his matchmaking disappointments went away. Over time Rebekah and Isaac fulfilled Abraham’s dream – and God’s promise — that they would give birth to a nation as big and wide as the sky with all its stars.


Friends, early in our service we prayed for our children and their families, and specially for their teachers, that this may be yet another wonderful and empowering school year. As you all know, school requires so many extra miles from everybody involved, and specially from our teachers, for their job could never be fully done without that extra pinch of compassion and generosity they usually shine forth day after day.

How much we enjoy and treasure those families and those teachers that always strive to go beyond “generic,” to be “special” and “genuine.”

May the Holy Spirit of God inspire in us the same attitude of generosity and compassion he inspired in Rebekah, one of the greatest women in the Bible, and in so many others to this day.

For the harvest is quite huge and demanding, and the Risen Christ needs “true disciples,” not “generic” Christians.