I recently became painfully aware that my first name is an archetype – a one-word description of an entitled, middle-aged white woman who doesn't hesitate to complain. Apparently, being "a Karen" also embodies the friend that everybody has, but nobody likes. So, although I am Karen, I really hope I'm not "a Karen."
Today's reading from the Psalms is the first eight verses of an epic poem recounting Jewish history and God's faithfulness to the Israelites. Psalm 78:7-8 reads, "So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands. Then they will not be like their ancestors – stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful, refusing to give their hearts to God." This saga devotes time to listing Israel's failures, with the hope that future generations would make better choices. Imagine sitting around the dinner table, recounting stories from your family's past. There would hopefully be lots of wonderful memories to recount, and beloved family members to remember. But there would probably also be some painful stories and difficult family members. I think every family has "a Karen."
Our Old Testament passage tells of Jeroboam. Jeroboam was king of the Northern Kingdom, and like many of Israel's kings, is remembered for his failures of leadership. He installed two golden calves and instructed his citizens to worship them instead of journeying to the temple in Jerusalem. Jeroboam made very poor choices and the consequences of those wreaked havoc on his family and on his subjects. Stories of Jeroboam around the dinner table would be stories of the ancestor you didn't want.
Contrast Jeroboam to Paul, the subject of our New Testament reading. Paul listened intently to God, keen on serving him no matter the cost. His missionary journeys spread God's love to the Gentiles, and eventually, a millennia later, to us. His choices left a legacy of lives influenced for Jesus. Every family would like to claim this man.
Each day we can choose for God, or we can choose for ourselves. This day, I urge you to choose for God. He will guide you to make choices that are best for you and those you love. Choose well, live well, and please, don't be "a Karen."
Elder, wife, mother and grandmother to two massive dogs!