Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Insisting on a Blessing

22The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 24Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” 27So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” 29Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” 31The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

Here is Jacob-- Scoundrel Extraordinaire, but Scoundrel who has recently been schooled in the ways of the world, possibly to his growth and maturing-- and he is waiting for his brother to come and clobber him. Esau has a grudge and an army and a target, and that target is Jacob. Esau hasn't gotten over that blessing-stealing thing. He's mad. He's serious.

And here's Jacob, waiting to get his just desserts. (He's sent the wimmin and children off to safety, to his credit.) And... along comes this mysterious stranger, this man, who challenges Jacob to an all-night wrestling match.

Sounds like two things to me. One, it sounds like fear. Wrestling all night, not being able to let go, worrying a problem half to death. Sounds like something I remember from various times in my life. Sounds like something I remember from yesterday... that, Uh oh. Here it is. Can't go over it, can't go under it... you know the drill.

The other thing it sounds like is... Esau. It occurs to me, perhaps the older brother has come by cover of night to challenge the upstart. It reminds me a little of the wedding in which Leah is substituted for Rachel. Is the angel substituted for Esau, or Esau for the angel?

Years ago I heard someone use verse 26 (b) to describe feminist biblical scholarship: the determination to struggle with the text until it gives a blessing. It strikes me that should and could describe the LGBTQ approach to the text as well. The blessing is there for us. We may walk away limping, but, by God, we will walk away blessed.


Unknown said...

I like your thoughts. I found a painting in which the angel and Jacob feel (if not look) like twins to me. I may not be preaching on this text, but I love thinking about it anyway. I'm forever wrestling myself half to death...

Cecilia said...

Ah! I think we were commenting on one another's posts simultaneously!

Pax, C.

Jan said...

I especially like this challenge: "the determination to struggle with the text until it gives a blessing. "

Choralgrrl said...

Amen, Sister! :-)

Julie said...

Great thoughts we should all struggle over scripture and I think the LGBTQ has something great to teach the entire church in particular.

wisdomteachesme said...

thank you for this different way to see this.

very interesting. yes it would be good to open all the closed eyes. and maybe they would see they have blessings piled up high.

be well