Psalm 18:46-50; Genesis 32:22-33:20; Matthew 12:22-32

Susan and I played SMLC hooky yesterday and went to hear Brian McLaren (A New Kind of Christianity, Naked Spirituality) speak on the blessing of Epiphany which shatters our assumptions about God as it shatters our world. at LOPC.  Memorable lines: “Jesus is a master at spiritual whiplash,”  and “No human being has ever had a thought about God that is better than He actually is.”  Definitely a RH/RN sermon.

 Psalm 18:46-50  This long psalm of praise winds up with recapitulating the theme of God as rescuer: “…blessed is my Rock,/ exalted the God of my rescue,” and ends on a note of both rescue God’s incredible faithfulness:

“And to Your name I would hymn,
making great the rescues of His king,
keeping faith with His anointed,
for David and his seed forever.”

I do not reflect sufficiently on how God has rescued me, which of course is the issue of salvation.  Lutherans talk about how Christ has come to us, which is indeed exactly how it happens, but unlike some other denominations, we do not often consider the perilous state from which we are rescued by Jesus’ grace. Or what it really means to be lost without hope. This psalm beautifully reiterates over and over David’s peril in the shadow of his enemies and his gratitude for God’s rescuing faithfulness.

Genesis 32:22-33:20  To me, the story of Jacob wrestling with “a man” (as Alter translates it) is one of the most enigmatic, yet perfectly symbolic stories in Genesis.  In one sense, it’s a culmination of Jacob’s life story: he has been wrestling all his life since the moment he grabbed Esau’s heel coming out of the womb.  He wrestled away Esau’s birthright, and has wrestled constantly with Laban.  His talent for negotiation is a form of wrestling.  And now it culminates in what is physical wrestling ending in a dislocated hip.  This is no dream; this is the apotheosis of his life. The mysterious man/ messenger from God renames Jacob, “Israel, for you have striven with God and men, and won out'” (32:3)  Jacob’s point of view is is rather different: it is not about having “won,” but that hesimply  survived, as he names “the place Peniel, meaning, ‘I have seen God face to face and I came out alive.'” (32:31)

And we see in Jacob a new humility; he is a changed man, as is Esau.  For me, the reconciliation of Jacob and Esau is one of the most tender stories in the OT.  The negotiating Jacob has been replaced by the generous Israel: “Pray, take my blessing that has been brought you, for God has favored me and I have everything.” (33:11)  Jacob’s statement, “I have everything” implies much more than wealth and even his family.  It is that he has been (literally) transformed by God and is now reconciled with his brother.

God has given him blessing upon blessing.  The real blessings human relationships and above all, a firm relationship with God–worked out by wrestling with God.  As indeed we must do also.  No real relationship–be it with God or with others– can be established and grow without wrestling.

Matthew 12:22-32  We do not give sufficient credit to Jesus as rational logician.  The accusation of the Pharisees that Jesus’ healing is of the devil in inherently self-contradictory, and Jesus makes this abundantly clear.  Equally crucial, Jesus lays out the binary reality of the Kingdom of God: Either you’re for it or you’re against it.  You’re in it or you’re out of it. There is no middle ground.  Yet, I have spent great portions of my life attempting to live in that non-existent middle place between the Kingdom of God and the various earthly kingdoms, trying to have it both ways.

You’d think for a guy who has spent most of his life dealing with electronics that operates only because of binary arithmetic that I’d have figured that out before now.

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