Thursday, August 15, 2002

Jacob/Israel

· Jacob said to his father, "I am Esau your first-born…that you may give me your blessing." "Are you really my son Esau?" [Isaac] asked. "I am," he replied. Genesis 27:19, 24

· ...But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." The man asked him, "What is your name?" "Jacob," he answered. Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome." Genesis 32:26b-28

This so strikes me at this point in my life – in the earlier text (both are from the "J" or Yahwist) Jacob pretends to be other than the person God created him to be and all kinds of troubles result; in the second passage Jacob publicly claims the real identity God already has blessed him with and God gives him a new name with which to engage the world…interesting. Similar to God's speech to Job: "Where were you when I laid the foundations of this earth…when all the morning stars sang together and the children of God shouted for joy?" i.e., "Whose creation are you? Who has planned your life?" Only God creates life and gifts creation with life; only God can be trusted to fulfill life. After wrestling down by the riverside with the messenger of the LORD, Jacob is so changed he no longer imagines he can do anything on his own. Now Jacob trusts God, now Jacob trusts life is gift, life is grace! And both Jacob/Israel and God "win!" Our own home is in the fallen-ness as well as in the bounty of this created world. From our own struggles in the world, from our wrestlings with our own demons and with ourselves, our debilitating struggles with others' demands, expectations and definitions of us, just like Israel we finally signify our inability to sustain ourselves and are overwhelmed by grace. Like Jacob, we're disimagined of our own self-sufficiency, of imagining – imaging – we can be self-generated. The judgment, and the hope of the creative, redemptive, sanctifying Word is that we are not alone. That Word points us in the direction of Christ alone, the at Once risen and Crucified Once. Jesus shows us that our Creator makes Shekinah, dwelling-place with us. Jesus shows us that the Kingdom, Heaven, Salvation, Wholeness is within us and among us.

This is about Baptism!!!!!

Also, "The Ark," from Gerry Rafferty’s City to City, (1978)

See, the dark night has come down on us,
The world is living in its dream,
But now we know that we can wake up from this sleep,
And set out on the journey…
We’ll take the road that leads down to the waterside…
We’ll meet out on the water,
Where all strangers are known
The truth is there to set you free…

"River" so often in Scripture is boundary, border or barrier – for Israel, the Jordan was all three. As it was for Jesus, as it is for us. The early Church always baptized in the flowing water of a river. River of Life. The River of Life flowing from the Throne of God and of the Lamb. And what is the Throne of God? The Cross is God's Throne! As Christians we consider baptism so much more than a "little ritual." For Christians, baptism is a mighty Act of God. Maybe I've paraphrased J├╝rgen Moltmann's describing baptism as "sign, witness, representation and illumination of the Christ Event?" Paul says we’re baptized into Jesus' death and resurrection, marked with the sign of the cross and the sign of the empty tomb. Baptized we wear the marks of crucifixion and of resurrection. But paradox – the Christ Event is both finished and not yet. I wrote about the Eucharist as commemoration, realization and anticipation. Baptism is the same. Baptized into Christ, into Jesus' death and resurrection, which also is our own first death and second birth, we again experience the freedom and choice A-dam claimed as his birthright as the Creator's creation when he left the paradisiacal Eden. We are home where we always can be the persons God created us to be, connected with the Source of Life. Anew God names us, sharing our new name in common with our sisters and brothers. We baptize within the context of the gathered community, which represents the whole People of God. Baptism is the gift of life for which the recipients needs do nothing, though both sacraments demand human participation. Our new family: no longer strangers as the waters of the baptismal river embrace us all. Now we claim all the separations, distinctions and distractions that once were barriers as the boundary and border of our new life together!

Just as in baptism, in the unity and commonality of the eschatological Eucharistic feast, Jesus, as God's representative, gathers everyone. If Jesus, the host at the table, invites everyone without prejudice, who can be excluded? Only those who choose to exclude themselves. Jesus truly is present at the table, both as host and within and among his gathered people. Who are Jesus' people? Everyone. Not a single exception. Only those who choose to exclude themselves are excluded but I trust that ultimately, the free and gracious gifts of the Christ who promises to draw all to himself will prove irresistible.

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