- He has a new name. No longer the childish prankster, now the adult struggler.
- He is crippled, and now must walk with a limp.
- He has a new resolve – a new quality of faith.
Readings and stuff for Sunday (Oct 17)
This Sunday is Consecration Sunday, so there will be two services, at 7:45 and 10:00, followed by a parish-wide brunch. Also, no Sunday School this Sunday.
Many names have literal meanings. My name, for example ("Timothy") is derived from the Greek. time in Greek means "to honor"; theos means God. time-theos means "to honor God". All-in-all, not a bad name for a clergyman to have.
In the Bible, many of the Hebrew names have literal meanings. the Hebrew word beth means "house", so Beth-Israel literally means "house of Israel" – that's why so many synagogues have that name. the word bar or ben means "son". So the name "Barabbas" (he was the insurrectionist who was released instead of Jesus) really means "son of the father". Some scholars think that when the crowd called out "give us Barabbas", they were actually calling for Jesus to be released.
In our reading from the Hebrew Scripture this Sunday, we find Jacob (a name which literally means "a usurper" or even "mischief-maker") having his name changed to Israel, which literally is translated as "God-wrestler".
Jacob is one of the most interesting characters in the bible. He has a long and not very honorable history. Hi was the twin brother of Esau, and when they were being born, he tried to grab Esau's heel to beat him out of the womb, thus being the first-born son, and inheritor of the father's blessing (the first-born's birthright). But Esau got out first, so years later Jacob disguised himself as his older brother and tricked his father into giving him the birthright instead of Esau.
What a guy – and this is only one of many such episodes.
This Sunday's story is Jacob's mid-life crisis. He is fleeing with all his possessions from Laban (that's yet another story!). His brother Esau is waiting for him across the valley with blood in his eye. He stashes his family and goods across the river for safe-keeping. And now he sits alone in the desert wondering what's going to happen to him. Well, not quite alone. All night long he struggles (literally "wrestles") with a mysterious stranger. Is it God, an angel, his guilty conscience?? We are never explicitly told.
What we do know is that Jacob is changed forever.
He crosses the plain to meet his brother. He no longer is interested in tricking him or trying to run away from what lies in front of him. Now he resolutely marches forward to meet it, whatever it may mean (and that's Faith – with a capital F). To his surprise, his older brother rushes forward to embrace him and give him a kiss. they are reunited and a new chapter in the life of Jacob/Israel begins.
This is good stuff.
God bless, Tim