Blessing and Promise
Thursday, January 3, 2013 -- 10th Day of Christmas (Year One)
William Passavant, Prophetic Witness, 1894
[Go to http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]
Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 940)
Psalms 68 (morning) // 72 (evening)
The setting is grave. By plotting with his mother, Jacob has stolen his father's blessing and inheritance intended for the first born, his brother Esau. Jacob has planted enmity within his family. Esau plans to murder him out of revenge. So Jacob must leave, traveling far away to find a wife among their family's former home.
It's a mess. Created by bad intention. The family is broken apart. A brother wants to kill a brother. Exile and uncertainty face Jacob. In that context, this scheming, ambitious young man dreams.
A ladder connects earth to heaven, and the God of his ancestors blesses Jacob -- "your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, ...and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land..."
Blessing and promise. The intimacy of divine presence. A life that will be meaningful and a blessing to others. If one has that foundation, there is strength to meet the uncertainty of the future; there is release that heals the checkered past.
Jacob memorializes this experience. He anoints a stone and names the place "House of God." He makes a somewhat self-centered vow to God -- "If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God." Jacob is always a pretty tough negotiator for his own good.
His liturgy is complete when he offers something of himself which symbolizes his offering of worship and acknowledgment of God. "And of all that you give me I will surely give one-tenth to you." It is his self-offering of recognition that his blessing comes from God. It is a sacramental sign of his thanksgiving and obedience. It is also implied that the more God bless Jacob with wealth the more God will get back from Jacob.
Years later Jacob will return to face his past. By that time he will be blessed indeed -- a large family and great wealth. On the night before he is to face his brother Esau, and the possibility of death from his brother's hands, Jacob will have a similar dream. He will wrestle with God and prevail. He will be blessed again and be given the name Israel. Then he will find peace with his brother.
We can see our own lives in Jacob's life. Who has not created some mess, enmity and chaos. Who has not been afraid when faced with the awful consequences of our bad choices. Yet even within our checkered pasts, we are invited to strike out in pilgrimage. We are given God's blessing and promise. God has promised to be with us, especially in Christ -- Immanuel / God-is-with-us. We are called to be a blessing to the world and to trust God for our daily bread. We symbolize this in liturgy, in our prayers at the "House of God" and in our self-offerings (this is one of the origins of the tithe).
It is a grand context for viewing your life. You are Jacob. You are blessed. You receive the gift of the blessing and promise. You are called to a journey that will bless the world. God will be with you.