Jacob is a loveable trickster: a character we often identify with–the loveable thief, the passionate adulterer, the rogue hero.
One who gets his inheritance by tricking his dying father to giving his blessing (i.e. will) to him instead of Esau.
He is even named as a rogue–as heel grabber is the translation of Jacob
you know the whole pull yourself up by your bootstrap culture in America? Jacob did the opposite, he pulled himself up from someone else’s bootstrap (heel). This ability, no doubt like all talents is a gift and a curse (as Adrian Monk would say). Every piece blessing is a gift, and a curse. For example, I am an extrovert, most of the time it is great, except when it isn’t If I don’t extrovert enough during the week, I am in sore danger of extrovertly exploding over people.
Gifts are meant to be used, when you write or sing or extrovert, its both a duty and a joy. You don’t do it for recognition, you do it because you have to. In that way it can be a blessing…and a curse.
Jacob has stolen Esau’s inheritance…last week our lectionary covered the Abrahamic Blessing the promise to father a nation and spread the blessing through it…when Jacob took this blessing he did not know that this blessing carried with it more than wealth. This is a blessing to be used…or its a curse.
Why do we love rogues anyway, what is it that makes them so fun? There is something about a rogue that means, just because they don’t follow the rules doesn’t mean they don’t have a heart. These are the human wish for redemption, our ongoing story for hope…
So, here is Jacob, on the run from his brother Esau who at best will be really, really mad for Jacob stealing his inheritance, and at worst is out for blood. He is out in another country, in the middle of the desert when he dreams…
He dreams of Angels. Angels who (we know) are not Precious moments cutesy babies, but are something scary to behold. They are going up and they are coming down, they are in-between, in short they are everywhere. This must have been scary enough.
Then God stands next to him (that must have been terrifying) and says I am the Lord of your forefathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac” remember, this is Jacob who just took all of his father’s blessing, so when God says he is Isaac’s God, it carries much weight! Then God promises that Jacob will father nations, that his descendants will own the land and that they will spread like dust North, South, East and West. God promises “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.””
What does Jacob take out of this conversation? That its too much? Does he see God’s promise as a threat (you WILL father nations) of responsibilities? Does he refuse to hear what it is that God is saying?
Jacob says…probably in a quiet voice of wonderment “I didn’t know God was here.” He didn’t know that God was with him. He didn’t know that God sought and found him, that God was his keeper. Jacob ought to be the last candidate for God to be with, tricking his way into inheritance, but yet, God was still within him. He didn’t know. He thought he had to be right, and brave and good for God to love him.
I didn’t know God was here…There are many places where we don’t know God is present.
1 in 10 people have mental illness, 1 in 10 struggles with addiction, 1 in 5 women have been sexually abused, and more than that have been victims of abuse. If we needed to be “whole” for God to be found, then about half of us would be statistically disqualified… For those who are Spiritual but not Religious, they might say I didn’t know God was here feeling that we make impossible requirements for answers and perfection.
….But we know our God is not a fixing God though. God does not simply take us apart and put us back together as new people. Our God is a creating and blessing God, working with what he made, as it exists in the world. God is present where we are, improving on what God has given us as gifts and blessings. Identifying who we are in one word, and blessing us with the next. God is like a “strengths-based counselor” building on who we are and what we do, so that we might become a better version of ourselves. Building off Jacob’s trickster nature and naming him as God’s own in order to make Jacob wonderful….
Church should be a place to do this, a place for broken rogues, tricksters and scoundrels, a place of hope. It should be a place where we all don’t know that God could be here. A place where we welcome people who know nothing, after all we know nothing too. God tends to show up in the ways we least expect it (in tricksters, in a women, in a stable, on the cross)…we could all know nothing together.
God could be found here too.