I’m preparing for my live sermon this coming Sunday.
The Revised Common Lectionary has been pointing us to Genesis for the past few Sundays. Focused on the story of Jacob, son of Isaac and Rebekah, brother of Esau, grandson of Abraham.
A few weeks ago, I started looking at the racial dilemma in America through the lens of this story. Esau being our White sisters and brothers. Jacob, the child of Isaac who his brother Esau desired to kill, representing us – Black Americans, sons and daughters of America from its establishment as a land, who our White brother and sisters desire to kill until now.
This week, we meet with Jacob on his return to his homeland and an encounter with his murderous brother Esau.
Having fled his motherland and his murderous uncle Laban, Jacob is again “on the run.”
Yes, he has prospered much: multiple wives, many sons, myriad cattle.
But he is still without a home. He still has no place to rest his head. He is still unwanted and unwelcome.
And so as he makes preparations to encounter his brother – not knowing if he will be well-received or met with the traditional vitriol the comes from Esau. With everything in order, that night…in his lonesome, Jacob wrestles with God.
He does what?!?!?
Now, the text doesn’t say he wrestles with God…
But, the Church has always taught that interpretation. We have always understood that the “man” with whom Jacob wrestles is a manifestation of the Lord our God.
There were many options Jacob could have chosen as the focus of his fight:
- there was Laban who had wronged him repeatedly over the course of 20 years
- there was Esau who ran him off, desiring to kill him
- there was his mother who sent him to Laban – her brother, ultimately to be wronged
- his mother who was unable to find another way to protect him from her other son
- there was his father who preferred Esau over him, despite Esau’s disregard for the Way, as established by Abraham
- there was even Jacob himself, who had made the various choices which made way for all of those situations
Yet, Jacob chose to direct his fight toward the God who had promised and not yet fulfilled.
He had been promised a place to rest his head. When he had only a rock stone for his pillow, Jacob had been promised to inherit the land on which he stood.
Laban didn’t make him that promise.
Besides…he had ultimately gotten the better of Laban.
His mother hadn’t made him that promise. Neither had his father. Esau damn sure hadn’t made him such a promise.
They all had showed themselves to be fallible…even as he was fallible. He had failed to be righteous as well. They all were a cause for disappointment. I’m sure Jacob could have even been disappointed with himself.
Only One Was not supposed to disappoint.
Only One said, “…I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.”
So, Jacob wrestled with the One Who alone had promised blessing and who was able to fulfill what He had promised.
And that’s where I return to us, in the now…
This is where things conflict with our assertion of the mattering of Black lives.
Our focus in misplaced.
We are wrestling with Esau, the murderous brother who has always wanted to kill us. We are appealing to Esau to stop being true to himself, and trusting ourselves to be in relationship with him – even before he commits to repent of his murderous intentions.
We forget that Esau never wanted to see us free. Even in his “finest” and most “presidential” moments, Esau’s motives have never been brotherly toward us.
Esau is being Esau.
But Esau never promised us Blessing.
If there is a beef to be had – and I would say there is, should not our beef be with the One Who promised?
Should not our quarrel be with the One who told us to follow Him & trust Him on this journey?
Should we not be wrestling with God? Or at least with His Body, the Church, demanding that He bless us now – even at risk of coming up with a limp?
In the quest for the Mattering of Black Lives, who promised us life and mattering?
And from whom should we be demanding a blessing?
I won’t know until I deliver it on Sunday at 9:30AM EST, but this is what I’m being led to explore for my live sermon. You can subscribe to JahBread TV by clicking this link, then click the bell and you’ll be notified when I post the link for the live on Saturday evening.
And here are the videos to get you caught up on this journey with Jacob and the Black Experience in America. Check them out and be sure to answer the questions in the comments. I look forward to engaging with you…
In the first, we look at Jacob’s Ladder – the Ladder of Divine Ascent – and the promises of God that establish a people, holding that in context with our own sojourn and search for identity:
In the second, we explore how Jacob endeavored to live faithful to the promise that he had received. We see the deceit he experienced in context with the deceit we’ve experienced in America: