Outline of Session held on 10/27/13
- Previous Week’s [10/20/13] Review
- Background to today’s Reading
Previous Week’s [10/20/13] Review
Over the past two or three sessions we have ended up spending nearly an hour in review of the previous week’s discussion; much of which was prompted by parts of the discussion that I found of interest. I wanted this week [10/27/13] to focus instead on the readings themselves. We didn’t have any trouble doing exactly that.
Background to today’s readings.
Gen. 32:01 – 03 moves us from the departure of Laban to God sending his messenger to Jacob. This is the third time in the Jacob narrative God sends angels/ messengers to Jacob. The place at which this occurs is named God’s encampment. Throughout this section of the narrative we read about encampments; a word, symbol, of God’s protection. But as we will learn that protection has an edge to it which will be manifest in one of the most famous and most discussed passage – Jacob wrestles with God and emerges holding his own, physically hurt, and his name changed.
Gen. 32: 04 – 22 reveals two important insights not only into the character of Jacob but really how all of us need to address the challenges that face us. Jacob is aware first of all that he conned his brother Esau of his birthright, and leaves Canaan, his homeland, in part because Esau wants to kill him. He is to learn that Esau is heading toward him with some 400 men. Fear wells up within him. What does he do? He plans and he prays. More than a thousand years later, St. Augustine captured this approach by telling us, “Pray like it all depends upon God. Act like it all depends upon you.” This is what Jacob does. What we are invited to do.
In Gen. 32: 04 – 09 Jacob sends his messengers to Esau. The words he instructs his messengers to say helps us to recognize an aspect of Jacob’s plan in approaching his brother. Esau is lord, Jacob is servant. Jacob hopes to gain Esau’s favor. When he learns that Esau is approaching with 400 men, he responds again with a plan; he is eminently practical.
Gen. 32: 10 – 13 is a prayer form that our author places on the lips of Jacob. Each of the four verses expresses one of the elements in this prayer form. Take time as you read the prayer to discern as best you can those elements. Attempt to put words to what Jacob is doing in each verse, why is he doing that. Think of the prayer that Jesus taught us, the Our Father, and see if you can recognize a similar structure.
Gen. 32: 14 – 22 provides greater details to Jacob’s plan. He is leaving nothing to chance as he offers his brother gifts of more than 500 animals, arranges them in three separate droves, instructs his servants exacting what they are to say, how they are to act. He definitely is micromanaging this event.
In Gen. 32: 21b – 22 there is a play on the Hebrew word, penim, which means both “before” and “face.” Later on I read a translation that attempts in English to help us see that play at work.
We are reminded as we listen to / read the passages to wonder
- Who are the characters in the story
- What role do these characters play
- What is the plot of the story, the author’s intent
Reading: Gen. 32: 04 – 09: Jacob prepares for his meeting with Esau. http://usccb.org/bible/genesis/32
Ken started our discussion and because what he had to say seemed extremely important to me, I will attempt to quote him. “… at first I thought, Well none of us have the luxury as Jacob did of God directly making a promise to us. But then I was thinking to myself, well the promises are here [Ken is pointing to the Bible in front of him.] I mean this [again pointing to the Bible] is God talking to us; that’s the thing we need to look at as far as fulfilling the promise. [In the story – my words] Jacob experiences first hand. We experience it through the Book.” [Emphasis added.]
There is so much in what Ken thought and said. We need to realize though that there is a huge assumption in Ken’s thought. We can only experience “it” through the “Book” if we … at this point I wonder if you can complete the sentence. If we what? Please stop reading long enough to answer that question, even if your answer is I don’t know. It would be wonderful if you, the reader on this website, were to record in the comment section your answer.
If we believe. Without belief, “it” remains a story; with belief, “it” is promises made to us. “It” changes the meaning of our life, everyone’s life.
At this point I could go on to report the next forty minutes or so of our conversation but without struggling with Ken’s insight, our reading more is just that reading more words. Ken’s thought needs to be taken seriously enough to talk about what he had to say; to move into the words to the things the words reference. What is that?
A final pointer, Ken’s thoughts obviously occurred inside of him. They may have occurred to others but it was Ken who spoke them. Paying attention to that simple fact is critical for understanding why scripture needs to be studied in a group and, in my opinion, by adults; persons who have lived long enough to know the joys and sorrows of our life. And Ken has.
You are invited to respond to these or other questions that might arise within you as you read this passage. Your comments, observations, questions are welcomed. See “comment” link below