Genesis 31 gets straight into the action with a flit from Laban’s land for Jacob and his family. But Laban chases after them. God appears to Laban and warns him not to touch Jacob. They have an argument, but at the end they build a pile of stones and agree to stay on their respective sides of it.
But there is a tiny issue of the household idols which Rachel has stolen from Laban. She hides them in her saddlebags and Laban fails to find them. Jacob is unaware of this. Will the idols become relevant later? They’re not mentioned in “Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”, so I don’t know. It’s sad, and at the same time good, that my knowledge of everything in Genesis after Jacob’s ladder comes from a musical. Good that I at least know something. Sad that I’m finding out there was much more to the life of Jacob than I suspected.
In Genesis 32, en route to his homeland, Jacob hears that Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men. He prays to God because he fears that Esau will kill them all. And, frustratingly, that’s where this reading finishes.
In Matthew 10, Jesus is giving his disciples (that’s us!) instructions. “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
That sounds like good advice to me. And logical too. What’s the worst that people can do to you? But your soul belongs to God, and only he has the power to destroy that. What’s started to trouble me is people who claim they have no faith, or who do not believe in God. Where does their “soul” (or life force, or whatever it is described as) go when they die? If there is no God to look after it, what happens next? Maybe it just dies when they do?
But back to Matthew and some disturbing words from Jesus. Once again, he does not offer comfort and this passage is a familiar one to me, (10:34) “Don’t imagine that I have come to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace but a sword. I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother…”
Let us hope that Jesus is being metaphorical again (especially the bit about the sword!). In the midst of these difficult words is the truth that following Jesus is NOT an easy option. Well anyone who has been on the receiving end of “that look” will know about this. In our comfortable western lives, we can only glimpse a tiniest hint of what religious discrimination is like. But every now and again the conversation with our acquaintances and colleagues goes something like:
“Are you going to XYZ on Sunday?”
“No, I can’t I’m afraid.”
“Why, where can you be going on a Sunday of all days?”
“Oh!” [Looks slightly uncomfortable, like you’ve grown another head and turned into a different person to the one you were two minutes ago.]
But what Jesus is saying here is that this is how it starts. And what will you do? Whom do you love most? Unfair question? You bet it is, and THAT’s the point! Difficult decisions are part of the life of every Christian.
Matthew 11 puts a slightly different perspective on things. Now we’re back with John the Baptist. Even though he’s in prison, he’s heard about what Jesus has been doing and saying. John’s disciples want to know if Jesus is the one they’ve been expecting. Jesus, cryptic as ever, replies, “The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is preached to the poor.” He knows what John is REALLY asking. And he answers with words of encouragement.
Psalm 13 could have been written by John. “How long will you forget me? Forever?” But hope is never far away.
And even Proverbs picks up this positive theme today: (3:18) “Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her; happy are those who hold her tightly.”
So today’s readings end on a positive note. But what about Jacob? What will Esau do when they meet?
How am I finding the daily routine of blogging? It still not something that’s coming naturally. Perhaps it never will. Finding 45-60 minutes every evening is hard! WordPress timed me out halfway through tonight’s writing. Stress! I had no clue what was happening and feared losing the whole thing. As you’ve just read, it was still here when I came back. So my blog related questions are these: how do I link people I like? How do I make the layout a bit less utilitarian? And how to best use my Stats so that I can reach more people who might be interested?