Thursday, September 2, 2010

Two More Questions God Asks

We are still working on the Top Ten Questions that God Asks Us. The first two questions, of course, were: 1. Where are You? – the question asked of Adam and Eve in the Garden, after sin; 2. And, Where is your brother?- the question asked of Cain, after murder. Remember that we are using as our guide a book written by Trevor Hudson called the Questions God Asks Us. And, he says that so often we go to the Bible with our question, sometimes good questions, expecting that the Bible will give us answers. That’s certainly a way to go to the Bible.

Hudson suggests that we go to the Bible listening to what God asks us. Here we are at the third and fourth questions. The third question is: “What is that in your Hand?” This question is, of course, asked of Moses when he is called to go confront Pharoah. As all those who are called in scripture, Moses is hesitant and makes excuses. God promises to send Aaron that silver-tongued devil with Moses, but that doesn’t seem to help. So God asks: “What is that in your Hand?” It was a shepherd’s staff. God says: “Throw it down.” And, if you know the story, it turns to a snake. Then, God asks Moses to pick it up- the snake that is. Moses hesitates again (I bet), and picks up the snake which turns to a staff again. We worked that Sunday on the notion that God has given us whatever we need to do what he wants us to do. Whatever your gifts and graces, throw them down and God will turn them into a living thing.

The fourth question we worked on last Sunday is: “What is your Name?” This question, of course, grows out of the story of Jacob. It’s night and Jacob sends his children and wives and possessions across the Jabbok Stream. Someone comes running toward him. He can’t see. A man stops close. Jacob and the man (an angel?) square off. A wrestling match ensues until the dawn. The man ( a messenger of God)- theologically it’s God) tells Jacob: “Let me go; the day is coming.” Jacob will not let the man go until he blesses him. The man asks: “What’s your name?”
We know that his name is Jacob. You remember the story. Jacob, Esau’s twin brother, is born with his hand on Esau’s heel. Jacob means “supplanter” or “grabber”. In scripture, names mean character. Jacob grabs his birthright, and his wives and his possessions. He has woven a tale of grabbing. Jacob hears that his brother is coming; so, he sends gifts to soften him. Then, this man in the night comes wrestling.

The man gives Jacob a new name: Israel, which means “one who wrestles with God”. Sinners make good servants of God. Jacob will now use his shrewdness in the service of God. He will leave his old name and claim a new name.

On Sunday, we looked at God who comes to us in the night to wrestle and puts our hips out of joint. You don’t mess with God easily. What name do we claim? Our Confirmation material was called for years: Claim the name. We are given a new name, a Christ name. It’s a hard name to live up to, but all who are called are given this name.

Parents should be careful what they name their children. Sometimes they/we spend their whole lives living up to or down to that name. In church, we are given a name like no other name. We are given a name, the only name given under heaven by which persons may find salvation. Claim the name and let your life be brought up or down to it.

One of the great theologians of the last century said about this text: “O how small is that with which we wrestle; O how great is that which wrestles with us…” (Moltmann)

Dave Nichols

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Thanks for checking out my blog. I'm new to this, as you can probably see. But, I, like you, have convictions and ideas worth sharing. I hope this will be an opportunity to connect with others who are Christian and/or religious. I am happily United Methodist. I am committed to the basic teachings of our church, and to the compassionate outreach to the world.

I hope these pastoral ponderings will generate something in you that is hopeful.

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A graduate of Newberry College and Duke University Divinity School.  I have served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church since 1975.

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