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Sneak becomes hero (sermon of August 18, 2008)

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Birth of Jacob and Esau []Remember Jacob and Esau? How Jacob was born holding-on to Esau’s heel?  How Jacob was given the name “Jacob” because it meant “heel-grabber” or “supplanter” or “schemer”?  How Jacob later extorted the family birthright out of his brother?  How he ran for his life—Esau threatening murder—under cover of going to Mama’s folks to find a bride?

And how, when he got there, he awakened the day after his marriage to discover that the bride of last night’s passion wasn’t the girl he’d intended to marry?  Oops.  Now he’d gotten bamboozled (let alone her, but that’s another story).

Jacob stays there at Haran for 20 years: 7 years for Leah, 7 years for Rachel, 6 more tending flocks, raising his own. He gets astonishingly rich.  And then one day, God said “Jacob, it’s time to go home.”

But Jacob’s afraid of Laban (Pa-in-law).  Laban’s been a shrewd dealer.  Kept him there for 20 years, after all.  Who knows if Laban will really let him go?  So Jacob and Rachel and Leah lay a secret plan. Read the rest of this entry »

Small is what big is made of (a sermon)

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Birth of Jacob and Esau []In one artist’s sculpture, Jacob and Esau burst upon the world.

Remember the story?  They’re born as twins, Esau first.  When Jacob follows, his hand on his brother’s heel.  It’s predicted that “the older will serve the younger,” which was odd in an order-of-birth culture.  Esau should get the privileges.  And the hand on the heel, we said, was representative of something like sneakiness.

Years later, they’re young men, Esau-the-hunter comes in starving, and Jacob-the-chef extorts the family birthright out of him in exchange for food.

Then Jacob gave him some of the soup (Valloton)

Then Jacob gave him some of the soup (Valloton)

Later, Esau is furious, and threatens murder – and remember, he’s a tough guy. So, scheming Jacob’s scheming mother Rebecca told his father Isaac that it was time for Jacob to go find a wife, and that back in Haran, where they came from, her brother’s place would be a good place to start. Isaac says “Sure,” and Jacob runs for his life.

On the way, he sacks out on the bare ground, meets God in a dream, and is terrified. Esau was a threat – but God, uh-oh! To Jacob’s astonishment, God comes not with judgment, but with a promise – a renewing of the promise that he’d made to Jacob’s grandfather Abraham. In the morning, Jacob is amazed at his good fortune, and worships there.

As he approaches Haran, he meets and promptly falls in love with Rachel, his cousin. He moves into Uncle Laban’s home – yes, he’d like to have a wife, but of course, he can’t really go home anyway, thanks to the trick he pulled on his brother. But now, Jacob’s inherited sneakiness is going to come back on him through his mother’s family – and on some others, too. Read the rest of this entry »

Finally, some good news from Iraq

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Juan ColeMiddle East scholar Juan Cole pointed out that the US-led invasion of Iraq had crushed Saddam’s Sunnis, and that Sunnis were vastly under-represented in the subsequent government. Fearing government reluctance to protect them against revenge-bent Shi’ite militias, and seeing the US backing the mostly-Shi’ite government, the Sunnis took up arms: thus, civil war. Cole likened the potential result of a precipitous exit by American troops to what happened when Israel abruptly left Gaza some time back: no structure, much suffering.

So Cole advocated a “negotiated withdrawal” – moving as quickly as possible to bring Sunnis into the government followed by a rapid draw-down of American forces.

Robert GatesThe point, he might say, isn’t just “getting the Iraqis to step up,” since the government mainly represents one side of the conflict. Nor could it be more or fewer troops to temporarily intimidate bad guys. The point is addressing the source of the civil war.

So look below at what was in the news today: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, in Iraq, putting that very issue on the table. Feel my amazement.

Dare we hope that finally someone is addressing causes rather than symptoms?

[And by the way, guess where I read this good news about America: Al-Jazeera!]

clipped from
Gates, on his third visit to Iraq since taking office, said he had spoken to Nuri al-Maliki, the prime minister, who is a Shia, about “reaching out to the Sunnis” to end the bloodletting that has killed tens of thousands of Iraqis. …
Before leaving Baghdad’s secure Green Zone by US military helicopter on Friday, Gates met Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi president, and Tareq al-Hashimi and Adel Abdel Mahdi, his two vice-presidents. They discussed the “importance of national reconciliation” to end the Shia-Sunni conflict, a statement from Talabani’s office said.”They also discussed the accountability and reconcilation law which aims to promote reconciliation and national unity among Iraqis.”The law is refinement of the controversial de-Baathification law. It aims to reintegrate former supporters of Saddam Hussein into public life in a bid to reduce the bitterness fuelling the Sunni anti-American campaign.

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Related posts: Understanding US withdrawal from Iraq, Juan Cole in The Nation: How to Get Out of Iraq
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Written by Monte

April 21, 2007 at 3:47 pm