The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had.
Jacob was left alone;
Jacob is a man between tribes, out of the mix of his wives’ family, out of the mix of his own family. After years starting a family under his devious father in law's authority, he’s headed back to the home where he himself betrayed his brother. Where does he belong? Who is he in this tenuous in-between-space?
Our own “tribes” have changed over the years. Who are we when the groups we name ourselves by change?
Is your tribe our workplace? If you’re a 50 year “company man” who worked up the ladder earning pension points you’re more likely to say yes than if you’re a self-directed entrepreneur, or serial job holder, gathering skills and reinventing your professional identity as you go. Or if you’re just trying to get by on what jobs you can find. Do you work from home instead of in a shared work space? Do you work multiple jobs by choice or by necessity? The career tribes don’t look like they did 20-30 years ago.
Is your family your tribe? “Yes” is more likely if they live close by. It takes more work if brothers, sisters, grandparents and cousins live all over the globe pursuing individual goals.
Is my sports team my tribe? Is it my Union, my Veteran’s group, my church, my school? What name burns brightest in my heart?
Modern interpretations of Jacob’s story have tended toward the psychological: Jacob’s internal wrestling with fear, with whether he can really go home again, with whom he can trust, with identity.
The biblical storyteller doesn’t have a psychological frame of reference in the modern sense. This is Jacob wrestling with something, someone, beyond himself.
........and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, "Let me go, for the day is breaking." But Jacob said, "I will not let you go, unless you bless me."
It sounds like two kids testing each other’s mettle on the playground, doesn't it? Not in a slugfest, but a strangely evenly matched game of strength. If I were even arm-wrestling with God I’d expect to be thrown over in the first half second! Its kind of frightening to think of holding my own in a struggle with God. “I will not let you go until you bless me” Jacob said. God tests Jacob's strength to its limit, and at the limit, Jacob has the strength of mind to say, "bless me."
In the struggle, Jacob’s hip is knocked out of joint. I guess it could have been from tossing and turning in a bad dream. But he’s left limping in the morning. These days, its’ more often a nose that’s out of joint, isnt it?
So he said to him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Jacob." Then the man said, "You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed."Then Jacob asked him, "Please tell me your name." But he said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And there he blessed him.
So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved." The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.
I think this wrestling match is about God saying, “remember me?” When we remember God, we remember who we are. It’s the only way to getour pieces back in place.
Think about the world’s struggles right now, the movement of peoples, the struggles of the human “tribe” for identity.
What difference might it make if we had a big button, like that red Staples “easy button," but even bigger, maybe rainbow colored, a button marked “Sabbath,” And what if when we pushed it, everything stopped for a day and we had nothing to do but remember our creator, even if that meant wrestling with God?
Remembering God is remembering that God is greater than the struggles; that our creator holds possibility at the center of every struggle where opportunity is embedded, where confusion can become clarity, where crisis can yield to Christ consciousness.
The Rev. Juan Guerrero, Ph.D., is superintendent of the United Methodist Mission in Honduras. Last week he sent word of the challenges in Honduras, challenges that are pressing on our own U.S. borders.
A fellow United Methodist in Ciudad España had to sell his house to pay a network of smugglers who kidnapped one of his children. When the boy was released, he described how another boy was killed in his presence while his parents were on the phone, to intimidate them ....
Now when Jesus heard [of John the Baptist's death], he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. -The Gospel According to Matthew 14: 13 In the 19th century in Honduras, the term "banana republic" was born because the Americans in the late 18th century installed banana plantations....And until today the owners of the best lands are American banana and small Honduran elites living in the U.S. and exploiting the land renter mentality, in order to get resources, without reinvesting in the country.
In the 19th century, the U.S. Embassy in Honduras was next to the largest gold mine in the Americas, in San Juancito. People wonder why the embassy was away from the capital city and next to a gold mine. Simple: because there were American corporations that exploited these mines. Honduras is poor because the wealth of this country was taken and not reinvested here.
But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves." -The Gospel According to Matthew 14: 14-15
Why don't those people just stay and work to rebuild their own economy?
According to the United Nations, Honduras has the highest homicide rate in the world. This violence is the phenomenon of gangs, which are highly organized. Gangs weave networks through several cities and countries, and are fueled by drug trafficking. Most of the cocaine consumed in the U.S. passes through Honduras. Mexican drug cartels collect the drug in Honduras, mainly from Colombia.
Jesus said to them, "They need not go away; you give them something to eat." They replied, "We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish." And he said, "Bring them here to me." -Matthew 14: 16-18
The crowds followed Jesus because that is where they saw hope. Why are children and families risking so much to come to us?
* Honduran gangs provide "security" for the drug cartels. Children are recruited by gangs in high-risk urban neighborhoods, who find in the gangs a family of "blood" covenant. Children living with hunger and without opportunities suddenly feel strong and powerful when they belong to a gang..... the drugs consumed in the United States leave a trail of pain and death throughout the Central American triangle......70% of Honduran migrant children, who have been arrested in the last year in the U.S., come from violence-hit areas.
*The kids go because their parents live in the U.S., and they leave Honduras because there are no opportunities, no dignity. They leave because here there is hunger, violence and poverty....
…… And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full……And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. -The Gospel According to Matthew 14: 19-20
This is the good news of Jesus Christ according to Rev. Guerrero: We have 19 congregations across Honduras and an attendance each week of more than 2,000 people. About 500 volunteers from the U.S. visit our mission each year. Through these volunteers in mission and their work of our communities, we have not only built temples and parsonages but also now offer programs such as community kitchens for more than 200 children, scholarships for more than 1,000 children, water purification systems, rural projects of planting corn and many medical and dental clinics. We have never had any security problems with groups visiting us, and we were able to serve the poor with all our strength.
This year, 2014, we started the first United Methodist school in Honduras. We started with 230 children, many of whom have parents living in the United States. But we have also had to close day cares for poor children in high-risk communities because of lack of resources. We also have closed soup kitchens because of lack of resources. We had to close clinics in our churches because of lack of resources. We always want to do more.
Its a hard story to listen to. And its not a finished story, is it? When we hear a story, a door opens for us to enter the story.
How do we claim our name and our tribe as Christ followers? There are some concrete realities we can stop avoiding:
*Do something about drug addiction in our own country. Do I know someone who could use some support?
*Tend to the edge of our economy, where our desire, no our demand, to get something as close to nothing as possible creates rifts for desparate people to stream in. What am I willing to pay for what I really want or need?
*Learn to meet strangers as neighbors.
*Get real about how much we need, and how it is produced.
*Celebrate the tribe that is our faith family, knowing that our real name is "God's people," not "Take what we can get"
*Participate in the ways our church is reaching broken communities with real resources supported by our offering and our prayer.
We can walk around with our noses out of joint, or we can mix it up with God. Jacob through his wrestling match a stronger and wiser person, and so can we.
The commentary on Honduras was submitted to United Methodist News Service by retired Bishop Elías G. Galván, the assigned bishop to the Honduras mission. See more at: http://um-insight.net/issues-section/why-honduran-children-are/#sthash.eUyZ3yaw.dpuf