Monday, August 4, 2014

Godwrestling: limping into the sunrise


Sunday morning. Time to try some new things. Theme of the month? God wrestling. Inspired by Jacob’s night at the fork of the Jabbok. We’ll have the same pre-prayer music all month: Amazing grace. And a feature. This week:  Deportee. (Thank you Pat O). If one of the lectionary scriptures is too weird, we’ll leave it out. Focus our conversation on one. This week Genesis 32:22-31, that Jacob story. We’ve got another new visitor: a young woman form the neighborhood. And my friend Russ from Palestinian work. It’s a small summer crowd, but we deal with what we’ve got. We are who we are.

We start with God welcomes all, strangers and friends, God’s love is strong and it never ends. Our hymn is How Firm a Foundation. And before we get to the scriptures, Jeremy and I do Woody Guthrie's Plane Wreck at Los Gatos (Deportee). A song about a planeload of bracero immigrant workers who went down. I tie it in,as Pat O did, to the children pouring over the border from Mexico and being turned away from towns. And the story in this morning’s times about what is forcing people out of Honduras.( I recalled being there in the ‘80’s when the country was turned into a virtual US aircraft carrier for the contra war in Nicaragua.The  story I wrote about the country was Honduras: on the space of a tear. Woody's words are poignant and direct:

The crops are all in and the peaches are rott'ning,
The oranges piled in their creosote dumps;
They're flying 'em back to the Mexican border
To pay all their money to wade back again

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita,
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria;
You won't have your names when you ride the big airplane,
All they will call you will be "deportees"

My father's own father, he waded that river,
They took all the money he made in his life;
My brothers and sisters come working the fruit trees,
And they rode the truck till they took down and died.

Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted,
Our work contract's out and we have to move on;
Six hundred miles to that Mexican border,
They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves.

We died in your hills, we died in your deserts,
We died in your valleys and died on your plains.
We died 'neath your trees and we died in your bushes,
Both sides of the river, we died just the same.

The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon,
A fireball of lightning, and shook all our hills,
Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio says, "They are just deportees"
Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?
To fall like dry leaves to rot on my topsoil
And be called by no name except "deportees"?

Woody’s chorus deliberately naming names to give the deportees back their identities. Juan, Rosalita, wrestling with God, GenesisJesus y Maria (Jesus and Mary…)

We start with a responsive reading of PSALM 17:1-7, 15.

Then on to our Genesis reading.  Recalling Jacob the trickster. Tricked his brother. Tricked his father. Tricked by his father-in-law.  With no clue as to what was going on, he’s forced to wrestle with a man? An angel? Maybe??? Jeremy wonders if that family of 11 children is watching and yelling Go dad…and Jeremy also points out that when the wrestler can’t prevail, he fights dirty, throwing Jacob’s hip out of joint. The wrestler demands that Jacob let him go. And Jacob refuses. (Let me go, (I) will not let you go…maybe we should have done  Bohemian Rhapsody says Jeremy.).Before Jacob  lets the wrestler go, he demands a name. As  Anna says, in those cultures there was mystical power to  a name. To have someone’s name is to have a power over them. Like after the resurrection, Mary only recognizes Jesus when he calls her by name.  Or how Woody gives the deportees their humanity back by giving them their names. The wrestler refuses but gives Jacob's  new name, Israel.

Russ points how  this becomes part of mythic history to  give a theo-ideological back story for Solomon’s Empire.

I’m struck by the wrestling, the striving through the night, and what Jacob must have felt like limping off into the sunrise. As Jeremy says, crippled, but like the resurrected Jesus with his wounds, with a feeling of victory won. It can be about any struggle, it’s the whole liberation paradigm. What Jacob had to go through to create a people.  I/we are still wrestling, looking for the sunrise.

There’s a generation of godwrestlers out there waiting…

We do Amazing grace, leading into prayer with the words I changed after Hope pointed out the issues with blind but now I see.... Physical disability equated with spiritual infirmity. I once was blind and I still am sang my friends in the Disabilities Concerns Network of Presbyterian Health Education and Welfare Association. When Hope complained to our African-American music director, He said, but it’s only a metaphor, and she said, Yes, like wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. Oh, he said. Those in power control metaphor. So, from one of the Spanish translations,

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a soul like me
I once was lost but now am found
Thy light has rescued me.

La gracia Sublime del senor 
a un pecador salvo
Perdido andaba y me hallo
Su luz me rescato

John Newton, who wrote Amazing Grace, wrestled with God. He was a slave trader. On a cross Atlantic voyage, a storm came up. Newton prayed. The storm subsided. Legend has it he turned the ship around and took it back to Africa and set his human cargo free. And this song was born.
For our communion music, we used Sheaves of Summer….Una Espiga…I explain it was composed by two neoricans, Jorge Lockwood and Skinner-Mehlo,a Methodist and an Episcopalian. And I introduce our breaking of bread by reading Matthew 14: 13-21, the story of the feeding of the 5000. And Jesus' main injunction to his disciples, You feed them. You take what you have, even 5 loaves and 2 fishes and feed them. Don’t wait, start with what you have. There will be sufficient. Take the risk. See what happens. And sure enough, there’s more than enough. It’s a miracle not of production but of distribution. The world has sufficient resources to take care of us all. Now it’s our job to start.

We end the service with Jeremy leading us in Yes, Lord yes….for as he says, at the end of wresting is submission.

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