Aug. 9, 2020

Prayer of the Day

O God our defender, storms rage around and within us and cause us to be afraid. Rescue your people from despair, deliver your sons and daughters from fear, and preserve us in the faith of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen. Continue reading

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The Love of God

Pastor’s Column for August Epistle

Dear Friends in Christ,

Our epistle text the last Sunday in July includes two of the most comforting and life-giving verses from all of Paul’s letters, “38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” They have been incorporated into our funeral liturgy. They are often read at bedsides when people are ill. People experiencing depression turn to these verses. These words remind us now, in the midst of the pandemic, an election year, and the normal hard stuff of regular life, that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Paul writes from experience. Each one of the possible separators he mentions, he has had first-hand experience with. But he is still confident in God’s love for him through the incarnation-Jesus Christ. It is true that we who are part of Trinity Lutheran find many ways, pre-COVID-19, to experience the love of God in relationship with other human beings. As I write this, I am lamenting that last week I was scheduled to be at the Hispanic Cultural Center for Learning Peace: A Camp for Kids. Over the weekend, my calendar reminds me, I was supposed to be at the church camp-out. And this week I was going to be at Luther Heights with a group of kids from Trinity. Surely, I would have experienced the love of God through all of those communal experiences. As we have pivoted as a congregation, I am making some faith practices more robust, like more prayer time alone, and discovering new faith practices, checking in with people via zoom and the telephone, that connect me to other human beings and to God’s love. I would not say that I really enjoy it all. It is certainly not what I planned on when I started in public ministry. But the love of God that I experience and then share always draws me back to love of neighbor, and that means keeping the vulnerable safe, slowing down the spread of COVID-19 for the benefit of our healthcare workers, and making small sacrifices in my individual life. I hope and pray that as we continue to transform as a congregation and adapt to our current circumstances, that all of you feel and know and experience the love of God in Christ Jesus. The promise of that love is for all of us, including each of you.

Peace,

Pastor Meggan

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Aug. 2, 2020

Prayer of the Day

Glorious God, your generosity waters the world with goodness, and you cover creation with abundance. Awaken in us a hunger for the food that satisfies both body and spirit, and with this food fill all the starving world; through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Genesis 32:22-31

22 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. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 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. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” 27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 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.” 29 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. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” 31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. Continue reading

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July 26, 2020

Prayer of the Day

Beloved and sovereign God, through the death and resurrection of your Son you bring us into your kingdom of justice and mercy. By your Spirit, give us your wisdom, that we may treasure the life that comes from Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Psalm 105: 1-11, 45b

1Give thanks to the LORD and call upon God’s name; make known the deeds of the LORD among the peoples. 2Sing to the LORD, sing praises, and speak of all God’s marvelous works. 3Glory in God’s holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. 4Search for the strength of the LORD; continually seek God’s face. 5Remember the marvels God has done, the wonders and the judgments of God’s mouth, 6 O offspring of Abraham, God’s servant, O children of Jacob, God’s chosen ones. 7The LORD is our God, whose judgments prevail in all the world, 8who has always been mindful of the covenant, the promise made for a thousand generations: 9the covenant made with Abraham, the oath sworn to Isaac, 10which God established as a statute for Jacob, an everlasting covenant for Israel, 11saying, “To you will I give the land of Canaan to be your allotted inheritance.” 45bHallelujah! Continue reading

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Gifts of the CSA

Originally published on tvprays.org July 23, 2020.

Shortly after everything shifted due to the pandemic, that was back in March here in Southwest Idaho, I realized that there was a good chance I would not be traveling much this summer. I also was reminded that being a good steward of my body would help me with the new extra layer of stress. I found a website listing CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) in Idaho and found one that delivers to the Nampa Farmer’s Market each Saturday morning. This food has been one of the bright spots of a very different, and often deflating, spring and summer. I get particularly weary and sad when I glance at my wall calendar and notice another event that has been cancelled, but then I remember that I get to pick up my produce on Saturday morning. Many of you readers actually grow your own food, but that was not going to happen for a single pastor, facing steep learning curves on the job, who had never gardened on her own before. The CSA has been the next best thing to a garden. Each week is a surprise. Some items stay the same; I have received mixed greens and baby beets every week so far. Some produce changes; I was given scallions the first few weeks and this week included my first heirloom tomatoes. I grew up in the Black Hills and my family had a greenhouse full of mulch, great for growing produce on a hillside, near our home. Serving as a pastor in rural Iowa and Southwest Idaho, I have always received produce in the summer, either on my front porch or in the church’s narthex. But the bounty from the CSA is different. It overwhelmed me the first few weeks and I almost let some of it go to waste. I grew up with older parents, including a father raised during the Great Depression. The clean plate was not strictly enforced, thanks to my mother, but wasting food was definitely frowned on. The produce in my CSA is beautiful and I know that plenty of neighbors in Nampa are food-insecure, so I do not want to waste food. My solution is now to cook it all up (at least the produce that I believe tastes better cooked than raw) on Sunday afternoons. I put on music, a podcast, a webinar I missed earlier in the week, and just accept that my kitchen is going to heat up. Even as I write this, I recognized that my life affords me some real luxuries. For example, I know that not everyone has the ability to plan ahead like I can. Plenty of households could not afford to pay upfront like I did in the spring. Recognizing those disparities in our community, I am so grateful for the many organizations getting produce, not just processed foods, to people in The Treasure Valley this particular summer. Continue reading

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July 19, 2020

Prayer of the Day

Faithful God, most merciful judge, you care for your children with firmness and compassion. By your Spirit nurture us who live in your kingdom, that we may be rooted in the way of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Genesis 28: 10-19a

10Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. 11He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; 14and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. 15Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” 17And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”   18So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19aHe called that place Bethel. Continue reading

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Mid-year Update and Thanks

Letter sent to Trinity members and friends last week.

“We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.” (2 Cor. 8:1-2)

Dear Partners in Ministry,                                                                               July 9 , 2020

Thank you for joining the members of Trinity Lutheran Church in doing God’s work. Your incredible generosity during the past few months is captured so well in those verses from II Corinthians above. Here are some ways ministry has continued during the past three months.

We continued to worship together via Facebook Live or YouTube. Our members who cannot join us in that way have been sent bulletins and sermons through the postal service. Although it may not feel like it while sitting in your home, the cumulative effect of these efforts means worship attendance has stayed quite steady. Rest assured that long after we are back to in-person worship, online worship will continue.

Kevin Mills completed his three years of Confirmation classes and will celebrate Affirmation of Baptism this fall. Olivia, Michael, Sophia and James (Edith Hannett’s grandchildren) were baptized June 21. We welcomed three new members June 14 and will welcome five more members July 12 during Zoom fellowship time.

Our congregation founded Trinity New Hope Inc. five years ago and even though it is a separate nonprofit organization, it is closely affiliated with the church through the board, donors, geography, and staff. TNH is financially stable enough to take out an improvement loan which is paying for new insulation, vinyl siding, windows, soffits, and fascia for all 16 homes. (We are lifting up this partnership, but please note that TNH and the congregation remain separate legal entities. Therefore, this loan is unrelated to church finances.)

Although our church council cannot yet commit to a date for when in-person worship will resume, we do not think it will be before Sept. 13 (Rally Sunday). We are watching the numbers and our COVID-19 Task Force is working on protocols so that when we do worship in-person, we will do so as safely as possible.

Right now, there are several things we feel we can do safely. Pastor Meggan and our youth will enjoy some of Nampa’s trails July 11. Al-Anon began meeting in our building with protocols beginning July 2. Our sanctuary will be available for family or individual prayer time (by appointment) Sunday afternoon, July 12.

With gratitude,

Pastor Meggan Manlove

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We Are the Letters

Originally published July 7, 2020 on tvprays.org

“What comes next?” That’s the line King George’s character sings in his second appearance in the Broadway Musical Hamilton, after the Battle of Yorktown. “You’ve been freed. Do you know how hard it is to lead?” In fact, as followers of Jesus Christ, we do know what comes next. Confident that we are freed by Jesus’ love and mercy, we cannot but help share that love and mercy with others.

What is it that drives us to love our neighbors, to boldly give people a glimpse of the reign of God through congregational ministries and our daily lives? For us, the scriptural principal of agape, which Jesus uses in Mark 12:31, continues to guide us: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Experiencing the agape of Jesus, how can we not want others to experience it? In a culture filled with options, filled with advertisements, filled with promises, we cannot assume people will experience God’s love. And we should never assume that the paid congregational staff are the only ones equipped and empowered to share the agape of Jesus.

Laying the groundwork for what later became known as the Priesthood of All Believers, Martin Luther wrote, “For all Christians whatsoever really and truly belong to the religious class, and there is no difference among them except in so far as they do different work. That is St. Paul’s meaning, in I Corinthians 12, when he says: ‘We are all one body, yet each member bath his own work for serving others.’ This applies to us all, because we have one baptism, one gospel, one faith, and are all equally Christian” (An Appeal to the Ruling Class).

There is another metaphor of Paul’s that I find equally helpful, and that was true before the pandemic had me utilizing the postal service at a new pace. In 2 Corinthians, Paul mentions other apostles whom he calls “super-apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:5, 12:11) and “false apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:13). These traveling missionaries have come to Corinth after Paul left. Now, impressed by these new apostles’ credentials, the Corinthians may be asking about Paul’s credentials. Earlier in the letter, Paul tells the Corinthians that he and Timothy do not need letters of recommendation since the Corinthians themselves are a letter recommending Paul’s ministry.

 “3Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Surely, we do not need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you, do we? 2You yourselves are our letter, written on our* hearts, to be known and read by all; 3and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”(2 Cor. 3:1-3)

We all have the potential to be the letters of recommendation to the communities we live in and to the world, letters of Jesus’ agape. Our very human hearts are filled with the love of Jesus. That love is made known in feeding and housing people, caring for the neighbor, learning about the world we inhabit, disrupting racism, and advocating for marginalized people or the natural world.

I remain hopeful during this strange and hard season because so many people are stepping up, or digging deep, or whatever image is most helpful. People are working together collectively not only for the health of congregational ministry, but for the benefit of the larger community, nation, and world. I have been deeply inspired by people of all ages who are concerned not just for the well-being of their own families but for people they have never met. They are showing acts of kindness in their immediate vicinity, but they are not content to only be kind. People are working towards bigger and broader transformations. Their actions give me hope for our world. I will continue to seek and find the groups of people who are letters of Christ, written with the Spirit of the living God on tablets of human hearts.

Prayer: Direct us, Lord God in all our doings with your most gracious favor, and extend to us your continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in you, we may glorify your holy name; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

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New Hope Housing Update

Below is the update recently sent to supporters of Trinity New Hope (affordable housing).

Dear Friends of Trinity New Hope,

When we finished the 2019 Avenues for Hope online giving campaign on December 31, I never could have imagined the circumstances under which I would be writing this mid-year update. The COVID-19 pandemic and national reckoning with racial justice issues are shaping 2020 in big ways for our country, communities, and individual lives. In the midst of everything else, the real-estate market in Canyon County has not slowed down and as a result, the need for safe affordable housing has not decreased. Thank you for being part of Trinity New Hope’s work.

     

This July we want to lift up two specific projects your dollars have helped us with. First, we have refinished the two bathtub/showers in 7 of our 16 homes. We have done this whenever a unit is vacated. Second, your gifts gave us the financial stability to take out an improvement loan from the Mission Investment Fund of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We hired A & S Siding of Nampa to install new vinyl siding (replacing the expensive-to-repair original wood siding) and windows on our 16 homes. Each home will also have new soffits and fascia and will be wrapped with insulation before the siding is installed. We selected eight different siding colors. In addition, the contractor is donating materials to dress up the exteriors of the homes. We are very excited about upgrading the homes aesthetically while also making them more energy efficient.

Thanks again for making donations through the Avenues for Hope Campaign. We are so grateful for your generosity and partnership.

Sincerely,

Pastor Meggan Manlove   Trinity New Hope Board Member

Tami McHugh       Trinity New Hope Board President

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July 12, 2020

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your word. By your Holy Spirit help us to receive it with joy, live according to it, and grow in faith and hope and love, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen. (ELW)

First Reading: Genesis 25:19-34

19These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, 20and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. 21Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. 22The children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. 23And the LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.” 24When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. 25The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. 26Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. 27When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. 28Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob. 29Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. 30Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore he was called Edom.) 31Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” 32Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” 33Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

Psalm: Psalm 119: 105-112

105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light upon my path. 106 I have sworn and am determined to keep your righteous judgments. 107 I am deeply troubled; preserve my life, O LORD, according to your word. 108 Accept, O LORD, the willing tribute of my lips, and teach me your judgments. 109 My life is always in danger, yet I do not forget your teaching. 110 The wicked have set a trap for me, but I have not strayed from your commandments. 111Your decrees are my inheritance forever; truly, they are the joy of my heart. 112I have applied my heart to fulfill your statutes forever and to the end.

Second Reading: Romans 8: 1-11

1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, 8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

Gospel: Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23

1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9Let anyone with ears listen!” 18“Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Sermon (Pastor Meggan)

This summer we have been accompanying our ancestors of the faith through the Book of Genesis—asking how their journeys inform our faith and our relationship with God and with the world.  I love the stories from Genesis and am preaching on them this summer for a few reasons. It is not that I do not think the parable of the sower and the seed speaks to our current context. But during the first half of the church year, the time from Advent to Pentecost or December through May, I do preach primarily from the New Testament, so I feel permission to preach on these Old Testament stories during summer and fall. I have also learned during my time as a pastor that many Lutherans do not know the stories from the Old Testament and if they do know them, they do not know exactly what to make of them.

I know the stories not because I am a pastor but because my parents read our story bible to me and because for hours at a time, I listened to my collection of the Purple Puzzle Tree records—vinyl, that’s right. I would sit in our balcony by the record player and follow along with the accompanying picture books. The creators of this series spent a long time getting through Genesis and Exodus. Why? Because the stories are foundational to our faith. They were the stories Jesus grew up with. They are part of our story. They tell us something about the God we worship and the people of God.

Our Genesis lesson this morning begins a group of narratives often call “the Jacob Cycle” and which the Hebrew Bible calls “the toledot (generations or descendants) of Isaac.” Both of these labels are accurate, but neither gives the full picture. Missing from these titles are the rest of Jacob’s family — the formidable figure of Jacob’s mother, Rebekah, his older brother, Esau, and Jacob’s primary wives, the sisters Rachel and Leah.

The biblical writers understood family to be the foundational unit of society and religious experience. They also understood this particular family (beginning with Abraham and Sarah) to be the foundation of ancient Israelite society and religion. And so, these stories explore not only the complications of domestic ties, they also explore the connection between family dynamics, social customs, and covenantal life.

Like many of our own domestic dramas, the stories of the Israelite ancestors include infertility and problem pregnancies and difficult births. Pregnancy is a condition that is always fraught with meaning and risk. In this case, the situation of Rebekah and Isaac is itself an echo of Abraham and Sarah’s earlier difficulties. Infertility threatens the family line with biological extinction and jeopardizes the promises of the ancestral covenant until God intervenes after a lengthy period.

Rebekah’s resultant pregnancy means that God’s covenant promises, and the family line will survive, against the odds. However, hers turns out to be a problem pregnancy in more ways than one. Rebekah’s condition creates such discomfort for her that she is not sure what the outcome will be. A word from God informs her that she is not just gestating twins who are struggling within her, she is also gestating two different nations fighting for dominance.

As it turns out, these twins are not identical, and they do not share a special bond that involves a secret language and a fierce devotion to each other. At birth, Esau and Jacob each possess characteristics that signal physical and personality differences that will lead them into conflict. Esau is born hairy and red, characteristics that link him to the people of Edom, who are said to be descended from Esau.

These characteristics also link to Esau to the outdoors and he turns out to be brawny and skillful at hunting. Jacob, who is destined to be the father of the 12 Israelite tribes, is born second. He is smooth-skinned and comes out with his hand around Esau’s foot. The detail clues us in on Jacob’s desire to upset Esau’s status as the firstborn son and to subvert the social customs and expectations that would favor the firstborn.

The social status of these twin brothers is complicated by the Ancient Israelite expectation that the first- born son should be favored. The firstborn son typically takes on his father’s profession. The firstborn succeeds his father as the family patriarch. The firstborn inherits a larger portion of the family goods than his other brothers. These privileges make up the birthright. Collectively, they provide a level of social and material security that the younger brother would not enjoy.

The younger sibling would have to depend on the mercy of the older brother or make his own way in the world. It may be that these customs developed to create consistency and fairness in families, to prevent parental favoritism from running amok. When the older and younger brothers in question are twins born just minutes apart, however, then the custom seems a bit more arbitrary and unfair.

Jacob is determined, even before birth, to have the birthright and the blessing of the firstborn. But since he is not the outdoorsy type, he uses brains, not brawn, to gain it. Jacob is a trickster, an underdog character who uses his wit and cunning to change the status quo. As a man who prefers the tents to the hunt, Jacob knows how to cook. He uses this skill and his knowledge of Esau’s weakness to trade some red soup for Esau’s birthright. It is a trade that Esau willingly makes.

The story of Jacob and Esau has profoundly influenced western literature’s treatment of sibling rivalry and parental favoritism. Still, it is often difficult for Christian readers to appreciate these as religious narratives. Seen through the lens of a traditional Protestant or Catholic piety, there seems to be little about Jacob to inspire us.

One instructor wrote that when she teaches these narratives, her students often think that Jacob victimizes Esau. They read Esau’s comment in verse 32 quite literally and think that Jacob is trading on Esau’s dire situation. In fact, Esau has just come in from hunting. He is not starving to death, he just prefers immediate gratification over the long term benefits of his birthright. His family inheritance, which in this story is tied to the covenant promises, means little to him.

American Christians have been taught to correlate piety with traditional personal virtues like selflessness and guilelessness. Moreover, we tend to view our personal successes as rewards for our piety and virtues. But these stories challenge our first-world sensibilities by lifting up an otherwise disadvantaged character who must use guile and ambition to claim his status as a son of the covenant.

The truth is that whether we are talking about the pandemic or dismantling systemic or structural racism or pivoting the church, I actually think guile and ambition are really useful. We need creative problem solvers. We need people who can be clever and crafty for the good of the marginalized, not for abuse and harm but for everyone’s liberation from systems that hold us back collectively. I was one of those straight arrow kids, but guile is something I am valuing more and more when it is used for good.

There is more we can learn from the very imperfect character of Jacob. Esau may not value his familial and spiritual inheritance, but Jacob does. Moreover, Jacob doesn’t see any immediate reward for his efforts; it will be decades before he actually sees success. Jacob is not deterred by the prospect of delayed gratification. Are we really so different? I will sacrifice future health for greasy food or a milkshake.

We are wired/trained today to favor immediate reward. We want closeness but we forget that building relationships takes time. Lots of us want immediate relief for the marginalized, forgetting how much work it is going to take to truly transform our society. That does not mean we should not get moving; it just means we need to occasionally take the long view. To weave this story together with Jesus’ parable of the sower, we do not know how long the seeds will take to grow, but it could be a long time.

Finally, these stories of Jacob illuminate a different view of grace. God chose Jacob even before his birth, a choice that was clearly not based on Jacob’s merits or achievements. Indeed, this is one of many stories about siblings in which God acts contrary to the social custom of favoring the firstborn.

Firstborns are no more virtuous by the fact of being born first, but being born second in the ancient near eastern world made one an automatic underdog. As one author put it, “It’s a bit baffling that God would favor Jacob, a quiet and conniving mama’s boy who tricks his older brother out of his inheritance rights and deceives his aging father into compliance, but Hebrew Scripture has a soft spot for scrappy underdogs, so he grows into the unlikely hero of Israel’s origin stories.”

Sometimes we think that God’s favor of the marginalized, God’s turning the world upside down began with Jesus’ preaching the beatitudes or Jesus being born in a manger. Maybe we trace it back to the Babylonian Exile or perhaps back to the Israelites Exodus out of Egypt. Rarely do we consider that God was choosing the underdogs all along. After all, Jacob becomes the father of the 12 tribes. His name gets changed to Israel. God chose the underdog. That may irk our conventional notions of grace or it may be just the good news we need to hear.

Prayers of Intercession

Called into unity with one another and the whole creation, let us pray for our shared world.

Gracious God, your word has been sown in many ways and places. We pray for missionaries and newly planted congregations around the world. Inspire us by their witness to the faith we share. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.

Creating God, the mountains and hills burst into song and the trees and fields clap their hands in praise. We pray for the birds and animals who make their home in the trees, and for lands stripped bare by deforestation. Empower us to sustainably use what you have given. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.

Reigning God, we pray for our nation’s leaders. Increase their desire for justice and equality. We pray for our enemies. Bridge the chasms that divide us and guide authorities to a deep and lasting peace. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.

Abiding God, care for all who are in need (especially). For those who are doubting, renew faith. For those who are worrying, provide release. For those who are struggling, ease burdens. For those in fear, give hope. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.

Renewing God, revive your church in this place. Nourish and nurture the seeds you have planted, that we might grow as disciples. Replace what has been depleted. Sustain our ministries (especially) and deepen relationships with the wider community. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.

Eternal God, we give thanks for all who have died (especially Nathan Söderblom, Bishop of Uppsala, whom we commemorate today). Comfort us in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.

Receive these prayers, O God, and those too deep for words; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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