Dear old and new friends,
This Friday, the 17th, is the Jewish Feast of Simchat Torah where the Scrolls of the Hebrew Scriptures are held high and danced about in the congregation to joyous songs of young and old to express the contentment of having God’s word. We Christians sadly are too sedate to dance jubilantly with our scriptures, even if we are also Israelites. This title “Israelite” is a combination of three Hebrew words in Genesis 32:23-32 meaning, “Someone who wrestles with God.” It originally referred to Jacob who at the river Jabbok wrestled all night with God (in respect for the sacred name the wrestler is called an angel.) Their sweaty wrestling match lasted until at dawn, exhausted, they stop. While neither was the victor, the mystery wrestler changed Jacob’s name to “Israel.”
We Christians are also legitimately Israelites for we too have wrestled with God!
We wrestle with God over the Sunday obligation to go to church or not…and when the match ended, no winner was proclaimed.
We struggle with the number of children we can have without abstaining from sex…we’ve wrestled mightily with God but no winner is announced.
After wrestling with God over whether to say yes to our sexual urges, our passionate desires…no umpire declares a winner.
Striving to be faithful to the non-violence of Jesus we’ve wrestled whether to be for or against war and capital punishment…and no victor is proclaimed!
After a long life having been diagnosed with brain cancer and given six months to live I’m told my last days will be very painful. So God why can’t I myself speed up my eventual death by dying today? No answer!
As children we never wrestled with God but obediently did what we were told that God wanted. Yet even in these first tussles God was silent, and we began testing the boundaries others had set for us. Teenage years meant increased brawling matches with God, and by adulthood some even questioned the point of wrestling while wondering if even a God existed with whom to struggle?
We were taught God was almighty, but if so why in our wrestling matches wasn’t God declared the winner with an ear-shattering roar of thunder? When we were exhausted after hours struggling with God over what was the morally right thing to do, why did the heavens remain silent? Why? Because God is a lover, not an autocratic tyrant who insists that it’s either “My way or the highway!”
Out of that immeasurable love we were gifted with unlimited and unrestrained freedom to choose since God doesn’t desire robot lovers. Besides, each situation is exceptional, and therefore allows for exceptions since the issue isn’t about observing some law but of loving others, yourself and God. In any wrestling contest between us God never is the winner because we are not contestants or rivals, but the Holy One’s dearly beloved lovers.
Is not such an affectionate, freedom-giving Lover God reason for joyous wild dancing?