Identity Lost, Identity Gained

Scripture Focus: Genesis 27.34, 38
34 When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!” 

38 Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept aloud.

Reflection: Identity Lost, Identity Gained
By John Tillman

The pain of Esau has been often explored. His cry of “Oh, bless me, father,” is one of the most heartbreaking moments in scripture, but Jacob’s greeting to his father, “I am Esau,” is also a moment in the scripture to weep. 

Esau loses his identity to the greed of his brother. Jacob abandons his identity to serve that same greed.

In Jacob’s preparation to fool his father he put on qualities that his father loved, covering his own unloved qualities. The less-favored son masked qualities his father rejected in order to be accepted. His body, his clothing, his smell, his cooking are all deficient, so he disguises them.  Without this disguise—a costume made of his own insecurities—he cannot be equally loved by his father.

God, our father, is not limited like Isaac. He has no cultural traditions that treat the first-born as more worthy than the rest. He has no infirmity that keeps him from seeing through our sinful disguises, straight to our deceitful hearts. He has no limited supply of possessions that must be divided between his children, making one superior to the other. But most of all, God has no favoritism or bias that would cause him to treat any of his children inequitably.

Our God is free of these maladies. God’s hands and voice are strong and ready to bless us if only we will come to him as we are. Let us drop the stolen garments of false righteousness. Let us remove the fakery that covers our true identity. Let us, when asked who we are, say “sinner” instead of “righteous.”

For we too have an elder brother. We need not trick him out of his birthright for he lays it down for us. We need not steal his clothing of righteousness, for he places it on our shoulders. We need not cover our deficiencies, for he lovingly makes us acceptable. We need not grift our inheritance, for he gifts it to us.

God, our father, is greater and more loving than Isaac and our elder brother, Jesus, rather than seeking our death, goes to death for us.

God, our father, longs to bless us with every spiritual blessing. No one who comes to him will need cry, “Do you have only one blessing, my father?” We need only cry “Abba” and he lovingly speaks our name and calls us close.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
I will thank you, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and glorify your Name forevermore. — Psalm 86.12

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Genesis 27 (Listen – 6:25)
Matthew 26 (Listen – 10:01)

Read more about Distrust of God and Fraud
Esau sins by giving up something of eternal significance for temporal satisfaction. Jacob sins by resorting to deceit and theft to gain what had already been promised by God.

Read more about A Way Back for Strivers—Guided Prayer
We, like Jacob, are born swindlers
Grasping for more than we deserve

A Trinity of Neglect :: A Guided Prayer

Matthew 25.37-40
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

1 Timothy 4.13-15
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.

Reflection: A Trinity of Neglect :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Matthew 25 is famous for the sheep and the goats parable. But really, the entire chapter is about people who shirked their responsibilities to themselves, to their master, and to others. The foolish virgins, the wicked servant, and the goats are a trinity of spiritual neglect.

Pray this weekend through the three stories. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you warning signs if you are following the path of one of these neglectful souls.

May we avoid the neglect of The Foolish Virgins…
We need not stumble into extravagant sin to endanger our relationship with you, Lord.

The virgins excluded from the banquet were not lascivious, or lustful. They were not greedy or cruel. They simply were irresponsible and unthoughtful.

May we never fall into the dim thoughtlessness of complacency, and may we regularly refresh ourselves with the oil of your Holy Spirit to brighten our lamps when called on.

May we avoid the lazy apathy of The Wicked Servant…
We need not squander your blessings to use them unworthily, oh Lord.

The servant given one bag of gold didn’t lose it, or gamble it away. He didn’t try to steal it. He just didn’t try to use it. The servant failed to understand, and so do we, that the king wasn’t investing his money with people. He was investing in people with his money. The king expected growth in the servant. Growth of the gold would only be a side effect. He would have found more mercy in the master had he tried and failed, than in failing to even try.

May we dare to step out with whatever seemingly insignificant gift he has given us. You, oh Lord, do not despise small beginnings or small gifts well and truly used in faith.

May we avoid the careless denial of responsibility of the goats…
We need not be ignorant of you, Lord, to miss heaven. We need only be uninvolved and unconcerned for others.

The goats didn’t actively cause hunger, or thirst, or homelessness, or refugees. They didn’t cause nakedness, or crime, or unjust punishment, or oppression, or sickness. They just didn’t do anything about it. This was enough to show that Christ had no place in their lives and they had no place with Christ in his eternal life.

Dwell with the Holy Spirit this weekend, asking him to enlighten you about areas in which you may be prone to following in the missteps of the virgins, the servant, or the goats.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  — 2 Corinthians 4.6

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 26 (Listen – 4:31) 
Matthew 25 (Listen – 6:04)

This Weekend’s Readings
Genesis 27 (Listen – 6:25) Matthew 26 (Listen – 10:01)
Genesis 28 (Listen – 3:17) Matthew 27 (Listen – 8:45)

Join Our New Facebook Group:
This weekend, in our new Facebook group for email subscribers, we will begin with the first of a series of short live videos discussing some simple, practical tools of spiritual practice using modern technology. Join the group to discuss them with us.

Follow this link to find the group. When you request to join, you will be prompted to answer questions about the email that you have used to subscribe to The Park Forum. Once we check that you are a subscriber, we will approve you to join the group.

Read more about Cultivation Leads to Harvest
We are responsible for the care of our communities, spiritually and physically. This requires a financial and a spiritual harvest.

Read more about Beyond Selfish Thankfulness
We too often, like Jonah, feel responsible that those who have wronged us should not “get away with it.” But in God’s timing, nothing goes unpunished.

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