Spiritual Twins

Scripture Focus: Genesis 33:3-4
3 He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother.

4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.

Reflection: Spiritual Twins
By Erin Newton

Before 2016, when I read the story of Jacob and Esau, I thought the note about their twin birth was a random fact. After having twins of my own, I’ve had a front-row seat to their unique relationship. Like brothers, they are the best of friends and, sometimes, the worst of friends. Despite the quarrels, they are closer than any other.

Jacob and Esau are usually thought of as enemies. One loved, one unloved. Israel versus Edom. Jacob was the trickster and Esau was impulsive. In the New Testament, Esau is always labeled for his quickness to sell his birthright for a meal. A poor choice, to say the least, but he did something more memorable.

Esau was angry enough to kill Jacob. But time had passed. Jacob had been the victim of someone else’s trickery. God allowed Jacob to learn his lesson from Laban’s hand, instead of vengeance from Esau.

Forget the birthright-stew debacle. Remember when Esau showed unmerited forgiveness. He loved his brother. He ran to him. He hugged him. He wept. The reunion of Jacob and Esau is a picture of brotherly love. 

Both brothers humbled themselves. Esau laid aside his grudge. Jacob laid aside his pride. Time healed some of the wounds, but humility brought peace. 

When Esau saw the face of Jacob and Jacob looked at the face of Esau, they saw themselves. Twins. Sure, Esau’s a bit hairier than Jacob but they share the same genes. Both were sons of Isaac and probably looked like their father.

My twins are identical, but you’d never know it. There was a problem in the womb, and now the scars and diagnoses create a visible distinction. But technically, each twin is a perfect donor match to the other. They can heal one another if needed. A better “eye for an eye.”

The Bible calls believers “brothers and sisters” in Christ. We are a kind of identical, spiritual twins. We have different scars, our environment shaped us differently, but we’re bonded together. We see each other and see ourselves, as children of the Father.

Look into the faces of those around you. Your friends and your neighbors, the barista and the doctor, a child with disabilities, and an octogenarian with a walker—these people reflect the image of your Father.

Grudges and pride must die. Run. Hug. Weep. These people are your brothers (and sisters). One God, Father of all (Eph 4.2-6).

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; let the whole earth tremble before him. — Psalm 96.9

Today’s Readings
Genesis 33 (Listen 2:59
Mark 11 (Listen 3:59)

Read more about Running to Forgive
A prodigal son approaches home…limping…fearful of rejection…the wronged party embraces him and kisses him. It’s Esau running to meet Jacob.

Read more about From Esau to Jacob
We are not hated. We are loved. This is demonstrated in Christ as God turns “Esaus” into “Jacobs.”

Running to Forgive

Scripture Focus: Genesis 33.3-4
3 He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother. 
4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.

Reflection: Running to Forgive
By John Tillman

A prodigal son, who betrayed his family’s trust approaches home. He is limping. He is fearful of rejection. His hopes are focused on survival. 

But the wronged party abandons dignity and pride and runs to the prodigal. He embraces him  and kisses him, welcoming him rather than harming him. Esau running to meet Jacob and the prodigal’s father running to meet his son, are extraordinarily similar scenes. (Genesis 33.4; Luke 15.20) Esau and Jacob must at least have been in the back of Jesus’ mind when he told of the prodigal.

Of course, the actual forgiveness and reconciliation between Esau and Jacob is limited. They are each still only human. Their trust is limited. Their faith in one another is justifiably small. In the future, violence will dominate the relationship. But in this moment, in a limited way, Esau demonstrates the welcome of the gospel. The wronged party shows undeserved mercy. 

Not only is Jacob and Esau’s situation different from Jesus’ parable, it is different from our own situation.

Our spiritual sins are worse than Jacob’s familial ones. We are scheming, rebellious thieves and liars, but worse than a dispute over inheritance, we have joined an insurrection against God our Father and King. We have chosen war instead of peace. We have chosen lies instead of the truth. We have chosen hate instead of love.

Our ability to bargain and appease God is non-existent. Jacob is no penniless prodigal repenting from the pig pen. He is wealthy and prosperous and he sends valuable resources ahead of himself to appease the justifiable anger of Esau. We have no such offerings to send that can appease or compensate for our rebellion and sin. When we come to Jesus we have nothing to offer him of value. We have only the filthy rags of our sins clinging to our backs.

Jesus is truly righteous and makes a sincere offer. Esau was wronged by Joseph but Esau was also sinful, violent, and had despised the birthright Jacob stole. Esau’s offer of protection and forgiveness is suspicious and he is untrustworthy. Jesus, however, is fully righteous. He makes us a fully genuine offer that we can have full faith and trust in. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive them.

May we also be willing to rush that forgiveness to those around us. Let us be faithful. Let us be just. Let us run to forgive.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “If your brother does something wrong, rebuke him and, if he is sorry, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times a day and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I am sorry,’ you must forgive him.” — Luke 17.3-4

Today’s Readings
Genesis 33 (Listen – 2:59)
Mark 4 (Listen – 5:01)

Read more about Faith After the Storm
How many times do we go to Jesus in prayer, without faith but with bucket-fulls of complaints…”Don’t you care, Jesus?”

Read more about Meals Together, Forgiveness to Go
What if all our meals were markers—altars of forgiveness and belonging? Come to the table. Lay down your burdens. Offer forgiveness.

Faith After the Storm

Mark 4.39-40
Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Reflection: Faith After the Storm
By John Tillman

How tired Christ must have been to be asleep during the storm. 

Mark gives us the beautiful eyewitness detail that Christ’s head was on a pillow. Jesus had healed and preached all day long. Then he had preached it all again to his disciples who had heard the stories but, just like the crowd, had a hard time understanding.

Jesus was beaten down by the demands of his work so much so that the wildly rocking boat, the crashing waves, and even the boat filling up with water didn’t wake him. In the midst of this terrible storm, Jesus slept on until his shaken disciples shook him awake.

The disciples don’t seem to wake Jesus because he can save them from the storm. They merely wake him to complain about his treatment of them. “Don’t you care that we are going to drown?” The drowning seems a foregone conclusion. There is no direct request, merely bitterness and accusation. 

How many times do we go to Jesus in prayer, without faith but with bucket-fulls of complaints and accusations.

Don’t you care, Jesus?
Why don’t you answer?
What’s wrong with you?

When Jesus calms the storm, the disciples’ fears should be as calm as the sea, but instead they are heightened. The disciples are more terrified than before. 

Jesus asleep on the pillow is a punching bag for our emotions. Asleep, he cannot hear or dispute our complaints, our fears, our version of events. But Jesus standing and rebuking the storm rebukes us as well. “Quiet. Be still.”

Jesus standing and commanding the storm is intimidating and disturbing. He is no longer someone we can shake awake and push around. He is no longer the servile employee behind the desk of God’s complaint department. Instead he holds power that cannot be debated with. He is someone who demands our service, commands our compliance. We may be as terrified by a Jesus who calms storms as we are by the storms themselves.

As we examine our hearts this weekend, spend some time contemplating the fearful question of the disciples, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Though we still have no faith after the storm, he is willing to do great things through our lives. If the winds and waves listen to his rebukes…we can too.

Be stilled and calmed by Christ this weekend.

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 33 (Listen – 2:59) 
Mark 4 (Listen – 5:01)

This Weekend’s Readings
Genesis 34 (Listen – 4:18), Mark 5 (Listen – 5:21)
Genesis 35-36 (Listen – 9:33), Mark 6 (Listen – 7:23)

Join Our New Facebook Group:
This weekend, in our new Facebook group for email subscribers, we will continue 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 Thanksgiving Stirs God’s Heart
When Simon (not yet called Peter) saw what Christ had done for him and his partners, he skipped right over being thankful to being fearful. “Go away from me! I’m not worthy. I don’t understand! You don’t know how sinful I am!”

Read more about Prayer from the Belly of the Beast
We may not be in the beast’s belly because of wrongdoing, but because our world is filled with beasts. But regardless of how we came to be there, our prayer may be sharpened, amplified, and have greater effect on our hearts.