Here is the situation I am in right now. A couple weeks ago I filled in for a pastor who was ill. In the meantime that pastor has very unexpectedly died. So now I am asked to preach again and will be dealing pastorally with a complicated and emotional situation. This will be very short term. But for the moment, it will affect my ability to blog as I normally do.
However, as I did before, I will share some thoughts about the text I am preaching from. That text this week is the story of Jacob’s dream in Genesis 25:10-22.
I did a search on my own blog and found that I had several posts on Jacob, some of which I had forgotten about
I looked at an article by Israel Finkelstein and Thomas Romer. They were what I called “hyper skeptical” about historical matters but still thought a group called the “sons of Jacob” must have existed in the dim past along the Jabbok river in Jordan and that they were a part of primal Israel. These traditions migrated across the Jordan and attached themselves to Bethel. See here.
Another post dealt with the sanctuary traditions behind the stories about Jacob. The sanctuaries at Shechem (Joshua 24:32 as understood in Samaritan tradition and Acts 17:14-16) and Hebron/Mamre (Genesis 50:12-13) claimed that they were the place of Jacob’s burial. Sanctuaries at Bethel (Genesis 25) and Beersheba (Genesis 46) had traditions about visions Jacob had seen. That post is here.
Since most of the above material is of little interest for preaching, the most helpful post was one I wrote about Michael Fishbane’s view of the passage in his theological work, Sacred Attunement. He used the dream of Jacob to talk about four different ways Jewish interpreters have approached Genesis 25. See that post here.
When Jacob woke up, he responded to his dream by saying 1) this place is awesome, 2) this place is the house of God, and 3) this place is the gate of heaven. I think that will preach, especially with Fishbane’s idea that even on the most basic level this story is about some kind of pilgrimage involving heaven and earth, that Jacob’s journey is actually a quest for spiritual wholeness.
Anyway the idea of pilgrimage and encounter with God may speak to people today without loosing touch with the original text.
This is Tuesday. I have until Sunday to vastly improve on this idea—I hope.