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God’s surprising faithfulness and love often catch us off guard-it certainly does Jacob! He braces for the worst only to get surprised by joy. Yet God’s steadfast love is forever and ever as Paul reminds us in Romans 9. And yet at other times God’s surprising faithfulness is made known through acts of care and kindness.

Genesis 32:22-31-Limping with Grace

Desperation is written all over this episode in Jacob’s life. No sooner has Laban chased after him and overcome his clan, with apparent malice in mind, but now Jacob’s worst nightmare occurs-Esau enters the fray with his militia-sized group of 400 to exact sweet revenge. This could be messy. After all, Jacob has scammed his own brother out of birthright and blessing-the two most coveted legacies that a patriarch could pass on to the eldest son. So Jacob sends the clan across the Jabbock while he remains alone to face his dark night of the soul. In the struggle with a stranger, Jacob gets hamstrung and that marks the beginning of a change. The exchange is interesting: "Let me go." "No-unless you bless me." "Okay, okay-what’s your name?" "Jacob." "You’ve struggled with everyone-so your new name is Israel."

Romans 9:1-5-God and God’s People

Forthright, honest talk going on here. Paul bares his soul’s desire for his own flesh and blood-that his Jewish colleagues and friends would share his experience of liberation through Jesus Christ. God and "his people" share several things in common: they share a sacred history, relationships through Law and orthodoxy, and God’s promises.

Matthew 14:13-21-Solitude and Pastoral Care

Our events in the gospel lesson may make more sense if we consider two events that precede the feeding of the 5,000. First, Jesus returns home after teaching the parables. Perhaps he shares a meal and conversation with his family members; but when he preaches at the local synagogue and offers a little pastoral care, he meets resistance and rejection. Not only that, but he then gets word that his cousin John has been executed. At the news and perhaps still stinging from rejection, Jesus seeks a solitude place. But not for long. Just when he moors the boat, a crowd already gathers and "his heart was filled with pity for them." So he sets his preferences aside and administers healing and sustenance to them. In the process of ministry, Jesus models and trains servanthood to his disciples.