Go Bless

Genesis 27:1-4; 15-23 and 28:10-28  September 24, 2017      GO BLESS

Right out of college I worked for a day care for a year or so. And one of the phrases I found myself using day after day was “use your words.” Trying to help toddlers express what it was they wanted or needed. Trying to help 4 year olds talk instead of hit or stick out their tongues or shove one another. Use your words.

Words hold power, wield power, are powerful. We know this from our own experience of speaking words that hurt and words that love and words that repair. We know what it feels like to be the one on the receiving end of a tongue lashing or on the end of great words of love. We know the power that words hold to create distance between one another and to close the gap. Words give permission. Words take away authority. Words shape futures. Words have power.

One morning I walked with John and his youngest to school and she was already having a bad day. As we got closer to school, John very carefully and intentionally said, “Ok, I’ve got to help you see this day in a different way. What do we usually do before we get to school?”  And with a stamp of her foot and a grimace that told you she was not having it, she spat out; gratitude. And while she refused to speak out loud things she was grateful for, both her dad and I did, making sure we said we were grateful for her.  As we got close to school, she told us she didn’t need us to walk with her any further, she gave us humming bird speed hugs and was off. John knew the power of words to help shape the rest of her day.

This family of Isaac and Rebekah and their twin sons Jacob and Esau – they know the power of words. I get so frustrated with Esau who only seems to recognize their power when it’s too late. Jacob plots and tricks his way using words to then have words of blessing spoken to him first. This family gets that words can shape a future and that words of blessing from God – well, there’s no future without it.

Earlier in their story, Esau, the first born, sold his birthright for a song to his brother because he was hungry and his brother had food. Esau gave away his future to meet his immediate need of hunger. The first born son had rights not only to land and other possessions but also to authority over the family. And he lazily gave it up. Not to mention he’d married 2 Hittite women which God had expressly forbidden.

 So what’s the big deal about this? If he’s already lost the birthright, then what’s the big deal about this father’s blessing? Why couldn’t he just take back the blessing already given? Why couldn’t his blessing of Esau be equal to that of Jacob’s?

Well, because words matter. What had been said had been said. And what was done was done. And, even though the blessing was gotten through trickery, well, there it was. It was still blessing.

This blessing served as a severing of the family. Hear the blessing Isaac gives Jacob, who he thinks is Esau: (Ge: 27:27-29) Close your eyes and imagine your own dad or mom’s hand on your head as these words are spoken:

So he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his garments, and blessed him, and said,
‘Ah, the smell of my son
is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed.
May God give you of the dew of heaven,
and of the fatness of the earth,
and plenty of grain and wine.
Let peoples serve you,
and nations bow down to you.
Be lord over your brothers,
and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.
Cursed be everyone who curses you,
and blessed be everyone who blesses you!’

It is a powerful blessing. Listen to this exchange between Esau and Isaac as they both discover what has happened.

As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, when Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of his father Isaac, his brother Esau came in from his hunting. 31He also prepared savoury food, and brought it to his father. And he said to his father, ‘Let my father sit up and eat of his son’s game, so that you may bless me.’ 32His father Isaac said to him, ‘Who are you?’ He answered, ‘I am your firstborn son, Esau.’ 33Then Isaac trembled violently, and said, ‘Who was it then that hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate it all before you came, and I have blessed him?—yes, and blessed he shall be!’ 34When Esau heard his father’s words, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, ‘Bless me, me also, father!’ 35But he said, ‘Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing.’ 36Esau said, ‘Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright; and look, now he has taken away my blessing.’ Then he said, ‘Have you not reserved a blessing for me?’ 37Isaac answered Esau, ‘I have already made him your lord, and I have given him all his brothers as servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him. What then can I do for you, my son?’ 38Esau said to his father, ‘Have you only one blessing, father? Bless me, me also, father!’ And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.

39 Then his father Isaac answered him:
‘See, away from the fatness of the earth shall your home be,
and away from the dew of heaven on high.
40 By your sword you shall live,
and you shall serve your brother;
but when you break loose,
you shall break his yoke from your neck.’

41 Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, ‘The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.’

This family is acting as if words matter, as if they have power, and as if God’s promises actually have traction in their lives. The blessing is passed along and even though it was passed along through trickery, it still counts. God is maddening that way, right? God still uses Jacob.

Jacob has run for his life from his brother and is now at an in between time. It’s an in between time of his old life and his new life. His old life as a trickster, as a heel-grabber and his new life as one to carry on God’s blessing and to be re-named Israel as a sign of God’s chosen people.  Jacob awakens from his dream and believes the words that were spoken to him by God. God met him in the midst of his running from a family he helped to shatter. And God blessed him.

How is it that you are a blessing? Has God used your trickery and deceit and turned it into something that gives life? Being loved by God means we are turned toward others to show that, to pass it along, to act like we believe the words that we are a child of God, loved by God, precious to God.  God’s story and our story today is a picture of the power of blessing: “…nobody wants to live a life that is unblessed. Nobody wants a life without the special words and gestures that bind that life to a precious past and a promised future.”

It’s why we pray God’s blessing on Bibles and the kids who receive them, because our voices speaking God’s promises matter. It’s why I bless you with God’s words before worship ends each Sunday. Because words have power. And God’s words will change you. Will promise you a future.

Go and bless. God will use your best effort and your shadiest secret to move God’s promise into the future. For you and for me. Go and bless.