I grew up watching rerun episodes of classic TV westerns like Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Maverick, the Rifle Man and Stage Coach. Saturday afternoons seemed to often have cowboy movies, spaghetti westerns like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and a Fist Full of Dollars.
But, my favorite cowboy wasn’t on in the afternoons or evenings, only Saturday mornings, Yosemite Sam, the Warner Brothers Loony Toone.
He was always going up against Bugs Bunny, episode after episode, always getting tricked, always losing to the unlikely, unarmed hero. Like Maverick, a tricky character.
Yosemite was my favorite because of the company that he kept.
Did you ever notice that Yosemite Sam had a deep piety about him? That he was a man of prayer? He was always bidding the rabbit to prayer, like a good deacon.
“Say your prayers varmint!”
“Say your prayers ya long eared galoot!”
“Say your prayers. Dead rabbits tell no tales!”
In cowboy parlance, he was preparing Bugs Bunny to “meet his maker.”
Of course, the tricky rabbit always got away with great style, to the audiences’ relief and delight.
My favorite cowboy. He kept good company.
Scripture bids us to meet our maker. The face to face divine encounter.
Over and over again, episode after episode, we are given glimpses of what it is like to meet God.
Over and over again there is the surprise of surviving the experience. Names like Sinai, Peniel, Penuel, and Transfiguration mark those encounters.
We hear the next episode of Jacob’s saga, the divine encounter, wrestling with God all night long, refusing to let go until receiving a blessing.
Jacob is like Bugs Bunny, a trickster who against all odds somehow wins, always surprised to still be found alive.
Jacob worked for his uncle Laban for twenty years. For the first fourteen, he got to marry Laban’s two daughters, Leah and Rachel.
The last six years Jacob out smarts and out tricks Laban out of most of his wealth. Laban had it coming, the whole time he was trying to con Jacob, it is just that Jacob was the better con man. However, Laban’s sons get tired of seeing their inheritance swindled away so they plan to kill Jacob.
So once again Jacob has to skip town for fear of his life, this time being chased by Uncle Laban.
This time, however, he can’t run so fast, because he now has two wives, two maids, eleven children, and most of Laban’s considerable flock and possessions.
Eventually, Laban catches them, they have words, and Jacob gets to keep it all, just as long as he never comes back onto Laban’s land. Laban probably thinks it’s a good deal just to get Jacob out of his life. Laban rides off into the sunset cussing the long eared galoot.
Where is Jacob to go now?
Back home- to face his brother Esau, whom he had cheated out of pretty much everything, from whom he had run for his life twenty years before.
To ensure his safe return he sends all his earthly wealth on ahead of him, which he didn’t get to keep for long, easy come easy go. He sends it ahead as a present to Esau.
The last Jacob hears is that Esau is on his way with four hundred men to catch Jacob on his way back home.
Things don’t look so good for our hero. This is the classic cliff hanger at the end of the season. Is this the end of that rascally rabbit Jacob? Does he finally get his due? Tune in next season to find out!
It is that night that Jacob wrestles the angel, the show down at the OK corral, and he is given the name that marks all of history, Israel, the one who strives with God. Whose twelve sons become the twelve tribes of Israel.
Jacob the rascal, who strives with everyone, even God. Stay tuned.
Meeting God. The episodes and cliff hangers of faith bid us to this encounter.
The disciples’ encounter with God at the Transfiguration began with the struggle to stay awake and ended with a stunning silence.
Jacob’s encounter with God always seemed to be while he was running for his life.
Where do we meet God?
In the struggle to stay awake? In goodness? In terror? In silence? In the striving to get by? In running from our poor choices? In the consequences of our words and actions? In the surprise of still being alive? In the refusal to quit? Which episode are we in?
The stories of faith find God where ever we find ourselves.
It may not seem like it, but the story is going somewhere. Jacob’s youngest son was Benjamin. Jesus was from the tribe of Benjamin. Jacob’s face to face refusal to relent sets in motion the face to face encounter that is Jesus.
The stuff of human life-it is where we meet God face to face.
That is where we find the face of Jesus today.