Surrender / never surrender

Jacob Wrestling, by Wes Campbell

Jacob Wrestling, by Wes Campbell

From the following night prayer at the Uniting Church ministers' retreat (see previous post, "A Jar of Honey") another poem, this time from Janet Morley's magnificent All Desires Known. Jacob Polley's poem had recalled honeycomb as witness to struggle, now Morley's poem echoes the biblical figure of Jacob's wrestling with a mysterious stranger in the narrative of Genesis (chapter 32):

I want to wrestle with you now     cradle you
follow your words closely      argue fiercely    
stand my ground       learn from you
walk close with you
follow my own path
forget you     never forget you

I want you to speak to my weaknesses
measure my strength
enfold my heart      dance free
flash fire with me     touch me
love your solitude      turn to me
surrender     never surrender

      All Desires Known (London: SPCK, 1992) p.109

And an arresting passage from Dairmaid MacCulloch, A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2010), p.50:

"The first book of scripture, Genesis, has accounts of leaders who have come to be known as Patriarchs, beginning with Abram, who is pictured as coming down from Ur in what is now Iraq and receiving a repeated promise from Hod that his descendants will receive the land, symbolized by a new name given him by God, Abraham, 'Father of Multitudes'. Around Abraham's rackety grandson Jacob are woven several engaging tales of courageous cheating and deceit, and they culminate in an all-night wrestling match with a mysterious stranger who overcomes Jacob and is able to given him another new name, Israel, meaning 'He who strives with god'. Out of that fight in the darkness, with one who revealed the power of God and was God, began the generations of the Children of Israel. Few peoples united by a religion have proclaimed by their very name that they struggle against the one whom they worship. The relationship of God with Israel is intense, personal, conflicted. Those who follow Israel and the religions which spring from his wrestling match that night are being told that even through their harshest and most wretched experiences of fighting with those they love most deeply, they are being given some glimpse of how they relate to God."

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