Psalm 66, 67 (Morning)
Psalm 19, 46 (Evening)
1 Timothy 3:14-4:10
In our Old Testament reading today, we discover that Jacob, the trickster, has gone and gotten himself tricked. After agreeing to work for Laban for seven years to marry Rachel, he awakes to find he’s been given Leah as his bride. (Ok, admittedly, I haven’t totally given up on Jacob’s trickster-ness, and sometimes wonder if it was more like, “In the morning, Jacob decided to acknowledge he’d been given Leah.” I still find it a little incredulous that Jacob hadn’t figured out it was Leah in his tent, rather than Rachel.)
That said, the fact remains that Laban got the upper hand on that one. He got seven more years of work out of Jacob for Rachel. The man who had thieved his way to his birthright gets snookered from what he thought was his right. When he confronts Laban, Laban’s answer is essentially a shrug and “Well, yeah, I know that’s what I said, but surely you noticed that’s really not how we do it around here.”
What we will see in the next few days, as the Daily Office winds its way through Genesis, and more of the Jacob story, is a continuing saga that illustrates what happens when continuous double-dealing collides with otherwise reasonable intentions. (Well, that, and the most confusing set of sexual liaisons I’ve ever seen.) It’s difficult to like a lot of the parts of the Jacob story, especially if we read it through 21st century eyes, because it’s not complimentary to women at all–the women are portrayed as schemers, victims, or both–but we can latch onto the idea that there’s still something to be learned about the outcome of too much trickster-ism.
The concept of the trickster is one that seems to be almost universal–crossing multiple cultures. Whether the trickster is Jacob, the native American figure Coyote, Bugs Bunny, or Captain Jack Sparrow, they share some interesting attributes. They are often likable rogues–but very clearly rogues, and in many ways, not to be imitated. Their cunning and cleverness is often equally counterbalanced by abject stupidity and being outfoxed at their own game. Yet an interesting positive outcome is often revealed by living through the whole messy complicated process of the trickster story–in the actions of breaking taboos and in using only the materials available, something synergistic can happen. Something can result in the end that equals more than the sum of its parts–a human bricolage. In the case of the Jacob story, it’s the twelve tribes of Israel.
Tricksters differ from villains in that we really, truly desire that villains “get what’s coming to them.” We are emotionally more forgiving with tricksters. Truth is, ultimately, we always want Captain Jack Sparrow to get his ship and his woman back. Likewise, we know that Jacob truly loves Rachel and despite all the treachery and duplicity, we want to believe in their true love.
Ultimately, the trickster stories remind us that love wins, and that God can take anything–even the worst of our double-dealing behaviors–and find a way to piece it together into a holy bricolage. In the Captain Jack Sparrow story, I think most of us know the character arose from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, but what we may not realize is that the Pirates of the Caribbean ride was the last one that Walt Disney worked on personally. History has revealed that the affable Mr. Disney wasn’t exactly a saint when it came to his business dealings. Yet decades later, and with a little more creative input from Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, along with the character genius of Johnny Depp, what started out as a mechanical figure at a ride, develops flesh, bone, and a legend of its own–something bigger and more perfect than its creator, or, for that matter, any of us.
When is a time God has been able to take both the sacred and the profane from your own life and create art from it?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid