August 06, 2023
Please join us in Calvin Hall following worship today for a time of fellowship.
School Supply Drive. See more information about this United Way effort to provide school supplies to all the elementary students in Clinton County. A box has been placed in the hall outside the sanctuary. If you would like to donate cash instead of items, the Christmas in July box is there to accept your donations. Thank you!
The Gathering Place continues to serve the needs of people who need connection and socialization. Tell your friends. Come assist and join with this thing that Christ is doing in our midst. Please speak to Pastor Joyce to sign up to assist in the near future.
The administration office phone is bot working please get a hold of me through email, or calls and texts can be made to 563-212-0200
· JoAnn Grimm who fell last week and broke 2 ribs.
· The Pawlik family as they morn Arlene Pawilk Passing
· Joan Pinkston, on hospice.
*CALL TO WORSHIP based on Psalm 145
One: Our God and King, we exalt you and praise your name forever;
All: Your greatness is more than we understand and most worthy of praise.
One: You are slow to anger and rich in love;
All: Gracious and compassionate and good to all.
One: All your works praise you, Lord, and speak of your glory and might.
All: O Lord our God, how great Thou art!
Almighty God, who stands by every promise made to Your people, generation after generation, we gather together today to worship you.
We come to give You thanks, to proclaim Your greatness, to sing Your praise, and to celebrate Your faithful presence with us.
We pray that Your Spirit would guide and inspire our worship. We ask that you open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts to feel your love and know your will. In this hour and throughout our lives, let our souls truly sing “how great thou art; how great thou art!” Amen.
*HYMN How Great Thou Art #467
(You may be seated.)
CALL TO CONFESSION
God promises to love us and forgive us, not because we are righteous or law-abiding, but simply because we are. Trusting in God’s steadfast love, let us confess our sin together.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart and mind and strength. We have not loved one another as you have commanded us to do. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, we have hurt others, ourselves, and you by our actions or inactions and our words or our failures to speak.
Help us to do better, O Lord. Forgive each of us for the sins that we acknowledge and the hidden sins that you see. Create in us a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit in us.
WORDS OF ASSURANCE Romans 8: 34
SONG OF PRAISE Gloria Patri #579
PASSING THE PEACE
May the peace of Christ be with you.
And also with you.
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
Open our eyes that we may see, our ears that we may hear, and our hearts and minds that we may understand your precious Word read and proclaimed this day, most Holy God. Amen
The Old Testament Genesis 32: 22-31
22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” 29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” 31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.
The New Testament Romans 9: 1-5
9 I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
The Gospel Matthew 14: 13-21
13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. 18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
MESSAGE Wrestling with God
When I read our passage from Genesis this morning, I find myself with more questions than understanding. Why did Jacob send his family and all of his possessions across the way and spend the night alone? Who really was “the man” wrestling with Jacob, and if the man really was God, why could God not overpower Jacob? And regardless of if the man is God or not, why are they wrestling all night? And lastly, what is the significance of Jacob’s new name? We just don’t get a lot of information out of this passage, and when I finish reading it, I feel like I have more questions than answers
As I was researching this passage and looking at commentaries, I came across one by Callie Plunket-Brewton and I would like to share some of her thoughts with you this morning.
Callie states in this passage, a lone human being wrestles through the night with a nameless antagonist and emerges from the night transformed. She says that it is one repeated so often in human experience that the reader scarcely realizes this is an ancient story. Because it involves the theme of human transformation, it is a familiar and compelling narrative to people of all times.
We need to look at some clues in this story and in the larger context of Genesis that can give us some understanding to at least some of our questions.
In his book Genesis: Translation and Commentary, Robert Alter points out that splitting in two or doubling is a theme in the stories of Jacob. Jacob and his twin brother, Esau, argue and divide when Jacob takes Esau’s birthright and a blessing. Jacob’s wives, Leah and Rachel, are sisters who each vie for his affection. Jacob divides his flocks into multi- and parti-colored animals and when returns to his homeland he divides his property into two camps “in great fear and distress,” anticipating an attack by his brother’s men. Jacob seems to be a man of division, perhaps until he has finally divided so much that he ends up alone on this fateful night of wrestling.
We can look back just a few chapters to Genesis 28 and see that Jacob’s night by the river alone is similar to another dramatic night in his life: the night he fled from his brother and Canaan. In that story, Jacob lays his head on a stone and has a dream of angelic beings ascending and descending a huge stairway connecting heaven and earth. Above the stairway, God appears and promises protection, blessing, and an eventual return to Canaan. In Genesis 32, the story that begun in chapter 28 has come full circle: the promise of the return to Canaan is being fulfilled and a potential showdown with his brother is on the horizon, and Jacob finds himself alone at night, again.
The stage seems to be set for another strange encounter.
This encounter, though, is more mysterious than the first one. In the earlier story with the stairway to heaven, there is no hint of conflict, and the divine being involved is clearly identified as God, who reaffirms to Jacob the promise that he made to Jacob’s father and grandfather.
On the other hand, the identity of the “wrestler/ man” in Genesis 32 is not nearly as clear. The narrator says only that a “man” wrestled with Jacob until the break of day. There are hints in the story that this “man” is not an ordinary man … probably the most obvious “hint” is that this man wrenched Jacob’s hip just by touching the socket of the hip.
Jacob’s demand for a blessing from this man is also a clue to us. We don’t read it in the scripture, here must be something about the man that we don’t know allowing Jacob to recognize him as God and demand a blessing.
The closest the scripture comes to telling us the man’s identify comes in verse 28 where the man says “you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Interestingly, though, even this statement is not as clear as we read it today … although the NIV and other current translations of the Bible typically use the word “God” in this passage, the original word used was Elohim. This word does not quite as clearly identify the man as God … . Elohim is a somewhat generic term that can refer specifically to YHWH or God, but can also refer to gods in a more general sense. The NIV translates elohim as “God” in both verses, but that doesn’t make it obvious that Jacob’s opponent is God … after all, why should YHWH God, need to ask Jacob his name?
Probably our biggest clue, and maybe the reason we interpret this story as Jacob wrestling with God is the blessing and new name that is given to Jacob. Perhaps God asking Jacob what his name is was simply a way of emphasizing the contrast between the old Jacob and the transformed Israel.
Jacob asking for a blessing --- insisting really, by holding on to the man until the blessing was given – is perhaps the most convincing evidence that this man wrestling with Jacob was actually God. Jacob recognized something in this being that caused him to just know that this was God and know he needed his blessing --- and Jacob wouldn’t let go until he got it. Remembering back, Jacob usually figures out a way to get what he wants, doesn’t he?
The man – God - asks Jacob what his name is, and when Jacob answers, the man says “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
I like the way that Callie Plunket-Brewer explains this when she says; the name “Jacob” was given to him at birth to mark his efforts to supplant his brother even in the womb. Now he’s given another name that matches his story of striving and overcoming all that stands in his way, including dangerous supernatural beings, and he’s given another blessing. While the details of that blessing aren’t part of the scripture, it is clear that he is blessed, and unlike the blessing stolen from his brother by trickery, this is a blessing he’s earned. He’s transformed. Now he’s Israel.
This story of Jacob wrestling with God seems almost unbelievable to us, doesn’t it? God and Jacob physically wresting through the night --- why in the world would God wrestle with Jacob for any reason? Well, the wrestling was for Jacob, and for Jacob’s transformation wasn’t it? Not for God.
I wonder how often you and I wrestle with God --- all night, or all week, or always? How often do we think we know better than God … wrestling not physically as Jacob and God wrestled, but wrestling with what we know God wants us to do and what we think we can or cannot do, or what we want or don’t want to do.
Even those closest to Jesus, his disciples, “wrestled with Jesus” in many ways throughout the gospels --- questioning what he was telling them or pushing back when Jesus told them what to do or where to go. Even in our passage from Matthew today of the fish and loaves, we see some of this push back. The disciples, thinking they knew what was best for Jesus, told Jesus he should send the crowds away so the people could go and buy their own food.
Jesus replied “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” And again, the disciples pushed back, in their defense because of their own earthly understanding of what food was available.
“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they pushed back. Jesus said “Bring them here to me,” and of course we know the rest of the story.
Paul, in our reading from Romans, seems to be struggling – wrestling –too … “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart,” Paul says. Paul must have been experiencing one of those dark nights of aloneness too, don’t you think?
We all have times of sorrow and “anguish” as Paul says, don’t we? I think it’s pretty safe to say that we wrestle with God a lot of the time --- most of the time, I imagine, because we, like the disciples of Jesus, simply don’t understand what God can do and what God wants us to do We easily quote the scripture from Matthew 19:26, “with God all things are possible” but that’s hard for us to understand when we are in a situation of actually having to believe that and act on it.
Jacob, in his alone-ness on that night, must have been having a hard time, or as described by Plunker-Brewton, having a “dark night of the soul.” We’ve all had those times, haven’t we? Times when darkness seems to overtake all, when we wrestle with ourselves and with God --- when we wrestle with why God allows so much tragedy, so much hardship, so much sadness to happen in the world and even more so, in our own lives. Dark nights when we even wrestle with whether there is a God or not and if there is, where in the world is he?
But perhaps the lesson to hold onto in this story of Jacob in Genesis 32 is that no
matter how hard the night – the darkness (and it had to be pretty darn hard to wrestle with God all night) – no matter what, daybreak still comes. And not only does daybreak still come, blessings can come out of that darkness.
Jacob’s night of wrestling – of turmoil, of being in the darkness alone, left to wrestle a formidable opponent by himself – did not leave Jacob the same as he was before that night. Our own dark nights, hard times, can leave us with scars, can leave us different than we were before, just as that night did with Jacob. Jacob walked away from his hard night with a limp – it changed the way he walked, likely forever. But that night also left him with a blessing --- a change of name and a blessing that transformed Jacob and his life.
Jacob walked away from that night praising God and looking forward to the next day, with a faith and courage that came from conquering that hard night and fully assured of the blessing of God.
I have to wonder, if Jacob had not wrestled with God, would his blessing, his transformation have come sooner? If instead of wrestling, if he had let God guide the encounter that night, might he have come out unscathed and still blessed? But perhaps not … according to scripture, Jacob was given the name Israel specifically “because he had struggled with God and with humans and had overcome.” Sometimes, we may just have to do the hard stuff, just have to make it through whatever darkness we are going through … sometimes we just may need to struggle with God and with humans and, like Jacob, overcome.
And God - no matter what form he takes and no matter how hard the situation or how hard the night - God will be with us whether we wrestle with or challenge him or whether we just accept his loving arms around us. We can live fully assured that we will be blessed and transformed with every single encounter with God and we can live knowing that no matter what, daybreak will always come. And that, no matter how dark the darkness, is always enough.
*HYMN Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah #281
(You may be seated.)
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors;
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, now and forever. Amen.
OFFERING OUR GIFTS TO GOD
*DOXOLOGY Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow #592
*PRAYER OF DEDICATION
Gracious God, this offering is what we have to give you this day. Be it
time, talent or treasure, we lift these gifts to you. It is through you that all things are made new, and we ask that you renew our spirit to continue sharing our gift with the least of us. Amen
*AFFIRMATION OF FAITH The Apostle’s Creed
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth,
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
On the third day He rose again.
He ascended into heaven
He is seated at the right hand of the Father,
And He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting. Amen.
*HYMN Lord Dismiss Us With Thy Blessing #538
*CHARGE & BLESSING
* Sections of the service preceded with * are times to stand if you are able to do so.
Bold text is to be read together aloud as a congregation.