Minister’s Reflection – 6 August

By / 6 August 2023

Paul Gauguin – The vision after the sermon 1888 (Jacob Wrestles with the Angel)

One of the stories from the earliest part of the bible (the book of Genesis, or the book of beginnings) is about someone wrestling with God. It is the story of Jacob, the son Isaac and Rebekah and grandson of Abraham and Sarah, and it tells how Jacob became known as Israel and so fulfils the promise made to his grandparents that they would be the beginnings – the genesis – of the great nation of God’s people: Israel. This is the nation to be born from the 12 sons of Jacob, the 12 tribes.

Jacob is on a journey, returning to his homeland, after falling out with his father-in-law and at the heart of the story is a night spent wrestling with a stranger whose identity we never find out but who changes Jacob forever, leaving him not just with a new name but also with a wound. A clue is given to the identity of the stranger comes when Jacob gets his new name as we are told the new name means one who has wrestled with God and come out the other side.

For me, this story is one that has echoes for all of us: a story of those times when we wrestle with things, a story of how we sometimes wrestle with God, or faith, or life. It is a story about individual life and community life and one that reminds us that wrestling is a crucial part of our faith life. it can’t be avoided, however much we might like to simply journey on through life with no difficult questions, that’s not going to happen.

If wrestling with things – faith, life, God, community living – is crucial, then we do not be afraid of it. Our tendency is to shy away from it and try to avoid it. But this story tells us that wrestling brings transformation, for Jacob a new name and a restoration of a calling given to his ancestors. It is, however, quite understandable that we sky away because we are afraid of the wounding that can come from wrestling.

But this story tells us that the wounding is not to be feared and maybe it should be embraced for it is what makes us who we are. The things that have happened to us have left their mark and the scuffles we have faced bring us closer to God. Our faith doesn’t call us to just get over them or pretend they never happened, nor does it call us to avoid the places where we might get such wounds. Rather it calls us to remember that they are part of being the people of God.

Most of all the wrestling brings blessing: the blessing that enables us to go out and be a blessing. For Jacob goes on to be the beginning of a new people born from his eventual 12 sons. When we wrestle with God and allow God to transform us and dare to carry the wounds that we get and receive the blessing from God that is all this, we will find that we can be a blessing to those around us. This is true for us as individuals, and as a community of faith. Not only do we not need to be perfect to be the people of God, but it’s actually better if we’re not! Remember, we follow one who was wounded: Jesus.

The tendency in our world is to fear, not to bless. When we wrestle with the harsh realities, we forget how that gives us the ability to bless. We live in a harsh world that tells us there is not enough to go around. We can fear that we do not have what is needed to bless others. We believe the narrative of scarcity that the world teaches in so many ways, but the way and wisdom of God that we are called to live is one of abundance. Because of the blessing we receive to live in this world, as wrestling, wounded people, loved by God, we can share the abundance of God’s blessings with the community and world around.

There’s also a story in the bible about Jesus wrestling. He is wrestling the loss of his cousin and fellow prophet and preacher John the Baptist, who has been murdered by King Herod on the whim of his niece. We’re told that Jesus journeys out in a boat to a quiet place, but he is pursued by the people who want to listen to his teaching. He is wrestling with his grief, he is deeply wounded by what has happened, but God has blessed him and the story tells us he can in turn bless the people with abundance as he feeds at least 5000 people with just five loaves and two fishes.

Wrestling is a part of life and faith, through it we can find blessing and new purpose, our faith will grow, our trust in God will be strengthened. Even when we are wounded – perhaps because we are wounded. Even when we are wounded by the trials that we have faced and continue to face we can look out to the world with compassion, as God’s blessed people, and offer more than we think we have.

A prayer for this week called Abundance:

There is more than enough, if we stop holding on

to the things that we think will save us.        

we have more than enough in our God who is true,

let us trust in the one who made us.

Breathing through us, calling to us, Faithful God we listen……

In our world torn apart by our greed and distrust

pray our love with be overflowing.

When are lives are worn down and our habit is fear,

pray that love will be ever growing.  

Breathing through us, calling to us, Faithful God we listen……

May you know the abundance of God’s blessings with you this week.

Rev Anne Sardeson.

Image – Paul Gauguin The Vision After the Sermon 1888 (Jacob wrestles with the angel)

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