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Sermon and Liturgy for Ordinary 18 - Proper 13 - Year A
Genesis 32:22-32; Psalm 17; Matthew 14:13-21
"Struggling With Angels"

READING: Genesis 32:22-32; Psalm 17; and Matthew 14:13-21 SERMON : "Struggling With Angels" Rev. Richard J. Fairchild a-or18se 327000 The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon for the upcoming Sunday. Hymn numbers, designated as VU are found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United". SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC. The Prayers of The People (Intercessions) and the Prayer of Dedication are taken and/or modified from John Maynard (maynard@SYMPAC.COM.AU) "Prayers and Litanies for Ordinary 18" as sent to the PRCL-List, July 1999). The Benediction is based on a traditional Celtic prayer. GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE (* = please stand) * ENTRANCE & CANDLE LIGHTING * INTROIT: "What Does The Lord Require of You" (VU-701) * WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP (based on Proverbs 2:3-4) L The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. P And also with you. L If you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding: P If you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure L If you struggle with angels P and hold tightly to your God no matter what befalls you L Then you will blessed and understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. * PRAYER OF INVOCATION: Holy and awesome God, creator of heaven and earth - as we come before you today we are aware of our imperfect understanding of your ways and of our deep need for your presence in our lives. We thank you for granting to us a family in which to grow, a people with whom we can mature. We praise you for accepting us as we are and for struggling with us to make us what we can be. Bless, we pray, this time when your people gather to worship you and call on your name. Grant to us insight into the mind of Christ and a deep love for you and for all whom you have made. As we lift our song to you - come down and visit our souls. We ask it in the name of Christ Jesus, our Lord, our brother, and our friend. Amen. * HYMN: "Come In, Come In And Sit Down" - VU 395 ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS Gathering in of prayer joys and concerns. INTROIT For The Word of God (please stay seated): Open my ears, that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear; and while the wave notes fall on my ear, everything false will disappear. Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see. Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine! (VU 371 v.2 & refrain) A READING FROM GENESIS 32:22-32 (Gen 32:22-31 NRSV) The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. {23} He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. {24} Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. {25} When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. {26} Then he said, "Let me go, for the day is breaking." But Jacob said, "I will not let you go, unless you bless me." {27} So he said to him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Jacob." {28} Then the man said, "You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed." {29} Then Jacob asked him, "Please tell me your name." But he said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And there he blessed him. {30} So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved." {31} The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. {32} Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle. L This is the word of the Lord. P Thanks be to God. HYMN: "Give To Us Laughter" - VU 624 RESPONSIVE READING: From Psalm 17 L Hear, O Lord, my righteous plea; listen to my cry. P Give ear to my prayer - it does not come from deceitful lips. L May my vindication come from your presence; P May your eyes see what is right. L If you probe my heart and examine me at night, P If you test me, you will find no wickedness in me. L As for what others do, according to the command of your lips I have kept myself from the ways of the violent; P My steps have held fast to your paths, my feet have not slipped. L I call upon you, O God, for you will answer me; P Incline your ear to me and hear my prayer. L Show the wonder of your great love, you who save by your right hand all those who take refuge in you. P Guard me as the apple of your eye Hide me under the shadow of your wings. L As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness: P When I awake and see your face, I shall be satisfied. Gloria Patri (sung) Glory be to The Father and to The Son and To the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and evermore shall be. World without end. Amen. A READING FROM MATTHEW 14:13-21 (NRSV) Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. {14} When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. {15} When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves." {16} Jesus said to them, "They need not go away; you give them something to eat." {17} They replied, "We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish." {18} And he said, "Bring them here to me." {19} Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. {20} And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. {21} And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. L This is the gospel of our Risen Lord. P Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ. * HYMN: "Spirit, Spirit of Gentleness" - VU 375 SERMON: "Struggling With Angels" Let us Pray: Breathe on us, O God, that we may be filled with your Spirit - and led by your living word - Jesus Christ our Lord. Bless the word of my lips and the meditations of our hearts. We ask it in his name. Amen. I would like you to remember the story of Jacob with me... Twenty years before the incident recorded in today's reading Jacob had fled his father's home; he left with the clothes on his back, a bartered birthright and a stolen blessing. Jacob had lived up to his name - a name which means "heel catcher", or more simply, "one who deceives, or tricks another". Jacob went to the land of HARAN and there he practised his art on his father-in-law, a man who also was rather crafty and tricked Jacob into marrying the wrong woman. After twenty years Jacob fled his father-in-law's home, taking with him the great wealth that he had earned a wealth measured in wives, livestock, and children and in fleeing the home of Laban Jacob decides to return to his homeland for he has had dream in which an angel of the Lord has told him to return to his native land. But there is a catch - as there so often is when we try to go home after leaving it under a cloud. When Jacob returns he must face his brother Esau the very brother whom he had taken advantage of, the very brother whom he had cheated out of his birthright. And Jacob is afraid. So as Jacob approaches his homeland he sends a messenger to inform Esau that he is on his way and that he has become very wealthy and when the messenger returns he tells Jacob that Esau is coming out to meet him, and that there are 400 men with him. This news does encourage Jacob at all. So Jacob divides his herds, and his people and everything he has into two thinking that just perhaps if Esau attacks him one group will escape. And then he prays, and he sends five messengers to Esau, each a little after the other, each with a different gift of livestock. hoping perhaps to both impress and appease his brother. And then night falls. It is at this point that today's Old Testament reading occurs. Esau is a but a little way ahead of Jacob, sometime the next day they will meet. And Jacob is afraid. To prepare for the morning Jacob sends his two wives, his two concubines, his eleven sons, and all the rest of his possessions across the stream called Jabbok. And he is left totally alone, in the dark, camped by a little stream wondering what will happen the next day, and something happens to him. The bible puts it this way: Jacob was left alone And a man wrestled with him till daybreak. We hear that this man whom Jacob wrestles with could not overpower him, so he wounds Jacob in the hip, but Jacob still will not let go. Even as the sun begins to rise Jacob and this man are locked tightly together. Finally the man pleads with Jacob to release him But Jacob refuses to do so until he receives a blessing. The man agrees to this condition, saying to Jacob: "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome." Jacob, at this point, asks the man his name, but the man refuses to answer him, saying "why do you ask me my name" And then he blesses Jacob, and disappears from our story. And Jacob? Jacob gives the place where he camped a name - PENIEL saying "It is because I saw God face to face and yet my life was spared" And he limps away because of the wound to his hip and rejoins his family and goes forth to meet Esau, and Esau receives him kindly, hugging him and welcoming him as a long lost brother. It is an interesting story - but what are we to make of it? Who or what was it that Jacob wrestled with? Was it his own fear? Or was it with his own personality that he struggled? His habit of always looking for the advantage? His way of doing wrong when he should do right? What we know for sure about this incident is that it was hard, it was draining, and that it left Jacob with a mark, a distinguishing mark - a limp caused by an injured hip. And we know too one other very important thing, namely that Jacob himself was convinced that he had struggled with an angel that he was convinced that he had struggled with God, and that he had won something important - that he had won a blessing. That is at least what Jacob thought, but the question remains, who did he really struggle with? The man, after all, refused to give his name. While Jacob wrestled all that long night, he did not know with what he was struggling, he only knew that he would not let go until some good came of it. And it was long, and it was hard, And it hurt, And, even though he had family and friends, and wealth, he was alone in his struggle. I believe that all of us, despite the mystery of Jacob's story can, if we try, understand it. I believe that because all of us have had, or will have, the same struggle as did he. And always, it is long, it is hard, and it is, despite any help from family and friends, lonely and dark. For each of us there is appointed a dark night of the soul. A time when we must struggle and either win or lose a blessing. In those times, there is doubt, and confusion, often there is anger and despair, mistakes we have made catch up to us, and things we did not anticipate, and do not know the name of seek to overwhelm us. And we are afraid. Afraid because the struggle itself is painful, and afraid because deep down we know that if we give up, if we let go, we will be overwhelmed. And afraid too, that even if we manage to survive the struggle that nothing will come of it but another struggle and then another. Brothers and sisters in Christ, many of us, no - all of us, carry inside us some pain, some hurt, some issue, with which we must struggle. It is not fun, But neither is it insurmountable, or unbeatable. Piet Hein, the author of a set of books called "GROOKS" gives us this rhyme in his MAXIM FOR VIKINGS: Here is a fact that should help you to fight a bit longer. Things that don't actually kill you outright make you stronger. Jacob struggled, He wrestled, he won. And so can we. The prophet Isaiah says: Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour. There is a choice in our struggles, a choice in our dark nights when we are alone and must face - must face - that which we do not know - that which may be related to our past - that which may be connected to our future, The choice is this: Do we see the struggle as a struggle with angels a struggle in which we can win a blessing or do we see it as simply and only unwanted pain? We have, you and I, a name - the name of Christ and we, like Christ, also bear the name of Jacob, With Christ, we are spiritual descendants of the man who struggled by the stream Jabbok and received the name Israel, "He struggles with God". We have a choice, Our trials can be blessings to us, our wrestling can result in grace being heaped upon us, our struggles can end in triumph and glory. Or we can give up and let go. Jacob did not know with whom he struggled, nor was he ever told, but he was clever enough to ask for a blessing within it, and he would not let go until he received it. And yes, Jacob was injured in his struggle, his hip was damaged, and he walked with a limp, But as a result of his struggle he did win, And his injury became a sacred thing, Remember always that the man who left the Jabbok the next morning was a changed man, a man with a new name, a man who founded a people and a nation because he would not give up in his struggling. We too have a new name - we were baptized in it, we were baptized in the name of Christ and in that baptism we were united with Christ, united in his struggles and his death, and united in his victory over death. In the next few years of our ministry together here at St. Andrew's I invite you to struggle with me in the name of Christ, as I struggle with you in his name, that together we may win through. Like Jacob, now called Israel, we are called to embrace the struggles, realizing that while, by times, they may seem to us to be evils, they will prove, if we but hold on and do not give up, to be God struggling with us. If we hold on; If we are willing to claim the victory that Christ has won for us, then we will win through and emerge, both you and I, as stronger and freer and more loving people; a people who can change the world, as did our father Israel as did our brother, and our Lord, Jesus. Blessed be his name, now and forever. Amen. PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE (from John Maynard) Let us pray: Our Father God, we worship You as the one who has given us this life, and ask that You will help us to live it to the full. At home may we be the friends and neighbours that we really want to be. Help us to spread the warmth of Your love to everyone we meet. Lord, hear our prayer.... And in your love answer. At work, may we be reliable, honest in what we do, and friendly to those who find things hard. Help us always to give our best, to work to our fullest and never be ashamed. Lord, hear our prayer.... And in your love answer. In our games, help us to play hard, but to play fair. Help us to win without boasting, and to lose without making excuses. Lord, hear our prayer.... And in your love answer. In our pleasures, help us never to find delight where there is hurt for others or ourselves. Help us not to choose things we would rather hide, or some day bitterly regret. Lord, hear our prayer.... And in your love answer. Lord, may we be strong in character, loving in our relationships, forgiving when others fail us, and loyal. May our lives be useful to others and fulfilling for us. Lord, hear our prayer.... And in your love answer. We pray for the ill, the lonely and distressed. We pray for healing and wholeness in their lives. And we pray for ourselves. Help us to bring life and love, joy and hope, to those who live in despair. Lord, hear our prayer.... And in your love answer. In all things and in everything, be with us Lord. Help us to widen our knowledge, deepen our love, and strengthen our service. Lord, hear our prayer.... And in your love answer. We ask you to hear all our prayers, O God, in the name of the one who taught us to pray to you as one family, saying - OUR FATHER * HYMN: "I The Lord of Sea and Sky" - VU 509 MINUTE FOR MISSION: OUR LIFE TOGETHER AND IN THE WORLD * SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: As the Offering is presented all stand for the Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) and Prayer of Dedication Loving and Generous God, you provide all that we need. Increase our faith so that we may offer even the little we have, trusting in Your faithfulness, power and grace, both for ourselves and for the needs of the world; this both in words and in deeds, in time and in treasure.... We ask it through Christ our Lord. AMEN. * DEPARTING HYMN: "Walk With Me" - VU 649 * COMMISSIONING (Unison): In the power of the Holy Spirit we now go forth into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the body of Christ. * BENEDICTION AND THREEFOLD AMEN Go in peace, and May the Christ who walks on wounded feet walk with you on the road, May the Christ who serves with wounded hands, stretch out your hands to serve. May the Christ who loves with a wounded heart open your hearts to love May you see the face of Christ in everyone you meet and may everyone you meet see the face of Christ in you This both now and forevermore. * THREEFOLD AMEN & CHORAL BLESSING: "Go Now In Peace" - VU 964 copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 1996 - 2005 please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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