Thursday, August 18, 2005

Hanging On Until The Blessing

It is a strange passage of Scripture... Genesis 32 tells the story of Jacob wrestling with a man throughout the night. Is this a man? Is it an angel? Is it God himself? The text dangles all sorts of interpretations before us.

What I like best in this text is what Jacob says as the battle ends. He is defeated and he has his face in the sand, but he refuses to let go.

The stranger says, "Let me go, for it is daybreak."

But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."

I was going to let go of this business of praying for our enemies. I raised the issue and figured it was time to move on. What better way to leave it behind than to tell you the story of the time my brother, wife and I went to a nude beach on a cold winter's day?

But I can't let go.

It haunts me.

I realized this as I was reading Rev. Bill. Thanks Bill, for continuing the conversation about Praying for Osama. It made me realize I still haven't come to the blessing. I need to hang on and wrestle a little longer.

And I won't let go until I can get some sort of blessing out of this.

This year, September 11th is on a Sunday. Perhaps I can preach a sermon with the title, "Praying for Osama."

Yep, I'll let you know how that turns out.

But it is not just this issue of praying for our enemies.

Christianity calls us to do a lot of difficult things.

Love your enemies.

Be at peace with one another.

Feed those who are hungry.

Visit the sick.

Turn the other cheek.

The problem is that we don't wrestle with any of these issues. We just let go as the battles begin.

Behind the Pulpit has an interesting post on Parents -- especially as it relates to youth ministry. Something on the post caught my attention. He says, I keep hearing this, "I'm just not getting anything out of youth group." "I'm not being fed and if I brought a friend, how are they going to be hooked?"

When did being a Christian become measured based on how we feel fed, rather than how we are feeding others?

When did coming to worship become a place to be blessed by God, rather than to be a blessing to God?

When did we forget that being Christian was about taking up a cross and carrying daily?

Christianity has become a "what's in it for us" lifestyle.

I think we have a lot to wrestle with as Christians.


Blogger Reverend Ref + said...

Hey -- just found your site from your comments. Thanks for dropping by. I like what you say here; if only more people in ECUSA would realize we need to struggle with each other (not only against, but together), things might be different.

And, yes, I promise to write about the theology of football.


2:23 PM  
Blogger Angelique said...

I think that everyone has struggles with their faith and it's hard to reconcile what should do and how you feel. I think that giving a sermon about Osama on Sept. 11 will piss off some people but then it will help those who are trying to forgive.

2:55 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

"And I won't let go until I can get some sort of blessing out of this."
"When did being a Christian become measured based on how we feel fed, rather than how we are feeding others?"

"When did coming to worship become a place to be blessed by God, rather than to be a blessing to God?"

Happens to the best of us.

Sometimes we would rather be dramatically FOR the controversial than quietly wrestle with God over what the truth really is.

Jacob was alone when he wrestled with God and he walked with a limp without kicking anyone else in the shins.

3:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wanted to thank you for bringing out the true essence of the Christian faith. Its a little difficult these days to talk to Christians about wrestling in prayer without offending their sense of what God 'rightfully owes' them. This is also why I love the psalms of David.Here was a man who wrestled in the raw with God...his emotions out in the open for all to see.

Also your prayer for Osmama touched my heart. A rare gesture from an American Christian :)

5:38 PM  
Blogger Maryellen said...

some great thoughts here...when did being a Christian become measured based on how we feel fed, rather on how are feeding others?
i once heard a lady admit in church that she was a Christian because of what it could do for her...
maybe she really wasn't...and Its a little difficult these days to talk to Christians about wrestling in prayer without offending their sense of what God 'rightfully owes' them. Boy does that one touch home. But I think my whole problem with predestination has been, if this is predestined, than God owes me better, If prayer is a matter or wrestling with God, or reasoning with Him, than I'll pray. But if the outcome is already set in stone, than why bother...why pray "thy will be done" when it is a done deal.
But, that's not really the point here, on the way home I will pray for those liars who have made my life and the life of my family so miserable but I rather pray a David type prayer, that He would smash them against rocks...

6:23 PM  
Blogger Notta Wallflower said...

I don't think that the "what's in it for me?" attitude is unique to Christians - I think it's a U.S. attitude. Also, in reference to the comments at youth group, I remember when I was an older teenager and attended a service with my friend. My first thought was "what can I get out of this?". It's a mindset that doesn't pass with time if people don't mature in their faith - whether they are young or old.

7:07 PM  
Blogger Anne said...

I don't mean to be a hypocrite but I think everything you wrote is straight on the mark. My husband and I do not attend church but we may once the girls are older, before their baptist relatives start wanting them to sleepover/indoctrinate them. I like to think that god and the church is here to make us better people. What can be more pure than forgiveness?

7:37 PM  
Anonymous Rev Bill said...

Thanks for keeping the conversation going -- what you are saying is really on the mark! Not easy -- but on the mark nonetheless.
Hey -- the Lectionary Gospel passage for September 11 is Matthew 18:12-35 -- a wonderful passage about forgiveness! A lot of opportunity to preach about loving and forgiving those who have hurt us. I'm not sure I'm going to preach on praying for Osama -- but I might bring it up!

9:09 PM  
Blogger skye said...

If you do preach this sermon, how about posting here as well.

I am sure it will stir great discussions.

This year, September 11th is on a Sunday. Perhaps I can preach a sermon with the title, "Praying for Osama."

9:30 PM  
Blogger skye said...

I do!

I love them to death!
Love your enemies.

9:31 PM  
Blogger KELLI BELLY said...

Those are all things I think we struggle with on a daily basis. At least I do. I'm a stay at home mom of two little girls and I sometimes feel that I'm not doing enough for God or giving back enough. I pray throughout the day, pray with our children attend church weekly. But I'm hungry for more. You know? My friend John who is in seminary school tells me this is what God wants me to be doing. Raising my children. I don't know. I feel like I need more meditation time ,time to read the bible, learn more about it. I know how much our family is blessed. How do I get even closer to him? Probably by getting off the computer huh?

10:30 PM  
Blogger jbb said...

man thank you so much for this post. lately ive been struggling so much and im like "god man come on i need this" its a good reminder that gods probably up there like..."jon man i need this from you..i need this love, this trust, i need you to forgive." i just wanted to say thank you. its amazing how a few words can put a world of issues in prespective.

11:48 PM  
Anonymous RG said...

World War I, America and her allies freed the Arab world from the iron fist of the Ottoman empire. The French and the English secretly promised the Arab people that if they were victorious against Turkey and the Ottoman Empire was broken up, the Arab could look forward to being free; their nationalistic aspirations could be realized. And that was done. So the decendents of Abraham's son Ishmael and Ishmael's 12 sons and one daughter, were free after hundreds of years of being under the rule of foreign dictatorships, except for the present day Palestinians.

World War II, America and her allies fought 20 years later resulted in world sympathy of the Jewish people. In 1948 the descendents of Abraham's other son, Isaac and Isaac's 12 sons and one daughter had a state after being refugees for 2,000 years.

Now God, again through America and her allies, are crushing the forces of evil that would prevent the descendents of Abraham to live together again in peace so that as Isaiah predicted:

In that day there shall be a highway out of Egypt into Assyria (into Iraq to Baghdad), and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptian shall serve with the Assyrians.

And in that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt (Egypt, Israel, Iraq, Syria), even a blessing in the midst of the land:

Whom the Lord of host shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and blessed be Assyria the work of my hands, and blessed be Israel, mine inheritance (through home the great messianic promise will come).

When you pray for our effort in Iraq, the war against radical Islam that would never allow peace between the decendents of both of Abraham's children you are praying not only for peace, but for Isaiah's prophetic vision of peace between Arab and Jew to be full filled in our lifetime, with the help of America and her allies. The Palestinians, the last Arab refugees, are about to have their own state too.

Then peace between Arab and Jew enjoyed for centuries at times throughout history, will come at last again. The last refugees of both of Abrahams sons will have a home.

Support America and her allies, God is at work, and America has been chosen as His instrument of fullfilling his vision through Isaiah.

4:53 AM  
Anonymous RG said...

THAT PEACE is what we pray for. It is the blessing not only for us, but for the millions of Arabs and Jews in the ME.

5:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks rev.bill for visiting my blog.
I just want to encourage kellybelly that being a stay at home mom is a wonderful thing. Even those moments all through the day when you speak to God are precious. And like angelique I too struggle with my faith because sometimes life seems so unfair. And its true that reconciling
facts and feelings are just so hard to do.The comforting thought is that Jesus knows what it feels like to get the raw end of the deal each time!

6:23 AM  
Blogger behindthepulpit said...

Hey...thanks for the post. I can't wait for the kids to get back to school so I can keep this bloggin up to date...

5:40 PM  
Anonymous Elijio said...

Thank you for your enlighting perspective! I have made you my Visitor Of The Week at
Please come by and post for my visitors to see! Thank you!

Loud Whispers.

11:01 PM  
Blogger Teresa said...

I really liked the up and down of how you worked that. Here's what I glean from it as it pertains to me and what God has been showing me:

1. The original text--scripture is not always crystal clear. God uses it to speak to us in whatever state we are in.
2. If we quit too soon--we miss the blessing--SO true. It is WAY easier to quit. And I needed that right now--thanks!
3. My pet pev is "mature" Christians who seem to think that they are HERE to be blessed! We do have to realize though that baby Christians need to grow, "When I was a child, I acted as a child..." and I beleive that based on my own life, God blessed me much without asking for much, early in my Christian walk. I beleive that He does that to increase our faith and teach us to trust. But as we grow, it gets hard and God releases us to be more independent so to bless others. Just like my 19 year old is hating life right now because he is not getting blessed anymore, but waiting for everyone to bless him. He's got a long road!

Thanks for a GREAT post!

2:56 PM  

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