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Our Intimate Relationship with God: His Desire, His choice, His Work!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

12 Moses said to the LORD, “See, you are telling me: Lead this people. But you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said: You are my intimate friend; You have found favor with me. 13 Now, if I have found favor with you, please let me know your ways so that, in knowing you, I may continue to find favor with you. See, this nation is indeed your own people. 14 The LORD answered: I myself will go along, to give you rest. 15 Moses replied, “If you are not going yourself, do not make us go up from here. 16 For how can it be known that I and your people have found favor with you, except by your going with us? Then we, your people and I, will be singled out from every other people on the surface of the earth.” 17 The LORD said to Moses: This request, too, which you have made, I will carry out, because you have found favor with me and you are my intimate friend.
18 Then Moses said, “Please let me see your glory!” 19 The LORD answered: I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim my name, “LORD,” before you; I who show favor to whom I will, I who grant mercy to whom I will.f 20 But you cannot see my face,g for no one can see me and live. 21 Here, continued the LORD, is a place near me where you shall station yourself on the rock. 22 When my glory passes I will set you in the cleft of the rock and will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand, so that you may see my back; but my face may not be seen.  Ex 33:11–23 NABRE

The New Testament does not say that men conciliate God, as we really ought to expect, since after all it is they who have failed, not God. It says on the contrary that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5:19). This is truly something new, something unheard of—the starting-point of Christian existence and the center of New Testament theology of the Cross: God does not wait until the guilty come to be reconciled; he goes to meet them and reconciles them. Here we can see the true direction of the Incarnation, of the Cross. Accordingly, in the New Testament the Cross appears primarily as a movement from above to below. It does not stand there as the work of expiation which mankind offers to the wrathful God but as the expression of that foolish love of God’s which gives itself away to the point of humiliation in order thus to save man; it is his approach to us, not the other way around.

Moses is not the only one to have the struggle he describes in this passage from Exodus.  We all do, we all face situations where we don’t want to go another step further, because we simply do not have the strength.

It may be that we can’t deal with the people we are called to serve, as Moses often struggled.  Or maybe we see how impossible the task is, and we know it cannot be done with God’s presence.  Maybe we perceive the situation as being unfair, (whether it is or not is actually not relevant -get used to this idea:  life isn’t fair!)

It might be more personal, the struggle that you have that you don’t want to face. It may be that you have to be freed from a sin that has its hooks in you, like Israel faced so many times in the desert.  It could be some dark area that God wants you to be freed from, but it is so hard to break free.

Moses keeps telling God – I can’t go there without you!  If you are my God, please help, if I have an intimate relationship with you, don’t leave me alone.  He’s pleading for what every other religion tells us is impossible.

For God to come to us, as we are crushed, oppressed, weary and broken.  As we know the law that condemns us or the people we care about all to well.

As Pope Benedict XVI points out, this is where things are different with Jesus, with the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob.  He comes to us, He always has!  He came to Adam and Eve in the garden, He came to Abraham (even when he was trying to pass off his wife as his sister!)  He came to Hagar at the well.  He came to David in his sin, and encouraged Moses and even Hosea to deal mercifully with the unfaithful, and gave them the strength of heart and soul to deal with those trapped in sin.

He even gives us glimpses of Him, as He ministers to us.  Yes, the obvious glimpses of His faithfulness in the past, to those who are broken like us, in need of healing, like us.  In need of knowing we are in His presence.

But glimpses as well in the sacraments, especially Holy Communion, the feast were we see the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, who takes away our sin.

Who comes to us, and we hear Him as He promises, “your sins are forgiven.”

He comes to us… He brings us through the transformation that is repentance and makes His presence known, and that His presence is, as this translation puts it, that of an intimate friend.

This is what Advent is all about, as we meditate on His coming to us, in all our need!

May we realize our need, the same need as Moses, and may our eyes be opened to His presence.

AMEN.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 372). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

 

Let’s get ready to rumble…. with God!

Eugène Delacroix - Jacob Wrestling with the An...

(this sermon was written by one of my vicars and good friends, Mark Jennings…. who is also an incredible artist…. check out his work at:  http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/mark-jennings.html )

LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!!

 

Welcome one and all to the event of the century! Two men enter and one man will be victorious in this battle, in a wrestling match for the ages!

In this corner hailing from Haran, a farmer and shepherd and ninety plus year old man, the challenger and underdog Jacob.

In the opposite corner coming from Heaven, we have God in the form of a man or in some translations, an angel or as I was always taught the pre-Incarnate Christ.

I wonder what the line in Vegas would have been for this event?

The outcome seems like a done deal doesn’t it? I mean really, a 90 plus year old man is going to wrestle with God. How could he even have a remote chance of winning?

It would appear that God is going to give Jacob a smack down!

So let’s turn to our Old T lesson, ring the bell and get this match started and find out.

We tune in at verse 34 and it says, “This left Jacob alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he would not win the match, He touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of the socket. Then the man said,” Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”

A frail, puny human is able to struggle and wrestle with God and beat Him?

Yes!

A creature that God created was able to wrestle and struggle with the Almighty to at least a tie if not the win?

Impossible? Yes! But yet possible through God!

So let me ask you this. Do you, like Jacob, wrestle and struggle with God?

Do you wrestle and struggle in what would seem like impossible situations or maybe they are possible situations that you don’t concern God with. Maybe like the undercard before the main event? They are not important enough to bother God and besides you can handle can’t you?

Sometimes it may feel like the more impossible a situation may seem the more we can be tempted to pray without hope. Is this prayer really going to do any good or do we just go through the motions.

So again let me ask you, do you struggle and wrestle with God?

Are you ready to step into the ring?

Do you wanna wrassle?

The thought of wrestling with and struggling with God is a scary one. How can we wrestle with God? Doesn’t it sound sinful and rebellious and defiant?

But in answer to that it is God who allows it to happen.

I mean really when you think about it how could Jacob truly wrestle God and win?

First off how could have Jacob done this if faith had not been given to him from God? If you don’t believe in God and are not confident in the certain hope of the relationship forged and crafted for you then who would you pray to or attempt to struggle with. Just in that very idea, you see God working for His children.

We are able to wrestle with God jut like Jacob did because our Father sent His Son to do just that at and on the cross. Jesus took our sin and struggled in pure agony and wrestled the pain of death on the cross and bought victory for all people proven at the empty tomb.

Through the Incarnate Christ you have been given faith.

Jacob wrestling God is an awesome account of God working in us and through us and as we see the struggle of Jacob wrestling God, substitute this word instead of wrestling-substitute the word prayer or praying.

If you go back into Jacob’s life you will see that we living right now have a lot in common with Jacob. He had successes and he had failures. He had a family. He had good times and bad times. He had betrayal and loyalty. He was a sinner and he had faith.

See any similarities to your lives?

Jacob had all these things but he also had faith! So much faith that he was able to wrestle God and prevail.

As he was wrestling with God, something crucial happens. They wrestle until dawn as neither will quit. Finally the man knows that Jacob will not give in or give up and he touches Jacob’s hip and it is wrenched out of the socket. I know one person here today for sure who can empathize with the pain of a broken hip ( Chet).

When this happens all Jacob can now do is hold on for dear life and grasp the man never letting go for fear of falling. Now he needed the man for support! No fancy wrestling moves like the full nelson or the flying elbow. All Jacob can do is hold on and no matter what, Jacob wasn’t going to let go! As the man asks to be let go, Jacob replies,”I will not let go until you bless me!”

Ir almost seems like Jacob’s opponent cheats doesn’t it? He knows He can’t win so he cripples Jacob.

Did God cheat? Quite the contrary, He does this so Jacob having faith now must depend on the man to even stand at this point. Jacob must depend on the man.

Jacob must depend on God.

So do you struggle and wrestle with God, dependent on Him or do you hold on to something else and wrestle with it such as false gods and false idols which wrestle you and win and take the place of God?

Your sin is trying always to defeat you and pin you to the mat like an insect pinned to a board as a specimen.

Our Lord wrestles with us and cripples us in the way that we become fully dependent on Him and that nothing else matters. When God wrestles with us it is not as an adversary trying to pin us and win the match but instead it is to build us up and empower us through His beloved Son so that we will have victory over the adversary who is prowling around trying to consume and devour us in sin.

We have been given victory. We can struggle and wrestle with God in prayer and through Him we can pin Him and hold Him to His promises to us through Christ.

As you wrestle and grapple with God through prayer in the faith given to you in Baptism, God wants you to hold onto Him and pin Him with His promises. These are the promises of forgiveness of sins, salvation and eternal life bought and paid for by the Christ with His blood.

This is the promise come to fruition in the work of our Savior who frees us and calls us to faith in Him. This faith is what allows us to take everything to Him in prayer grapple with God and depend on Him.

Jacob struggled with God and overcame not because he was a superhero or all powerful but because God was and is always faithful to His people with His promises and because he had given Jacob faith.

At the end of their wrestling match, God tells Jacob, ” Your name will no longer be Jacob. From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and won.”

Jacob, whose name meant heel or button, asks for a blessing and God changes His name to Israel meaning one who contends or struggles with God.

It is no coincidence that the priesthood of all believers is called through Christ, the new Israel. After all is there anyone here today who doesn’t struggle with God?

You see the real meaning is that yes you do struggle and wrestle with God through prayer and the Word not to gain an advantage over Him or but to take advantage of His promises given to you.

You have faith and you can trust in His promises. This wrestling match began at your Baptism.

Our Father in His love, compassion and kindness wrestles with us in order to show us that His promises are complete and ironclad. He needs to show us how all these other things that we put our confidence and trust in are and really just how useless they are.

Hold on to God like Jacob held on. There was nothing that was going to make Him let go of God in their wrestling match not even a crippling injury!

Hold on to His promises. Pin Him with His promises! This is want our Father in Heaven wants! This is great joy for Him when you who are His children pin Him with His promises so that He can call you Israel-he who struggles with God and overcomes through Christ in that life giving faith, certain hope and confidence knowing that you are His forever!

Trust and wrestle with Him who loves us so much that He gave us salvation through the sacrifice of His only Son and whose promises never fail. Wrestle with Him and know our loving Heavenly Father who wrestles with His child expecting to pinned by those perfect promises!

In other words trust and depend on Him as Jacob did!

So, do you wanna wrassle?

 

Alleluia, amen

 

 

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