Gen 32:22-32 That same night Jacob got up, took his two wives, his two concubines, and his eleven children, and crossed the Jabbok River. (23) After he had sent them across, he also sent across all that he owned, (24) but he stayed behind, alone. Then a man came and wrestled with him until just before daybreak. (25) When the man saw that he was not winning the struggle, he hit Jacob on the hip, and it was thrown out of joint. (26) The man said, "Let me go; daylight is coming." "I won't, unless you bless me," Jacob answered. (27) "What is your name?" the man asked. "Jacob," he answered. (28) The man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have struggled with God and with men, and you have won; so your name will be Israel." (29) Jacob said, "Now tell me your name." But he answered, "Why do you want to know my name?" Then he blessed Jacob. (30) Jacob said, "I have seen God face-to-face, and I am still alive"; so he named the place Peniel. (31) The sun rose as Jacob was leaving Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. (32) Even today the descendants of Israel do not eat the muscle which is on the hip joint, because it was on this muscle that Jacob was hit.
Dec 27 2020
Let us pray. May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of our hearts, be
acceptable in your sight O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen
Does anyone have a garage that you can’t part the car in because there is so much
We’ve just put a new roller door on our garage!
Amazing. Push a button – up it goes!
Push it again – down.
Drive the car right up to it
push the button…. amazing.
But I can’t get the car in for all the junk.
The roller door installer told us it was quite normal.
So here was my thinking during lockdown
should for some reason I go to bed and not wake up
my kids would have fun with my roller door.
Then they would get a jumbo bin
and load it all up with
the junk in the garage!
Then Heather could get her car in!
And then they could go through other piles of junk I have and throw them into the bin
all the things I have been worrying about what to do with.
Now I’m sure there is no one else like me
that has stuff like that, I’m sure you are all have tidy garage people.
Years ago a friend said
“Mark, I’ll come around and help you clean out your garage!”
I agreed and we started and after about ½ an hour he
went home with a headache.
So that gives you some idea
about my garage.
So here’s the thing
I got the jumbo bin
before my kids have to
and did my own clearing out
of all the accumulated stuff of the last 40 years.
That was during lockdown
and know its full of junk again!
I even started – cleaning out my ward robe
and tossed out one old T-shirt.
Don’t laugh it was an important T-shirt
it was often very close to me!
So what’s the point?
Somewhere under all the junk is my garage – created for my car.
I’m not my junk
so why should it occupy space in my life?
Why let it define me?
Oh we know Mark – he’s the guy whose life is
a clutter of stuff
he’s never looked at or used for years.
Stuff he thinks is important.
You should see his garage!
So what’s your stuff?
And our stuff can be physical
it can be mental, emotional,
It’s just there
it’s what we say we will get around to cleaning up one day.
The day when we get a, ‘round tuit’.
well you don’t have to imagine
just remember we are all about to start a new year
and if we saw that new year as a journey
what would you need on that trip
and what wouldn’t you need?
What will help you and what will hinder you?
What will give you wings
and what will be a chain?
What will help you hear God
and what will close your ears to God?
On the Camino de Santiago – apparently all kinds of things get left behind
that people thought they would need
things like hair driers!
A suit or a ball gown.
And you realise it’s a burden and it clutters your pilgrimage
so you leave it behind.
I find the story of Jacob so fascinating
it’s so full of intrigue and mystery.
Jacob is one of the big stuff ups of the Bible
that God uses for good.
Jacob is about to meet up with his brother whom he hasn’t seen for years and who he
did the dirty on when they were at home together.
Jacob doesn’t really want to meet his brother Esau.
And so he has this great crisis.
Jacob has become very, very wealthy.
He has lots of stuff – but his stuff doesn’t seem to make what’s before him, meeting his
brother any less uncomfortable.
So he gets rid of everything
he clears his mind and
he sends all he has
including his wives away across the river
and he will face the night alone.
The Bible records: he sent across all that he owned, (24) but he stayed behind, alone.
Now Jacob has for a long time been aware that God is trying to break into his life.
He’s always been aware of God
he has always had a sense of God’s leading in his life
and maybe he hasn’t been too aware of God recently
and so maybe what he is doing, is, uncluttering his mind.
He packs everything into a God sized jumbo bin and sends it away
and now it is just him and the night.
Pushes the button on his roller door and the garage is empty
the stuff is gone!
And he is alone!
And then this mysterious story
which by the way
is often referred to as true prayer,
he encounters a strange ‘man’ who wrestles with him
all night – which is a metaphor for a deep encounter with God.
Note he seems only able to have such an encounter when his ‘stuff’ isn’t around.
And so there is this battle – like a dream sequence in which God is challenging him
and Jacob is challenging God.
And then an interesting outcome.
1. Jacob comes out of the encounter and God gives him a new name. For the ancient people, your name was who you were. It defined you. Jacob’s name means, ‘Heel’ because when he was born he was holding on to his twin brother’s heel. And he turned out to be a ‘heel’ in the negative sense of the word. His new name is Israel meaning he who wrestles with God. So in this encounter we have the beginning of a personality change. Which I suggest is always the outcome of prayer.
2. Secondly Jacob comes out of this night of struggle limping, again the suggestion being that prayer, intense encounter with God effects us physically. We change not only the way we think but the way we act.
And this all happens, only because Jacob freed himself of all his stuff.
He let go of it for a time
in order to hear the voice of God
and to be a part of what God would do for the rest of human history.
Jacob’s story is yours and mine.
We need those times of aloneness
those times of intimacy with God
those times when we become aware of God’s call on our lives
and we struggle to believe that God
can actually use us to make a difference.
So as we prepare for the new year
and the God who meets us there
what do we need to take with us and what do we need to leave behind?
Maybe it’s a mental thing.
A belief that you’re not good enough
or that your usefulness is over
or that there is nothing possible now for you to achieve?
That’s some of the mental junk we carry – disbelief.
Or may the junk it’s some unforgiveness thing
or some regret
or some apology we have to make
in order to travel free.
Maybe it’s a spiritual thing because you’ve been living with a
understanding of God that is really too small
and you need to expand your sense of the greatness and majesty of God
that with God all things are possible.
Or that maybe you need to know that God does work for good is all things
even the seeming bad things that happen,
that there is nothing that God cannot redeem
and turn to blessing?
Maybe it’s a physical thing
and like me there is stuff that we cling to because for some reason or the other we
don’t think we can survive without it.
Our stuff defines us.
That was one of the temptations of Jesus – your stuff defines you.
And Jesus says, no it doesn’t
what defines me is this truth:
I am God’s beloved child – that’s what defines me.
So as we prepare for the new year think.
What do we need to take with us and what do we need to leave behind.
And what size of jumbo bin do we need.
And the same applies as a congregation.
What do we need to take with us
and what can we leave behind?
What do we have to leave behind in order to experience God’s
presence, and Joy.
I suggest that the only thing we need on the journey
the one thing that will define the journey for us is this.
I am, you are, we are the beloved children of God
on whom His favour rests.
Now unto God the Father, God the Son and God, the holy Spirit, be all the honour and
glory, world without end. Amen
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