Genesis 32: 22-31: Jacob spends the night on the banks of the Jabbok River where he wrestles with a man until dawn. In the fight, Jacob is injured, leaving him with a limp, but he is also blessed and his name is changed to Israel.
Psalm 17: 1-7, 15: A prayer for God to listen to and rescue the psalmist, who affirms his commitment to follow God’s ways and be faithful, and to trust in God’s willingness to answer his prayer.
Romans 9:1-5: Paul expresses his love and concern for his Jewish brothers and sisters, and celebrates the covenants, promises, law – and the Christ – that the Israelites received from God.
Matthew 14:13-21: Jesus tries to get some time to himself after hearing of John’s death, but the crowds find him, and end up, late in the day, in a remote place and without food. Jesus instructs the disciples to feed them, but they object that they only have few resources. Jesus then feeds the crowds with the disciples’ food, after which baskets of leftovers are gathered up.
(Brief summary by John van de Laar, Sacredise. John’s global and local application also worth checking out on the same link).

(Readings in a double sided landscape format –COCU50A.RCLReadings.PDFversion)

The struggle is where the blessing begins by Jan Richardson.

‘Struggle and blessing’ – reflection by Jan Richardson. (use of the image info here)

Rev Sarah Agnew’s reflection on ‘struggle and blessing’.

Note: Resources specifically based on the Jacob wrestling with the angel reading are noted with an asterisk and the letter J (*J)

Acknowledgement of land – may also reference the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People recognition (August 9)

Opening words
On a winter’s morning on this first Sunday in August,
it is a good morning to be together!
Drawn by the warmth of faces familiar and new,

to the welcoming space of this sacred place.
It is a good morning to be together.
For this is a place where truth, love, and challenge meet.
(Source: B Cheatham, adapted)
Here, in this time, we can remember the ways God has graced us:
here, in these moments, we are reminded
God is with us, always!

Here are gathered those daring enough to step out of comfort
into the unknown:
here, in this faith space, we will find the courage
to recognize our need.

For we have gathered here in community,
in company with each other,
in company with God.
There is a safe place for each of us.
In our gathering, let us be open to new understandings,
reassurance and hope.
Let what we say and do here be both real and honest,
thus preparing ourselves for the life of the world. Amen.

Call to worship (*J)
The day breaks
And God does not let us go.
The hour calls
And God does not let us go.
When evening falls
God holds us fast.
Let us turn to God in worship
God, who never turns from us.

Gathering Prayer (*J)
Leader: God, you see us.
East: You see our struggles.
West: You see our difficulties.
East: You see our possibilities.
West: You see our promise.
East: Soften the hard spots with your blessing.
West: Call us in our wandering to hear you say our names.
All: For you are a good God, a God present in the scramble,
And in the end, you always, always have a blessing.
Leader: For this and so much more, we give you thanks!

(*J) In her book Scarred By Struggle, Transformed By Hope, the Benedictine nun and writer Joan Chittister uses the Jacob story as a paradigm for a “spirituality of struggle.”
In Jacob’s story she identifies eight elements of our human struggle:
change, isolation, darkness, fear, powerlessness, vulnerability, exhaustion, and scarring.
But with each human struggle there is a corresponding divine gift:
conversion, independence, faith, courage, surrender, limitations, endurance, and transformation.
“Jacob does what all of us must do, if, in the end, we too are to become true. He confronts in himself the things that are wounding him, admits his limitations, accepts his situation, rejoins the world, and moves on.”
The end result of the nocturnal struggle for Jacob, the cheater and liar, was God’s blessing: “God blessed Jacob there” (32:29).
(this could be offered during prayers of confession/prayers of who we are, followed by a time for quiet reflection).

Jacob’s Blessing (*J)
If this blessing were easy,
anyone could claim it.
As it is,
I am here to tell you
that it will take some work.

This is the blessing
that visits you
in the struggling,
in the wrestling,
in the striving.

This is the blessing
that comes
after you have left
everything behind,
after you have stepped out,
after you have crossed
into that realm
beyond every landmark
you have known.

This is the blessing
that takes all night
to find.

It’s not that this blessing
is so difficult,
as if it were not filled
with grace
or with the love
that lives
in every line.

It’s simply that
it requires you
to want it,
to ask for it,
to place yourself
in its path.
It demands that you
stand to meet it
when it arrives,
that you stretch yourself
in ways you didn’t know
you could move,
that you agree
to not give up.

So when this blessing comes,
borne in the hands
of the difficult angel
who has chosen you,
do not let go.
Give yourself
into its grip.

It will wound you,
but I tell you
there will come a day
when what felt to you
like limping

was something more
like dancing
as you moved into
the cadence
of your new
and blessed name.
(Source: © Jan Richardson,, from the book The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief)

The prayers of who we are (*J)
God is present to us, but we don’t always feel it.
God is good to us, but we can’t always accept it.
Fact is, there are things within and around us that attempt to step between us and our relationship to God’s goodness.
Sometimes our senses are dulled to the possibility of finding God in unexpected places and people.
Sometimes there are things that we think, things that we do,
that act to separate us from God. A time for silent reflection

Words of assurance (*J)
God is present!
God is with us! Thanks be to God.

Prayers of who we are – a quiet reflection (*J)
Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak…
Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’
But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’ Genesis 32.24, 26

The angels you’ll have to wrestle with most often
are no strangers:
they’re your anger, fear, control, defensiveness,
your despair, blame, insecurity, avoidance.
You won’t get away without a fight.

They may also be God’s forgiveness,
the Beloved’s absolute acceptance,
God’s serenity in the face of your betrayal,
God’s accompaniment in your troubles.
You won’t accept them without a fight.

You’re not wrestling with what’s happening;
you’re wrestling with your feelings about it:
not the problem but its difficulty,
not the suffering but how you take it personally.
The angels are not your world, but your self.

So wrestle. Grab them firmly.
Feel their breath on your neck,
their body against yours,
the weight of their intent.
Let your sweat mingle.

Learn their moves.
They’re your sparring partner,
not out to destroy you
but to shove you into the face of God.

Who knew divine intimacy
could be so hard?
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

The reflection below could be incorporated into a Prayer of Confession/Prayers of who we are, based on the Gospel reading

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.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away;
you give them something to eat.” (Matthew 14.15-16)
You want to send them away,
the moment’s multitudes,
demands that throng,
the insurmountable.
You do – don’t you sometimes? – want to send them away.

You want to send away the crowds, the others
whom you can – can’t you? – ignore.
But you are to feed them.
You are here for their sake.

Where does that voice come from
that says, “Hopeless,”
that says, “The vault of God is empty?”
It is not from the Beloved.

The universe branches out in you.
Unseen as the salt of the ocean, the heat of the day,
the power of God looms inside the air before you,
abides in your seemingly empty hands.
Open them.
You can channel the abundance of God.

You are a door.
You can trust, though you can hardly imagine,
what lies behind you.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

In the face of it all
(for Prayers of who we are, or quiet reflection)

In the face of it all –
the beast of destruction that threatens to undo
all that makes me feel safe,
the piercing wounds that burn my soul
until pleasure feels like a distant, delusional dream,
the unrelenting whys
that leave my mind drunken and hollow with their echoes…

In the face of it all I am drawn to despair
certain that God cannot be
or if God is, then evil;
But, something, somewhere will not allow me that resolution
In some forgotten cavern of myself is an angel
that insists on wrestling my dark certainties to the ground

God, seemingly so distant, forgive me
that I too often choose simple unbelief
over the struggle of faith
And keep disturbing my heart
so that the demons of fear and faithlessness are always shaken loose.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Prayers of who we are
This reflection could also be read, followed by a time for silence
How did it happen, God?
How did we come to believe in scarcity?
In “not enough to go around;”
In “you gotta look after yourself”?
How did we miss the plenty bursting out around us?
How did we fall for the deception that what we can grasp in our hands
would ever be enough?
How did we grow so blind and so foolish,
that we would allow so much beauty and life,
joy and laughter,
sharing and love,
to pass us by unnoticed?
How poor we have become, and how poor we have made others,
simply because we forgot your infinite, overflowing abundance;
because we allowed ourselves to think
that sharing and giving
leaves us with less;
because we nurtured appetites that are never satisfied
unless they have far more than is needed,
thinking our gluttony would silence our fear.
A time of silence for reflection on these words for our own lives
Forgive us, and teach us about your generosity again;
remind us that you are able and willing
to do far more than we can imagine;
and open our eyes to the plenty we enjoy,
the plenty we can share,
and all the plentiful goodness in our world
that cannot be owned, but can enjoyed by all. Amen.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Prayers of who we are
Similarly, this reflection could be read as part of prayers of thanksgiving leading into prayer of confession/prayers of who we are.

Shared Blessings
Your generosity is extravagant, Jesus;
your grace and mercy so freely given,
your love and presence so readily available,
your Spirit and strength so reliable.
We are so grateful for all of these blessings that we enjoy,
and for the goodness they bring into our lives;
we praise you for your always coming Kingdom,
and the abundant life it offers.
But, Jesus, we are also fearful,
that your gifts may not be enough,
that things may change
and we may find ourselves in need,
and so we hoard your goodness,
and separate ourselves from others.
A time of silence to reflect upon these words for ourselves
Forgive us for our little faith,
and our selfish grasping;
forgive us for our failure to understand
that your blessings are always meant to be shared;
teach us to stay always awake to your coming,
and always ready to invite others in
to the blessings you so freely share with us.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Prayers for Others (see also Prayers for Others on this website)
It’s a simple choice, really,
one that should be easy.
Do we create need –
Building our lives around a void
that we feed and feed,
but is never satisfied;
Storing more than we will ever use,
to silence our fear,
while ignoring the cries of those we have left empty?
Do we create plenty –
Finding satisfaction in enough,
finding joy in what can’t be owned
and life in what is not for sale;
Seeking to share life and joy and food and wealth,
so that these blessings are multiplied,
and celebrated.
Teach us, Jesus, in our homes and families,
our communities and neighbourhoods,
our countries and continents,
to always make the simple choice
to create plenty
wherever and however we may.

We offer our prayers for the people of the world….
(prayers are offered)

Words to conclude Prayers for Others and/or Lord’s Prayer (various versions)

Thank you, God, for the generosity that enables us to share. We are rich in many things. We offer these gifts as a portion of that which you have given us. Help us to empty ourselves of pretense, even as we pour out gifts of gratitude. We dedicate our offerings and ourselves to shaping the community you intend, in the spirit of Christ. May this act of giving bring about change: change in our lives, change in the lives we touch, change in the systems that harm. Amen.

God’s peace: carry, keep and hold you.
God’s love: nourish, bless and enfold you.
God’s spirit: inspire, lift and mold you.

“Faith Has Set Us On A Journey” (Tune: Venture) 14 FFS
Faith has set us on a journey
past the landmarks that we know,
taking risks with no insurance
but the Word that tells us “Go!”
Friend or job or home or lover
we may need to leave behind,
outworn truths and ways of thinking,
baggage to the past consigned.

Some are swags of easy conscience
who with others hitch a ride,
some are tourist-package Christians,
dollar-safe, with Book and guide.
There are others on this journey –
those who long and pray and search,
heave the stones to free the structures,
love the Christ and leave the Church.

We are this unlikely people
in the Body knit as one,
company of clowns and cripples –
some are wise and some can run.
Prophets are our travel agents,
gospel-makers lay this road:
to the place of peace and promise
faith will take us into God.
(Words: Shirley E Murray)

Beauty for Brokenness TiS

2017 9.30am Pilgrim UC service, COCU50A.2017.DRAFT.930am





About admin

Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon) in placement at Pilgrim Uniting Church, in Adelaide CBD (12 Flinders St). This blog is mainly to resource worship planners for our services, but of course may be useful for others. We have some great writers of music, words for hymns and liturgy at Pilgrim, so this blog also includes their words.
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