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)
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
after you have left
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
It’s not that this blessing
is so difficult,
as if it were not filled
or with the love
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.
into its grip.
It will wound you,
but I tell you
there will come a day
when what felt to you
was something more
as you moved into
of your new
and blessed name.
(Source: © Jan Richardson, janrichardson.com, 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)