Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org


Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

August 3:

Call:       Matthew 14: 13-16
Text:       Genesis 32: 22-31
Read:   W&S # 183
Psalm:  Psalm 17: 1-7, 15
Closing:    Matthew 14: 17-21


As the hymn goes, I do
    Love to tell the story
    Of unseen things above
    Of Jesus and his glory
    Of Jesus and his love.

But too, I also love to tell the story - in fact the stories -
    That preceded him
    And which we find in what we call "The Old Testament."

These are the stories that the people of Jesus' day told and heard
    Stories that He himself heard and told.
    And to which He referred in his own teachings.

I particularly love to tell the stories from the beginning of Judaism
    the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
    and too, of Joseph.

Today and the next two Sundays we will look at some of these stories in our worship.

Strangely enough though,    this morning
we begin with a story that I first heard in Sunday School
    one which I remembered, but to which I never related
That is,    I never related to it until May of this year.

But at our annual conference session in Syracuse
    The speaker was Bishop Lowry of the Fort Worth conference

And in one of his talks, he made a reference to this story
    And all of a sudden, it impacted me.

It took over sixty years
    For me to like - and to relate to - this scripture.

[However,   our lesson today is not
    That you can teach old dogs - like me - new tricks]

The story is of Jacob wrestling with God.

And this is the context:
Jacob was one of the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah
    He, however, emerged from the womb after his brother Esau
        In fact as he emerged almost immediately afterwards,
He came out gripping Esau's heel

But still he was the "second born"
And in his day, the first born son
    Was the honored one
He received most of the inheritance
If royalty, he received his father's title.

There was no Jeffersonian document declaring that,
    "all men are created equal."

[Of course, as a first born son myself, I see no problem with primogeniture,
    although my siblings have convinced my father that the practice is seriously outdated.]
Jacob's case was, however, unique
    For the writer of Genesis relates
That, while the twins were in the womb
God had said that the younger would rule the elder.

The boys were twins,
    But they certainly were not identical

Esau was a rough and tumble outdoorsman
    Who loved and was skilled at hunting and fishing
Jacob was the homebody
    Who spent his time in tents rather than the fields.

Isaac   favored Esau.       Rebekah         favored Jacob

Esau was entitled to two things that Jacob wanted
    And that his mother wanted for him

One was Esau's birthright as the older son
The other was his father's blessing

It came to pass that one day when Esau was absolutely famished
    He came upon Jacob who had made fresh lentil stew
And being far more interested in nourishment than inheritance
    Esau traded his inheritance to Jacob for bread and stew.

Although Jacob had now obtained desired item number one,
    he still wanted their father's blessing

As Isaac got older, his eyesight began to fade
Sensing that the end was near, Isaac called Esau to him.
    He instructed Esau to go out    to hunt game in the field
    and prepare a savory dish of it.

He told Esau that when he brought that to him  he would bless him.
Esau immediately went out to do that

But Rebekah, having overheard what Isaac had told Esau
    Devised a plan to get that blessing for Jacob.

She had Jacob get a couple of young goats
    She made the savory stew
    She put Esau's best garments on Jacob
    And she put the skins of the goats on his hands and neck.

Jacob went to Isaac, pretended to be Esau,
And received the blessing, including the words,
    "Let peoples serve you and nations bow down to you
    Be lord over your brothers..."

When Esau got back and discovered what Jacob had done
    He was furious!
    And he vowed to kill Jacob
But not until after their father's death.

To save her son, Rebekah conspired to send Jacob to Haran
To stay with her brother Laban and to find a wife.

Along the way, God spoke to Jacob in a dream
    [this is the Jacob's ladder story]
God promised Jacob just what he had promised Abraham and Isaac
    The land and many descendents

In Haran,
    Jacob fell in love with Laban's daughter Rachel
    But, at his wedding after working seven years to marry her,
he found that her older sister Leah had been substituted
    and     he had to agree to work another seven years
to get Rachel.
[This is when we remember that Laban was Rebekah's brother]
Leah gave Jacob several children,
but it took a long time (and mandrakes) before Rachel at last gave birth    She named her first child, Joseph.

Jacob, by then quite well off, decided to return home
    After enduring and countering more of Laban's tricks, he set out,
Excited but dreading his encounter with Esau.

Hoping to appease Esau, and to obtain his brother's acceptance,
    He sent his servants ahead with gifts for Esau
Then, he spent the night in camp on the far side of the river

That is where and when our text begins. [Genesis 32: 22-31]

Once he had sent his family across the river,
Jacob was alone in the camp     - but not really alone.

For God, in human form, was present
and the two of them wrestled throughout the entire night
As day broke, God demanded that Jacob let him go

But Jacob,
despite knowing that the sun would reveal God's face
    And despite understanding
that it was dangerous - even fatal -
for a man to see God's face
refused to let go       until God had blessed him

And so God blessed him and gave him a new name: Israel.

I don't know what you have, in the past, thought of this scripture.

I have already told you that    I did not relate to it
And I did not particularly like it.
I thought   that it would be arrogant of me to wrestle with God
I thought   that God had been so good to me
    That disobeying God and demanding even more from God
        Would be unseemly, ungrateful, and unchristian like.

But as I listened to Bishop Lowry a few weeks ago,
    I came to look at it differently.

I came to understand that Jacob's refusing to let go of God
    Was a statement of just how important God was to him
I came to understand that Jacob's refusing to let go of God
    Was a statement that he needed to have God with him
I came to understand that Jacob's refusing to let go of God
    Was a statement that no matter what the risk was
        And in Jacob's case, he understood that it was death
    He would not allow himself to be separated from God.

He would hold onto God no matter what.
    Even if it was unpopular or dangerous.

Jacob persisted         in being with   and in following God.
What an example!
What an example for you and me
    In an era where many do not give God importance
    In an era where many do not pursue God
        Let alone hold onto God
        When the going gets tough.

I ask that each of us take a look deep inside of ourselves
    How many times have we let go of God
        Because it seemed easier?
    How many times have we let go of God
        Because it seemed humanly safer?
    How many times have we let go of God
        Because we just did not care enough to hold on?
You know,   It is hard for us to live our lives
    As God would have us lead them

It is hard for us to love and to be kind to others
    As God would have us love and be kind to all.

It is hard for us to risk ridicule and criticism from others
For ridicule and criticism hurt
    You know that   and I know that.

It is hard for us to give priority to God
    When we would prefer to indulge ourselves
    And to think that we are "number one"
        Relegating God to a spot several steps below

But God is worth it.

Jacob knew that.        Do our lives reflect that we know it too?