I Won’t Let Go…

September 27, 2015

Genesis 32:22-30

Today is a day of blessing and our main character is Jacob.

Do you know Jacob? He is a son, his parents are Isaac and Elizabeth. Isaac was the miracle baby born to Abraham and Sarah in their old, old age.
Jacob is a twin, his brother is Esau, and they fought from the very beginning – in the womb. Jacob was born clinging to his brother’s heel.

Jacob stole his brother Esau’s birthright and blessing with the help of his mother through tricking his dying old man father and his brother which then caused him to have to run for his life, always wondering if Esau would come after him.

Jacob then lived with his uncle, Laban, and fell in love with Rachel, Laban’s daughter. But in order to marry her, Laban demanded 7 more years of work from Jacob and then, upon his wedding night, tricked him into marrying Leah, his older and unmarried daughter. He eventually ended up marrying Rachel after 7 more years of servitude and always favored her over Leah.

We meet Jacob today as he wrestles with – well wait, is it an angel? Is it God? Scripture says it is a man and by the end of today’s story, the man said Jacob has striven with God and Jacob has seen God’s face and lived to tell about it. So perhaps it is God Jacob wrestled with all night.

Today’s story occurs on a pretty particular sleepless night. You see, it’s the night before he’s going to be reunited with his brother, Esau. You know, the brother he tricked and cheated and ran away from? Yeah, that one. They haven’t seen each other in all these years. After making all of his cousins mad at his uncle’s place, Jacob had no choice but to turn his nose toward home, and his brother Esau has come to meet him. So, Jacob is faced literally with his past actions and can’t sleep.

He’s wrestling with God, with his life, with his past, with his father who he betrayed, with his brother who he tricked, with his own character. And this is a full body, full contact sport. And, in an ironic turn, the one who stole a blessing form his brother now demands to be blessed by God. “I won’t let go until you bless me,” he says.

I won’t let you go until you bless me. That takes nerve to say to God, doesn’t it? If Jacob is indeed wrestling God, to not give up the fight until he is blessed – well, that takes fortitude. That takes perseverance. That takes guts.

I always wonder what you’ve been through in the hours before you come to worship. Perhaps you’ve been up all night, wrestling with your past selves, wrestling with your life, wrestling with God all at the same time. Maybe your family fought all the way in to worship in the car today. Maybe you had it out in the car in the parking lot. Maybe you are bleary eyed and just plain wiped out from all that’s been going on in your life.

Well, worship is often a wrestling match as we pray prayers of thanksgiving and praise at the same time as we call out laments to God. And today is no different. But today is also a day when we are going to ask for God’s blessing and we’re not going to let go until it’s done.

Say it with me, “I won’t let go until you bless me.”

God’s blessing has been asked for since the very beginning of this community when the Holy Spirit moved over the waters of a chaotic and hurtful time in the community of Hutchinson’s life to bring about this community called River of Hope. And God’s blessing upon this community is evident in that we look nothing like we did at those first worship services anymore. I wasn’t there, a whole lot of you weren’t there either. Just look how God has worked out blessing in our life together, bringing us together to grow and change who River of Hope is.

God continues to work in us, challenge us to get out of the mentality of church as building; challenges us to forget the notion that confirmation doesn’t involve parents and signals a graduation from church.

God has blessed marriages in this community and God has blessed the dying.

We’ve wrestled with who we have been, who we are now, and who God is calling us to be. And sometimes God has put our hip out of joint. Did you notice that in the story? When it looked like the contest was a draw, God took a cheap shot and Jacob walked with a limp the rest of his days.

Just over a year ago, we wrestled with finances in a big way. So many of you responded as we asked you to financially support this ministry. This continues to be a wrestling match for us as we strive to get off the mat so that we can go out to serve and stop just taking care of ourselves.

We’ve not let go of God. We’ve always clung to or white knuckled or grasped onto the God who loves us. And together, we’re learning how to forgive, we’re learning how to love, we’re learning how to worship in new ways, we’re learning how to trust. We’re learning that each of us – each one of us – has the authority and the ability to read scripture. We’re learning that it’s hard to be a Christian, to face scrutiny, to do the hard thing rather than the easy thing. And these are things that we’ll never have checked off a list as learned and done and over. We’re always wrestling. We’re always hanging on.

Yet it never depends on our own strength, on our own ability to hang on. Because God will never let us go. Not ever. And God blesses us with each breath.

Jacob does not go on to lead a perfect, blessed life. He’s a stinker and he ended up playing favorites among his sons, he preferred Joseph, and boy did that not do him any favors. God’s blessing is not a magic wand. God’s blessing does not erase who we are. God’s blessing reminds us we are loved, we are called, no matter what. God’s blessing makes us blessed by God. God’s blessing makes us God’s own. And God will never stop wrestling with us.

Thanks be to God.