Wrestling with God, a reflection

Today I share my Rector’s sermon with you, and a bit of reflection. The sermon today is titled “Wrestling with God”

I have spent more sleepless nights wrestling with God, than I care to admit. Agonizing over problems and issues. And with impatience with God taking too long to answer prayers, or not making things happen.

In a lot of ways like Jacob, I want to know now, what it is what God wants from me. Most of the time, I am 99% convinced what God wants from me, but then I remember all the obstacles in my way, and is still in my way, and I doubt. I sometimes, cry out to Him, about “Why does it have to be this way? You have given me a conviction of what I am meant to do! Then why is the road so difficult? Why are there so may obstacles? What is it that I need to learn? What is it that I need to unlearn?” And I wrestle with God, to the point of exhaustion.

This is where faith comes in. We need to open ourselves to God, and let God the Holy Spirit work within us and through us. To change our hearts, and renew our minds, so that we can be a light to the world. So that we can be compassionate as Jesus Christ showed us to be towards others, during His ministry on earth.

We need to let go of the anxiety, fears, doubts and impatience. We need to humble ourselves. And we need to let God do His work in and through us. As disciples of Jesus, we are here to serve the people and to serve God. We serve God through serving others. We are not here to be served.

While listening to the sermon this morning, I was reminded of the Great Commission. These verses has always been my go to, when I am in doubt about what we are all called to do.

Matthew 28:16-20

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Below is Fr. Andrew Manning’s full sermon in text. And the live Facebook recording at the bottom.

May God bless you abundantly!
Till next time.
Vanda Chittenden

Wrestling with God

Have you ever been so focussed on something that you lost track of time and forgot to eat, or suddenly the day was nearly over and you hadn’t been to the shops to buy supper, or maybe you’ve tossed and turned all night bothered by something and struggled to get your head around it.

Perhaps you have always held an opinion or believed in something only to discover that what you thought was right, what you were holding dear was wrong and that you had been deceived.

It is easy to grow up with misconceptions about life. St Paul was so convinced that Judaism was the only way to worship and Honour God that he rose to high ranks in the Cult of the Pharisees. When he met Jesus Christ and realised that the Jews his people had got it wrong, he was heartbroken for them. He wished that he could find a way to convince them that Jesus is the Way the Truth and The Life. He said he’d give his life just to convince them of the truth, that’s how important it was to him.

We have grown up with a way of being and doing church that we were convinced was the only way and now we are learning that we have to put Jesus back at the centre, our whole way of worship has been disrupted and we need to go out in faith and trust God on a mountainside – trust God to show us a new way…

Jacob wrestled with God the whole night to the point of exhaustion, he would not give up until he discovered what it was that God wanted from him and for him.

In the OT reading we discover that what God wanted was to transform Jacobs life completely – to change who he was – from being a deceiver, a man who thought of himself first and his desires first and his plans first and wanted to get ahead of everyone else regardless of the cost – to change that into a man who interacted with, God. A man who would always strive to find our what God wanted from him and for him and give of himself to do it. To change one’s name means to change their character and their purpose –
Abram which means “exulted father” had his name changed to Abraham, which means “ Father of Many” as God changed his purpose from being a man who in himself would be exalted to a many that would father a nation and exult God.

In Ezekiel 36: 26 God says I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. – in essence I will redefine you I will give you a new name,
1 Peter 2:10 says “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.”

Can you see – you have received a new identity, your are now in Christ and so St Paul calls us to put off our old self: Ephesians 4:22”: in keeping with the truth that is in Jesus, 22to put off your former way of life, your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23to be renewed in the spirit of your minds;…”

Can you see it… are you giving of yourselves fully to this one thing
Are you wrestling with God as you seek Him?
Are you going out to find Jesus in the wilderness to receive healing of your soul and to participate in the wedding feast of the lamb?
Are you going out to seek the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might…

5000 men and their wives and their children did just this, they were so focussed on following Jesus at whatever the cost that they forgot to or chose not to pack a lunch but to go out into the wilderness and express their absolute need and their absolute trust and their absolute hope in Jesus.

And here on the mountain side these (now my math is not great but consider 5,000 men plus women that’s 10,000 and children must have amounted to some 20 to 30,000 people. The fact that they took their families with them was a sign that they were all in with Jesus – they were going out into the wilderness to follow him into the unknown and they made the statement that they were completely reliant on him – they wanted nothing else but him, they took his words seriously.

Man does not live on bread alone Deuteronomy 8: 3 “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”

Jesus had repeated these words when standing against the Devil in the wilderness – on a mountainside he said – Man does not live on bread alone – and here 5000 men with their wives and children were standing on a mountainside saying we have come in faith that we do not live on bread alone – we have brought ourselves and placed ourselves at your mercy.

These people were wrestling with God – Moses led their ancestors into the Wilderness and now they were willing to Follow Jesus the same way…

Are you?
The world is becoming more like a barren wilderness everyday…
Will you follow Jesus and put your trust in Him?

The miracle of the feeding is more than just the fish and the bread – it is the precursor to the induction of the Holy Eucharist “Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.” ( Matthew 14:19)

The Eucharistic formula that we celebrate here to day is a testimony that we are the people on the mountain side – seeking Jesus out for healing and for life… the feeding of the 5000 is a prototype of the wedding feast of the lamb..to which we are all invited.

God wants to transform your life, he has given you a new name – you are a disciple and today you need to give your all, your hopes your dreams your fears your needs… give them to Jesus so that he can take you and bless you and give you to the world so that His healing and his hope and his Joy and his life may be received by all.

The Disciples had to give their all so that God could bless it and break it and give it and 30,000 people who had witnessed God’s compassion, God’s healing, God’s manifestation of the kingdom – to the point where they forgot about needing lunch and supper, where they forgot about everything else because they found something more important than everything they thought was so important…

Today we have the same wrestling with God to do…. but are we wrestling for our own deliverance – or for the healing of the world…

Hear me, LORD, my plea is just;
listen to my cry.
Hear my prayer— (Ps17:1)

Like Jacob I wrestle with you God – and you have called me by a new name…

5. My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled.
6. I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. (Ps 17:5,6)

Like Jacob I wrestle with you God – and you have called me by a new name…

7. Show me the wonders of your great love, you who save by your right hand (Ps 17:7)

Like Jacob I wrestle with you God – and you have called me by a new name…

Feed me now with thy mercy oh God that I may be complete and whole in Christ and that through Christ I may be a blessing to the world… awaken in us a hunger for food ( Your truth) that satisfies, that in the miracle of being fed we will be empowered to serve you in a broken and needy world;

In the name of God the Father God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

Written by Fr Andrew Manning.

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