Over the past year or more, we’ve spent much time thinking about what it is that we might see ourselves doing as a Church. That’s been timely with my arrival – but also an opportunity as a Church to consolidate thinking and resources, to take a look at what is possible and to dream dreams.
In our communion service in early August, I suggested three areas that the Church must focus on if it is to live out the calling of Jesus in its life: to wrestle with God; to feed the needy; and to give hope to the World. For the next few months, in my Newstand musings, I want to focus on each one of these and outline what they might mean for us as a Church and a community.
Wrestle with God
The idea of wrestling with God comes from Jacob’s wrestling with God in Genesis (Gen 32. 22-31). Jacob sends his family over the Jabbok River ahead of him. While he remains behind, he is engaged in a wrestle with a man who is later described as God. They wrestle together, with neither side able to win. It’s a shared and equal battle. They wrestle through the night, until the sun came up. Jacob’s hip is knocked out of joint, and that brings the jostling to an end.
When we think about Jacob’s wrestling with God, we can think too of our own wrestle with God. We can first think about what it is to put ourselves in the position where we can meet alone with God, without distractions. When we make ourselves vulnerable, we put ourselves in the position of Jacob who stepped away from the security of his family and his community, and met alone with God.
Second, we can think about our wrestle with God being one of close combat – one that is entirely unique to us. Jacob wrestled with God alone – it was his own battle to win and his own hip that was knocked out of joint to bring the struggle to an end. He was limping afterwards, but left blessed. Jacob had engaged face to face with God and had fought long and hard. Only when he did that himself did Jacob become close to God, dealing intimately with questions of faith. When we wrestle with God, we too become close to God as we seek to grapple with what it is that God wants us to know and how God wants us to respond.
And finally, we can think about what this wrestle means for us as a community. As we struggle together, we deepen our discipleship and further our understanding of what God is asking of us at this time. We ask to see God face to face in the struggles before us. We ask to be given a name and a purpose in the world. We ask to be blessed by God.
The Church is called to wrestle with God. We’re called to listen for the Word of God to us and to hear the challenges it offers. But we’re also called to make sure we put ourselves in the position where we can do that. Maybe we need to find different spaces for studying the Bible or ways to help us pray. Perhaps we need to listen to the voices around us and look for the encouraging signs of new life springing forth in our midst. Maybe we need to make ourselves vulnerable to the risks of a new way with God – even if it means we might end up with our hip out of joint.
As we think about what it means to wrestle with God, perhaps we can be reassured that the God who struggled with Jacob blessed him and declared him the victor. No wrestling with God will be easy, but in doing so we can be a Church and fellowship that seek that intimacy of a face to face encounter with the living God.