Wrestling with God at the bandstand

The park was bathed in sunshine and full of falling leaves today – and it was glorious!

Autumn at the bandstand

 

Our focus was based on the brilliant book of meditations ‘Touching the Sacred’ by Chris Thorpe, based around paintings by Jake Lever. Today the image was of the hand of Jacob, held by the hand of the wrestler. Here’s our order of service, with the odd explanation thrown in:

 

Opening prayer    

O God who wrestles with us,

circle our hearts,

centre our minds,

still our bodies

be present to us now.

Amen.

 

Reading                       Genesis 32: 24-28

24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” 27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.”

Footnotes: Israel probably means ‘he struggles with God’.                                    

Reflection.  There is something so mysterious, unclear and intriguing about this ancient story. We thought of why Jacob might have been wrestling with the man / angel /God and how the Jews have struggled, how Jesus struggled, how we struggle in various ways… God calls us to engage with him, to wrestle with him in our doubts and frustrations and in what we pray for. We are called to keep holding on, not to let go – for even if the fight cannot be won, God will bless us and those we wrestle in prayer for.

And so we wrote names of individuals, of situations and of world crises and took these to inform our prayers as we walked around the park. For each prayer we were invited to tell God that we were not going to let him go – we were going to keep asking. And in using those words ‘I will not let you go’ we were invited to hear God echo his promise ‘I will not let you go’. These individual prayers finished with the words of invocation below.

 

O Wrestler

contending with us until daybreak,

holding us in the grip of your argument,

grappling with our questions and doubts,

You who strive to deepen us through struggle,

and strengthen us through adversity: Hold on to us now

in that fierce love that will never let us go.

Bless us, as you name us, as those who have prevailed.

 

Back together at the bandstand, now joined by some visitors who had stumbled across us, we prayed together these words:

 

God has stricken us                                         And will bind up our wounds

We bring to God all that is comfortable and self-satisfied in us, and we let it go.

God has stricken us                                         And will bind up our wounds

We bring to God the times we have avoided the struggle, taken the line of least resistance, colluded, and let them go.

God has stricken us                                         And will bind up our wounds

And because we believe that God does bless us, we bring to god our questions and doubts and uncertainties, and we offer them.

Bless us as you name us                                 As those who have prevailed

We bring to God all that we find hard to deal with, tasks, relationships, feelings, and we offer them

Bless us as you name us                                 As those who have prevailed

We bring to God all the messy, unwinnable struggles and adversities that we face, and offer them

Bless us as you name us                                 As those who have prevailed

 

We shared bread and wine as usual – focussing on the bread as the bread of struggle and the wine as the cup of blessing – God’s promise never to let us go. We closed with these words:

 

Closing prayer           O God of Jacob, struggle with us

                                    Through the dark nights of our questioning,

                                    Hang on to us when we lose hold of you.

                                    Cripple our false certainties,

                                    Disable our selfishness,

                                    That though we come stumbling and limping

                                    We may come to see you face to face. Amen.

 

It was a beautiful morning and one on which we all had time to pray about those things that most concern us. At Cool River café we shared news of those who continue to need those prayers and planned for Wednesday evening. Looking forward to that!

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