A lesson – Genesis 32:22-32
The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 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.Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 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.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle.
Both genealogies in Matthew and Luke take Jesus’ family lineage through the patriarchs and matriarchs: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Rachel. Jacob, the son of Isaac and Rebekah, struggled even in the womb with his twin brother Esau. The shadow of this struggle remained with him through his life, and the pattern of sibling rivalry played out in his own children when his favored son Joseph was attacked by his brothers, thrown into a pit, and sold off into slavery.
The great patriarchs and matriarchs of our faith could sometimes muster within themselves bravery, fearlessness, and heroic trust in God. And, they are also the very icons of dysfunctional families.
This personal family struggle finds some theological language when Jacob literally wrestles with God all night long. He sends his family and flocks away, fords the River Jabbok, and encounters a great struggle with some mysterious force. He can’t win the struggle, but he does manage to extract a blessing. It is at the Jabbok that Jacob “sees God face to face.”
Struggle is an integral part of life. Everyone struggles. Each person’s struggle is a little different. Sometimes it’s with family. Sometimes it’s with illness. Sometimes it’s with war. Sometimes it’s with God. Struggle is so normative that it’s woven into the story of the great patriarchs and matriarchs of our faith.
Even into Jesus’ family tree.
And sometimes, even when we least expect it, through the struggle we can find a blessing.
O God, in Jesus we meet you face to face; help us see your Presence among us when life is so hard and the day’s news is hardly bearable, and offer us a blessing, that somehow we might be a blessing to the world. Amen.
A lesson – Genesis 18:11-15
Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”
Three mysterious figures came to the Oaks at Mamre to see Abraham and his wife (and half sister…) Sarah. These figures bore in themselves the Presence of God, and when they came to Mamre, Abraham and Sarah quickly set about providing them hospitality. Now Abraham was on the cusp of being 100 years old, and Sarah wasn’t much younger, and so the message that the three visitors brought with them was a bit awkward: they were going to have a child.
Ha! Can you imagine!
And, what did Sarah say? …She said, “ha!”
And her visitors heard her laugh.
Abraham and Sarah, and their son Isaac (whose name means “laughter”) are poster children for some of the great truths about God:
1. Nothing is impossible for God. Nothing.
2. God often works through the most unlikely of people, and the most unlikely of circumstances. We are never too old, too young, too rich, too poor, too uneducated, too inexperienced, too naive, too unworthy for God to enter our lives and in the process change the world.
3. And, sometimes the prospect of that is so audacious, that you might just laugh, for there is nothing too wonderful for the Lord.
O God, you are welcome in my home, my life, my heart. Come upon me, and use me for your will, and to your glory. Amen.
A lesson – Genesis 2:4-7
In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.
Luke’s Gospel ends Jesus’ genealogy with “Adam, son of God.” Adam, the primordial man, is created in God’s Image, but from the dust of the earth. Like a potter who draws a creation out of clay, so are we drawn out by the hand of God. And, unlike every other creature who God created, it is only into Adam’s lungs that God breathes God’s own breath. The Breath of Life. St. Paul makes much about Jesus being the “new Adam,” the new start of a New Life with God.
But, Adam is as much a reminder of our high and lofty start as he is a reminder of how quickly we fall. Adam shows our divine birthright, but he also demonstrates the very reason for Jesus coming into the world. He is the first to breath God’s breathe, and he is the first to disobey God. As such, he reminds us of the choices we face each day; choices which help us achieve all that God intends us to be, or choices which turn our backs to God.
O God, who wondrously formed us in your Holy Image, and infuse us each day with your Holy Breathe; help us daily to die to sin and receive by faith your grace which is so lavishly abundant; through Jesus Christ our Lord, whom we await this Advent. Amen.
The “Forum Rundown” is a quick view of the Sunday Forum which happens at 9:15AM on Sunday mornings. This is the first session of “The History of the Theology and Practice of the Eucharist,” which focuses on the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist. This topic will be discussed in far greater detail on Sunday November 15th.
In our Sunday Forum (Sunday mornings, 9:15AM-9:45AM in the Heritage Room) right now we are getting a little acquainted with the new Presiding Bishop Elect, Michael Curry.
And, below is a video of an interview done with the bishop, just a day or so after his election.
It’s been a longstanding tradition here at St. Mark’s to honor St. Francis Day (October 4th) by blessing animals at the 10AM Sunday Eucharist. It’s a fun day where cats hiss, hair flies, and hounds sometimes join in on the singing!
And, it’s also a day when we remember a remarkable saint who saw all parts of Creation as our brothers and sisters, and who preached to the birds when people wouldn’t listen.
One of the abiding quotes attributed to St. Francis is “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.” So often, it’s our pets who do this evangelical work, showing us what unconditional love looks like. On this day we bring our pets to receive a blessing, and to remember what a blessing they are to us.
…The 8AM Eucharist is pet-free…And, if you don’t have a companion animal, you’re welcome to bring a stuffed animal from your collection!
This will be the topic for the Sunday Forum for a good portion of the fall. The Sunday Forum takes place on Sunday Mornings from 9:15AM till 9:45AM in the Heritage Room.
The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry is the new Presiding Bishop-elect of The Episcopal Church. He has served as the bishop of North Carolina for many years now, and was the overwhelming choice of the church this past summer at General Convention.
Below are two videos: A video of Fr. Rick talking about Bishop Curry and his sermon “Crazy Christians,” and the second is the actual sermon as given by Bishop Curry and viewed 25,000 times on YouTube!
Here is a link to his book, “Crazy Christians” on Amazon.
Routine is good. In fact, I love routine. It’s comfortable. It allows for regular expectations to be met. When it comes to routine in church, it can provide stability, and can help one keep focus on God, and not on what new thing is coming next.
But, breaking routine can also be good! Leaving the building, and worshipping in a different space can help one look for God in new ways, new music, and new places. It can reinvigorate one’s approach to worship, and perhaps most importantly, remind us all that God doesn’t stay locked up in a building, but can be found anywhere—and, in fact, everywhere.
This Sunday is the Annual Church Picnic, which begins with worship at the ROSS MARK 10AM. After worship we will enjoy hotdogs, hamburgers, and each other’s company.
This Sunday, September 13, at the 10AM Eucharist we’re going to be having the annual “Blessing of the Backpacks.”
We aren’t just asking God’s blessing on backpacks though… We’re asking God to bless the students who will be carrying them, the learning that will happen at school and at home, the teachers who will be guiding their classes, and the parents who will be in the midst of it all.
Really, it’s asking God to be in the middle of life—right where God is already. It’s asking God to be with our children—right where God is already. It’s asking God to be with our young people during this crucial part of their lives when they will experience so much joy, and where they are so vulnerable—a post that God will never abandon.
So, have your children/ grandchildren bring in their backpacks, pencil cases, gym bags, etc.—and why you’re at it, bring in your own briefcase, computer bag, man-purse, or diaper bag—and let’s invite God to join us everyday, right where we are.