September 25, 2022
Rev. Patricia Wagner
How Shall We Know?
Luke 16: 19-31
19“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 25But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ 27He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 30He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will change.’ 31He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
According to Luke, Jesus sees that some in the temple
care more about their wealth
than their neighbors
and after a few one liners,
he tells them a story
Once there was a rich man, dressed in purple of royalty,
who ate sumptuous meals
while Lazarus. poor man, is starving at his gate
with only the dogs come to lick his sores.
for when they both die and Lazarus is in the bosom of Abraham
and the rich man is in agony
he asks Abraham to send Lazarus,
to bring him water,
to serve him even in death.
It cannot be, says Abraham,
for there is a chasm that has opened up
Then will you send him to warn his brothers
begs Abraham to send Lazarus to warn them
them that the same might happen to them
Abraham says no again
for they will listened to no prophet
neither will they when someone comes to them
from the dead
Then how shall they know, pleads the man..
it’s a disturbing story – I get confused
when I hear of torment:
it doesn’t fit with God as Love,
yet the story’s truths seem borne out from
persons who have shared their near-death experiences.
Persons who, in the time between their heart stopping
and starting again,
had a startling shift in awareness.
They perceived not a great light,
But the pain they’d caused others.
One man recounts that he became acutely aware that he had
Of the harmful abuse he’d inflicted on his wife.
and now, in death, he was tormented by realizing
that there was now a chasm between him and her,
and he couldn’t cross it,
and repair the damage done.
A young woman who experienced a sudden death,
tells of own metanoia (change of thinking or consciousness)
for in that moment,
she realized she’d lived a self-centered life.
indifferent to other’s suffering
The realization that
she no longer had the opportunity
to change her life
were the flames of hell for her.
Both of these persons seemed anxious that we understand
the agony of regret. Just as Lazarus wants to warn his brothers that a change is required in them, too.
Jesus, invites us to introspection,
How might we be like the rich man,
Inattentive to the Lazarus at our gate?
Of course, we can get overwhelmed with all that need our attention
And all that needs to be righted.
I will confess that poor at our intersections are now so ubiquitous
that I am mostly irritated
and try not to see them.
But my daughter sees them.
We will drive past an intersection, and she will remark
about what is on their sign
or how ill they looked and express her concern.
She always sees them
She always did,
like most children, she was never afraid of the poor
I remember the mangiest man walking toward us one day
his face scouring, his hair wild, his clothes mangled.
and she lit up and said “Hi!”
There wa no gate,
no sense of distance or difference
She senses a kinship that, often, I cannot or do not.
You know people like this.
Can we, a time of such division, between parties and nations,
experience such a metanoia
that we might also comprehend one another
across all the chasms of our own creation
all the categories that we’ve formed
all the distinctions we have made?
May we see our essential kinship and live it
before our hearts stop and we feel the agony of regret?
Jesus in his story is inviting us to do so.
I was in a workshop last week with a wonderful man
named Ron Heifietz,
a Jew, who with all other Jews is today celebrating
Rosh Hashana, the New Year, three days
when creation is made new again
and there is opportunity to reflect
restore relationships with God and others, to change.
Ron spoke of learning to see everyone,
strangers, or particularly those whom we see as
unworthy, unlike us,
as a whole world
one of great love and great suffering
of good actions and bad ones
just like us.
What if we can hold the complexity of that
in our hearts?
If we accept others as “whole worlds”
What change might that bring in us?
Bishop Frank Griswold of the Episcopal church
Tells of going into the zone near the World Trade Center
Just after the terrorist attack.
Still standing was the old Trinity Episcopal Church
2 to 3 feet of ash covering the pews
but the church was intact
and there was Jesus, crucified,
with his arms outstretched
Jesus, who, Bishop Griswold realized,
could hold this all together,
all the stories, all the lives, all the worlds
of perpetrators and victims
into one great whole
to be offered to God.
Jesus wanted his follower to hold as much as they can in their hearts
In this life and to allow that to change us.
So, perhaps, we can practice;
practice loving across chasms,
practice ignoring the boundaries we’ve made,
practice introspection of Rosh Hashana:
practice beginning again.
On Tuesday of this week,
I met a man at our blessing box.
His name was Charles, he said,
and it was his 46th birthday.
Is there anything I can get you,
no, thank you for this, as he put some granola bars
in his backpack.
He shared that his mother had died recently
he’d lost his father to violence when he was young
and his brother from an overdose
and now his mum.
So its just you,
Yes, but I have Spencer and Stewart
do you know them?
we have a place we stay,
a small encampment, it seemed
so I’m good.
Someone stole my tent, but it will be okay.
He was trying to write something on a piece of paper
I could see his implement wasn’t working.
I’ll get one, I found a marker
and handed it to him
Then realize he was making a sign to hold
by the side of the road.
I’m Charles. Today is my 46th birthday.
I found myself hoping people would see him,
would read it
would acknowledge, in some small way
the humanity before them.
Cross the chasms between
you while you can, says Jesus in this story,
May we do so. Amen.
Rev. Patricia Wagner, Maple Grove UMC
September 18, 2022
Rev. Patricia Wagner
Metanoia: To Be Perfect is to Change Often
Luke 15: 1-10
Luke 15: 1-10
15 All the tax collectors and sinners were gathering around Jesus to listen to him. 2 The Pharisees and legal experts were grumbling, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3 Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose someone among you had one hundred sheep and lost one of them. Wouldn’t he leave the other ninety-nine in the pasture and search for the lost one until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he is thrilled and places it on his shoulders. 6 When he arrives home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Celebrate with me because I’ve found my lost sheep.’ 7 In the same way, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over the one who changes both heart and life than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to change their hearts and lives.
8 “Or what woman, if she owns ten silver coins and loses one of them, won’t light a lamp and sweep the house, searching her home carefully until she finds it? 9 When she finds it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me because I’ve found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, joy breaks out in the presence of God’s angels over one who changes both heart and life.”
Two figures have dominated our news in recent days,
Queen Elizabeth, the Second of Great Britain
and Vladimir Putin, the first, of Russia
One brought a sense of stability for generations
the other profound instability to the world.
One, who led as her nation moved beyond its
conflictive, often tragic empirical past,
The other trying to recreate the past empire
by any means necessary.
As we consider what Jesus says today,
about what God is hoping for in us
let’s see what he may have to say
about Elizabeth and Vladimir and us.
Luke begins this passage by telling us that
the Pharisees, the legal officials of the synagogue,
are grumbling that Jesus eats with sinners.
Pharisees declared that the reign of God was coming
and that people were to live as if that were so,
to live righteously, according to the Torah.
Jesus believed this too,
but, Pharisees also believed that
that to stay pure,
the righteous should distance themselves
from the unrighteous.
Indeed, the word Pharisee comes from Hebrew word
parush – meaning the one who is separated.
So, they are upset that Jesus mingles with those who aren’t
Torah keepers, and so condoning them.
It is such a strong tendency - to separate ourselves
From those we think unrighteous….
Anyway, In response to the Pharisees,
according to Luke,
Jesus tells them stories:
First, don’t you love that instead of getting mad at them
he tells stories
He so wants to bring these brothers
into the story that is unfolding in him.
He tells them about a sheep who is lost
and a coin which has been lost.
He reframes sin as lostness.
Not as bad action or even as a bad person
neither a sheep nor a coin is bad
and that seems so right to me.
Vladimir Putin, I believe, is lost.
but it does not make them without value
Indeed, they are of great value
not shunned, but sought by God
Who wants their lostness to end
how does it end:
I tell you, joy breaks out in the presence of God’s angels
when the lost one has, and then comes our word
Meta – which means to change, to shift,
and noia – which means the mind or thinking.
Metanoia - To shift or change one’s mind or way of thinking
I tell you, says Jesus, joy breaks out in the presence of God’s angels
when the lost one changes their way of thinking
And, to me, it seems, Jesus’ story is really about the Pharisees themselves, they are the lost ones
who are so sure that God is a punitive rule maker
so disappointed in us fallable humans,
rather than one who created and delights in us
and continuously invites us into a
new ways of being for our own
and for God’s sake.
But, we got stuck in that moralism ourselves.
when those in Rome translated the word “metanoia’
from Greek into Latin translators used the word,
“to look back with regret and judgment of one’s self.”
You know the word from penitentiary –which we build to
separate the righteous from the unrighteous
Which sounds a lot more like the Pharisees
way of thinking than Jesus’.
and so Metanoia was translated into English as repentance.
which has a very different tone from “
changing your mind, shifting your understanding.
Throughout the centuries, starting in the second century,
theologians have challenged this.
in the 1800’s, a Boston scholar
wrote to those working on a new English translation,
how did such an extraordinary mistranslation
get into our New Testament.
And, he found to his surprise, that everyone agreed
with his scholarship,
but said that such a modification was impossible
since the committee felt that the word
repentance had become so much part of our
to that it had to be retained.
and it was up to preachers and teacher to explain it.
So, here we are, in 2022,
two thousand years after Jesus told this story
invited into a metananoia
a new way of thinking,
like the Pharisees, invited to a change of mind and heart
that allows us to
to see the fuller reality within us and around us
to open our minds to the Kingdom Jesus proclaims
not because we are coerced
by the fear of a retributive God,
but loved into this change
by a God who is love itself
John Henry Newman, an English priest in the 1800s
He sensed this call to metanoia deeply in the church
that the church
needed to remain open to the continuing
revelation of God
He said, growth is the only evidence of life, he said.
and to live is to change, and to be perfect
is to have changed often.
I think this is so helpful –
because the changes that Jesus speaks of
he metanoia he longs form
comes, usually, in small shifts
that that over a lifetime,
transform us into new beings.
I have seen this in persons I love
as they age, hold their truths less tightly
more open to the reality unfolding before them.
I believe this happened in Elizabeth Winsor
and I believe that God is working on Vladimir
And God is working on us,
for we are all a little lost,
and God is seeking us all out,
for we are of great value to God.
And God rejoices when we are open
open to the shifts of mind and heart and life
open to the good news of unconditional
love and acceptance
by a God who is love
and who rejoices us in
and all who are willing to fully and freely
live their lives in that truth.
May we so do.
September 11, 2022
Rev. Patricia Wagner
Luke 5: 1-6
5 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,[a] the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7
I’m glad its September,
its wonderful to have the choir back, and our Sunday classes back
and Sunday School for kids back and you back in these pews.
When I was a child, September meant going with my grandmother to get a new dress for that first day of school.
I had such anticipation.
This is the first September in 3 years, when it feels like that again,
like we are finally if gradually emerging
from this long, difficult season of fear and death,
and uncertainty and separation wrought by COVID 19
when things are back to normal.
And yet, I am not sure I want them to be normal.
Aren’t things supposed to be different, after you’ve come through such a time?
Aren’t we meant to be different?
My parents were born during the Great Depression
so, I grew up with those stories and they gave me the sense
that everyone who’d lived through that time
learned something fundamental about life
what it was like to be hungry, or out of work,
to be compassionate to those who were,
to respect the hardship people face,
when asked: Brother, can you spare a dime?
We hope that we would learn similar lessons from the pandemic;
that we are emerging not just weary but wiser,
not just thankful we’ve survived while millions did not,
but more aware of life’s gifts
of our miraculous lungs and medicine,
our families, and our places of worship.
the gift of shared meals, and seeing one another’s faces,
and hugs and handshakes, and singing together.
And beyond what we had,perhaps we want something more.
we want all of that which we went through
to have widened our worldview, broadened our kinship,
made us aware of disparities between persons and nations
and yet our sameness as humans.
When are asked “Brother, Can you spare a dime?”
We had an appreciation of essential workers,
we realized that to be essential has nothing to do with wages or status.
Will that revelation last?
We hope so.
We hope we have grown, that we have taken this trauma
and allowed it to change us.
Change is the first thing Jesus of Nazareth talked about, and did.
In Mark, and early in Matthew he says, Metanoeite! The Kingdom of God is here.
Believe this good news.
(mετανοείτε) from Metanoia, a Greek word meaning
to change one’s mind or worldview.
So he is saying, Change your mind! The Kingdom of God is here. Believe it!
And in the Gospel of John his first action is to attend a wedding
and change a barrel of water into wine,
Changes the everyday gift of water into a celebration.
And in our story today in Luke,
he boards Simon Peter’s boat and tells him to change course
Put out into the deep waters, he says, set your nets down there.
and the fish that had evaded them flood in.
and Peter and the others are startled and when they reach land
they set down their nets and follow him.
Brother John of Taize describes that moment this way:
Simon Peter realizes suddenly that Jesus has revealed
the difference between the life he’s been leading
and the unsuspected depths within him.
And he and James and John
seem to understand that the meaning of their lives
the meaning of their existence upon this earth
are not to be found in what they already know
and have attained but in allowing themselves
to be led to new lands.
The last several months have been ones of great awakening to me.
I have been led, by study, by listening,
into new depths of understanding,
great changes in my thinking, in my
So much has opened up
I feel like I am just beginning to comprehend who Jesus is,
What Christ means,
and to sense the intimate connection
that we have with all that is created
to the loving heart of the universe
in whom we live and move and have our being.
So, starting in May, I rounded up a crew of people
and we spent a couple months discerning
what it would mean for us to go into the deep waters
of being formed as Christians here
in this moment in the world, in the church,
for those who are new to the faith or this place,
for those who’ve felt traumatized by the church or life,
for those who’ve lost a sense of connection to the divine story
for those who’ve kept it but want more.
One person said: I don’t want to go recover my faith
I want to keep discovering it
So, we’ve come up with a new season of study, including a Core Curriculum
that will take place in three session over the course of a year.
That begins with leading us through a time of focusing on the person of Jesus,
considering who Jesus was to us, perhaps as children
and all the different ways we’ve thought or been taught to think of him,
and who he actually is for us now.
And then a course in comprehending the nature of Christ
through whom we are all made, according John
in whom we can live, according to Paul,
We will take in that enormous, holy mystery
and seek to see the Christ all around us, even within us.
And then in the third part to take time to consider our own selves
our own lives of great love and great suffering
our own journeys of meaning and truth-seeking.
and to go deeper yet.
This core course is joined by many other opportunities:
Sunday morning study and conversation beginning today
The Kitchen class is looking at The Great Spiritual Migration –The description of their book reads:
The Christian story, from Genesis until now, is fundamentally about people on the move—outgrowing old, broken religious systems and embracing new, more redemptive ways of life. It’s time to move again.
I expect there will be similar transformative conversations in the
Exploring Progressive Christianity Class with Eric Smoot
as they spend the next year Living the Questions
There will be Deep dives into the scriptures of the day
with Duane and Cliff in Word Among us
We will soon start an informal Sunday worshipful conversation in the parlor
And starting today, Xema and Nicole are inviting parents of children
to consider the spirituality of parenting
and the changes that brings to life and faith.
There are Topical classes, like the course on White Christian Nationalism that begins tomorrow, led by Charles and David.
Ongoing Monday Bible study with Cathy, as they Make the Road by Walking,
and Scripture study with Dick Igo on Friday afternoons.
and folks are invited to Walking and Talking the faith through Whetstone Park every week.
All these, and worship this season are an invitation to move into the deep waters
to let down our nets there and see what comes
perhaps to share what these past years have wrought in us and around us,
and to see what questions lie below the surface
what revelations might be found within
and in community of faithful people.
as we enter into of this new season of our lives together.
Metanoia, says Jesus of Nazareth,
to each of us, wherever we are, whomever we are,
be open - to the deeps around us, the deeps within,
for the Kingdom of God is among us.
Rev. Patricia Wagner
Maple Grove UMC
September 4, 2022
Pay Day Someday
Rev. Charles Hill
Genesis 32: 22-32
When I was a preschooler, growing up on our first farm, we possessed one link to the outside world. That was our Silvertone Montgomery Ward radio. It was powered by a car battery and it was used sparingly, but every weekday afternoon mother listened to a “soap” and Cowboy Loy, who broadcast over WWVA, Wheeling WV. I still remember his theme song:
Banners are flying todays the big show,
cowboys are whooping the big rodeo,
the announcers are busy, the horns give a toot,
cowboys rush doggies to the end of the shoot.
Well, recently as I was looking at a report of the January 6, 2021, eruption in Washington D. C. I concluded that what happened there was not a rodeo, although there were “banners flying.” Lots of them. “Jesus ” flags, “Don’t tread on me,” “Skull & Crossbones,” The thirteen star “Betsey Ross,” flag. And, of course the “Confederate” flag so defiantly carried through the building. Also, the QANON man, was there, horns and hairy chest. And Richard “Bing” Barnett, reclining in the Speaker’s chair, with his rugged he-man boots on the desk. It looked like a terror attack, yet from some angles it looked like kids playing war, or, it could have been some kind of comedy show. It was, however, in all reality, a brazen, premeditated attack on the government of these United States. And it was a wake-up call to most of us who love this country, telling us that something is terribly wrong right here in “River City,” and we need to look, evaluate and act to restore the Republic.
Now most of the actors felt really good about what they had done. They took selfies, and sent them flying through the clouds to family and friends, captioned with “I was in the Peoples’ House.” Yet, in a few weeks “The music stopped.” The music stopped, with a knock on the door and when the door opened a badge was flashed: “FBI, we want to talk with you.”
As I pondered this drama, I began to recall a sermon I heard on a long play record more than sixty years ago; a sermon about Ahab and Jezebel killing Naboth and taking his vineyard. And in time, you remember that Jezebel came to a horrible, horrible, death. That old preacher believed the unspeakably hellish death, was because she and Ahab treated Naboth with unrestrained hatred. And that is the point of the sermon. Again, and again the old guy returned to the refrain of his message: “There’s a payday someday.” “Payday Someday.” The chickens always come home to roost.” The January sixers are facing their payday now. And for some it won’t end soon. And for some, well, they await the knock.
II. Now I have said all that to get your attention. To get the blood moving through your mental computer. So, now I can say, Jacob knew all about paydays, and he knew he had one coming. I am sure that some nights Esau appeared in Jacob’s dreams with a spiked cudgel in his hand about to bash Jacob’s skull, and Jacob might suddenly yell, awakening his wives with screams and punches in the air, and then find himself awake and in a profuse sweat. You know the story. Jacob and Esau were twins. Esau was in the process of being born and Jacob reached out and tried to supplant him. Tried to grab his heel. But he failed. Gradually the boys grew up. Esau became the hunter. Jacob evolved into more of a home boy. And he also liked staying around mom and being special in her sight. And she enjoyed Jacob. I think more than she liked Esau. Always a bad deal in a family.
There came a day when in a moment of silliness Esau came in , apparently empty handed, from hunting. He was hungry and Jacob had a pot of deer meet, lintels, potatoes and carrots simmering on the fire. And Esau said, “I’ll give you my birthright, my inheritance, for a bowl of that stew.” It was done. Esau thought it was a joke, but Jacob did not. And sometime later, Rebecca, the boys’ conniving mother, designed a way to get old blind Isaac to give Jacob the ultimate family blessing. It happened, and Esau was voted out as first son and Jacob was given the crown. Even after Isaac knew he had been bamboozled he refused to correct it. He was like my first cousin who married an alcoholic who some nights would get his revolver, come into the bedroom and threaten to kill her. “Why didn’t you divorce him”? I asked. “Oh, I promised ‘for better or worse’ before God.” Isaac had given his blessing, and that was that. It was done.
When Esau learned of their conniving plot, he prepared to kill Jacob. Just human, you know. Rebekah could see it in Esau’s eyes. So, momma formulated a plan. She sent Jacob off to live with her brother, his uncle Laban. Now time has passed, years have flown, and Jacob has done well, in fact so well that Laban wanted him to leave; to move on. For Jacob was accused of enriching himself at the expense of the Laban Clan. He, apparently had engaged in some unethical practices against his uncle. And, of course, Laban had done the same with him. They shared the same DNA, corrupted DNA. Maybe some of us have a bit of that DNA too.
Remember, Jacob worked seven years for Rachael and the morning after the wedding he woke up with Leah on his arm. (I have often wondered about that part of this story. I can’t believe Jacob was that naive). But, finally he had both daughters for wives. Years passed and things changed, Jacob’s possessions grew exponentially, and Laban’s clan turned against him, so he and his entourage left quietly in the night, like a renter who is six months in arears. And they were on the road for some time before Laban knew. He chased after his son-in-law and daughters. Caught them. They talked. I think loudly part of the time. Real loud. Laban complained that Jacob had stolen the household gods. Jacob knew nothing of that. But, Rachael did and was sitting on them as her father searched the tent. She had stolen the gods. That’s like seminarians stealing stoles. Finally, when they had finished their negotiations and came to some kind of agreement, they set up a pile of stones and agreed that, “So long as neither moves past these stones we will live in peace.” Translated: Laban said, “So long as I don’t see your face, we are good.”
They sealed the deal with an oath: The Lord watch between you and me, when we are absent one from another. That is familiar to some because it was a youth benediction for years. What we didn’t know was the rest of it. If you ill treat my daughters, though no one else is with us, remember that God is witness between us.” The implication: And God will take care of you.
Now Jacob and his entourage are approaching Esau country. Jacob is scared, as one of my parishioners used to say, “scared spitless.” He did not know what lay ahead. It is said that fear can focus our senses. I have a feeling Jacob was fully focused. But being Jacob, he had a plan. First he sent all his hired help on across the Jabbok, with all his goats, sheep, cows, camels and probably dogs. A little later he sent his wife and family on across. Some think he was willing to sacrifice some of them, even his family, so he might be able to get away, just in case Esau was still angry.
With everyone across the river, he then entered into the struggle; the struggle between the “Conniving Jacob and the Honorable Jacob. I know, the Bible implies he wrestled with God. But what does that mean? What does it mean beyond struggling with the light and dark sides of himself?—And he, after an all-night struggle finds peace. Conversion is not easy. “Come forward & accept Jesus,” some say. “Get real and deal with who you are and who you want to be,” is more like it and more challenging. It takes a life-time. But Jacob’s two sides, “Who he was and who he wanted to be”, struggled, until Jacob embraced a new person who he expected to become. A new life for himself. He was determined now to set things right between himself and his twin brother. And as he headed across his Jabbok, he was left with a limp. Yes, according to the story, he didn’t walk the same. Now don’t let the limp bother you. He was changed and it showed outwardly. That’s the way real conversion works. God even changed his name from “Jacob” which means “Supplanter,” or “Ouster,” to “Israel,” which means “The one who strives with God.” Jacob was a changed man. The Bible says, ”He wrestled with a man; but the writer also says “God.” Jacob says, “For I have seen God face to face.” Some artists have angels standing nearby over the battle Jacob engages. They are always indicators of God’s presence. And they point toward change.
Bishop Gerald Ensley had an auto accident in December of 1962. On Christmas day the family was called in to Riverside, for the doctors thought he was dying. But he didn’t. He began to heal. And the following June, and I was there, at Lakeside, when he addressed the three thousand gathered in Hoover Auditorium. He said, “One does not hear the whisper of angel wings and remain the same person.” Jacob limped. Maybe it was because he was now relaxed. Maybe it because spiritual battles mark us.—You know the rest of the story, Esau had already forgiven him, they embraced and lived happily ever after. Except for the next generations.
Conclusion: We have all wrestled with God at some point in life. Maybe not today, we have settled the conflict with the Almighty. But someone here may still be struggling. Like the woman who had carried a burden for 60 years. She had gone to be with her soldier boyfriend. They consummated their relationship, but never married. Now her husband was dead. She had to tell the children. All over 60. She did, and they smiled; said, He was a good dad and husband. We don’t see the point. She must have limped after that. She had been on the banks of the Jabbok for scores of years.
But there is more. Collectively we are on the banks of the Jabbok. We United Methodists will soon become United Methodist and Fragmented Methodists. Our struggle with God, ourselves, our understanding of what God wants have not brought unity, but divorce. That sometimes happens. We are all ready limping, we just don’t quite know what it means.
But now we are in a Jacob-like struggle at one more level. The Democratic America is in major conflict with another faction that is seeking an Authoritarian America. Democracy is so messy, but a strongman can make decisions quickly. And the struggle is on. Some are eager to establish a Christian America. And for some that really sounds fantastic. But history does not give a positive report where Christian or any other religion rules, or has ruled. At this hour the struggle within this nation is on. And each of us is being called to embrace the God who revealed himself in Jesus; the Jesus whose loves all people, the white folks, the black, brown, yellow, red, as well as Christian, Jew, Muslim, Sike, Hindu, and those who stand alone. The Inclusive Christ. That is our calling: to embrace who changes our and lives for the better. Then our pay day will be joyful, not tearful.
Jacob wrestled with God, with the two sides of himself. Now we are wrestling on the banks of the Jabbok. Some, individually, Some as United Methodists, Some who love this country and know if Democracy rules, it will require them to stay up all night and wrestle with God, or the two minds struggling within.—What ever the decisions in life, there is always a payday. Sometimes we receive Gold, other times it’s a cudgel. Either way we will walk differently. Amen.