Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Homily for Lenten Vespers - Week of Reminiscere (Lent 2)


Genesis 32:22-32

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Let’s be honest and straight about something: The Christian faith and life is a struggle. Isn’t it amazing how popular Christian writers and recording artists never admit that; how even Christian pastors, theologians, denominations, and congregations often refuse to admit that? And so it is that many well meaning Christians naively believe that a personal relationship with Jesus is going to make all your problems disappear, and that bad things won’t happen to you and to those that you love, and that you and they will always be happy. And then there are those who twist the Lord’s own Words, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it,” and make Him to be some sort of divine candy dispenser as they pray for Cadillacs and winning lottery tickets. Your Lord never promised such things, nor did He come to give you such things. He did not come to save your life in this world, but to save it for eternity with His Father in heaven. He did not come to make you rich and happy in this world, but to see that you persevere in this life, through death, unto life eternal in Him. Thus, the Christian faith and life is a struggle. It believes without seeing. It believes when your Lord seems not to answer. It believes when your Lord seems to say no. And, it believes even when your Lord seems to be against you.

Jacob had that kind of faith – a tenacious and stubborn kind of faith that would not let go of His Lord without a blessing, no matter what – faith that was tenacious and stubborn, yes, but not blind. Quite the opposite, in fact, Jacob could see all too clearly as a man wrestled with him all through the night. Jacob likely believed that man to be his brother Esau whom he feared was angry with him and wished to kill him. As such, Jacob fought, literally, for his life and was not overcome but he persevered. Perhaps Jacob realized exactly whom he wrestled with when the man put his hip out of socket, for, then, even in excruciating pain, Jacob struggled all the more harder and refused to let the man go unless he blessed him. Jacob later confessed that He had seen God face to face, and yet his life had been delivered. Even though he knew that it was his God and Lord who wrestled with him, who inflicted injury and pain upon him, he held on to him in tenacious and stubborn faith to receive a blessing. The man changed Jacob’s name to Israel which means one who has striven with God and has prevailed. And this is the blessing, to see God and to wrestle with God and prevail, for this is the blessing of eternal life.

Jacob walked away from his struggle with God wounded and limping, but he also walked away with the blessing of life that never ends. The Christian faith and life is a struggle. It is a struggle to believe without seeing. It is a struggle to believe as you wrestle with the lies of the world, the devil, and your own sinful flesh. But, blessing lies in holding on to the Lord in faith, no matter what, even if He allows you pain and sorrow, grief and suffering, and even physical death. Nothing can afflict you that God does not allow to afflict you, and He works even afflictions for the good of all who love Him and hold on to Him in faith. In His death and resurrection Jesus has overcome all enemies, even death and the devil, for you. Through faith in Him you are more than conquerors over these enemies too, no matter what.

Struggling faith refuses to let go of Christ, and so it is blessed. God allows it to struggle so it can grow, be strengthened, and have a tighter grip on God and on His promises. Even when the Lord doesn’t seem to answer, there is a blessing in holding on to Him. He teaches us to believe even if we do not see. He teaches us to trust not in our feelings, experiences, or even our own faith, but only in God’s Word and promise. And, in the midst of all the distress and through all trials and tribulations, a struggling faith becomes a great faith.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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