Posts Tagged Sacrifice

Genesis 32:22-31 “Welcome to Strugglesville” JUMC

Jim Ross
32:22 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. 32:23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 32:24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 32:25 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. 32:26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” 32:27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 32:28 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.” 32:29 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. 32:30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” 32:31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. [NRSV]

Today I welcome you to the Peniel Arena..
Welcome to the Friday Night Fights
Are you ready to Rumble?

And in this corner, weighing in at 156 lbs 5’4” is the hometown favorite wrestler, let’s hear hear it for
Ja-a-a-a-a-a-a-cob-b!

And in the opponents corner, clearly 240 lbs 6’8”, is the mysterious masked Mar-r-r-r-r-r-val-val

This is Howard Cosell, are ring side, I’ve got to go with the home town boy, Jacob, he has just give up to his family, children, household and animals to be here tonight. God has called and God will bless him..

Bob Castas here, Howard I don’t think you’ve seen the size of his opponents tree trunk arms and his goliath size. Jacob has heart but does he have what it takes. He’s going to need all the bless God can give.

Ding, ding, ding… The wrestling begins.

When I was about 9 years old, I was touring my new school and meeting new teachers. This stock fellow asked me I liked wrestling. Having only seen the TV version of wrestling at that time, I replied, “No sir, it’s all fake and for show.” He said, “Sorry to hear that.” And he walked away.

A few minutes later we stopped by the gym to meet the PE teacher and the same stocky man was seating on the edge of his desk, with wrestling trophies and ribbons behind him. He was the PE coach and he said we’d be learning about wrestling that semester. We will see how fake it is by Christmas.” O dear.

Back to the wrestling match..

I don’t think it was common for folks to meet strangers on the road and they break into wrestling all night long. It was a strange meeting. It was an completely unexpected series of events and it lasts until the breaking of the new day.

Its like one of the dramatic scenes in a Twilight movie where the shadowing figure chases all through the night and only injures the lead character because the sun comes up.

This is some mystery about meeting and working with God. We meet God in our darkest hours. Just ask Millard Daniels or Elaine Power this week. The prayer is that wake up the next day and find God’s blessing out of the struggle.

While none of us may have wrestled with stranger in the wilderness all through the night, we have stayed up with loved ones through many nights. We have stayed awake in a mental match of math and myth over finances and economies. We have found it impossible to sleep the night though because of few words and the power they had on someone else’s heart.

The backstory to Jacob is with his brother, Esau. Esau was the oldest of the two and it was the custom for the older of the two fraternal twins to receive the father’s inheritance and Jacob and his mother trick his father who was blind into giving Jacob the blessing.

Many years pass but Jacob lives in fear of his secrets, lies and deceptions. God wants them to meet and reconcile. [the same mission we see in the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus] This fear is evidence he had been wrestling a lot longer than this one night. He sends a gift to Esau to soften him up before they meet. The gift is a collection of animals, estimating to be a tenth of his wealth. Accounting for inflation and conversion we can estimate his ‘gift’ to be about $116,000.

When is the last time someone gave you that kind of gift? Not to mention having sent the rest of his family and livestock on head. Jacob is absorbed in fear, worried, anxiety and collapse. Any he has nothing but the shirt on his back.

It is in the place of vulnerability that he meets God who wrestles with him in his darkest hour.

One of the great lessons that is seldom advertised in a stewardship campaign, but in this political climate and chaos over spending and budgets and debt ceilings, when you begin to give to God in the way Jacob models, it might continue to be a wrestle and struggle, but you will surely find God’s blessing on you.

The part of the story that is hard to swallow is at day break. Jacob is just about to get the upper hand and end this wrestling match with God and he cries out… bless me!

And God reaches out and knocks his hip out of joint and the blessing of Jacob follows: that he and his brother are stored, his family is restored, he continues to covenant of Abraham and Isaac and his generations are as numerous as the grains of sand. And one other blessing

Jacob, gets a new name. He is no longer the man he was. He no longer lived for himself, he now lived by God grace for the people of God, and his name become Israel.

And in the news, every week of every year, you hear the Jacob’s new name, Israel claiming the promises of God to this very moment.

So what do get if we all donated $116,000. You get a new name? You get to name a new building? I don’t know but I would love to see what happened…

What I do know is that when we give out of fear, requirement, guilt, or shame.. we never know the joy of the gift. But in our fear, guilt, shame and duty we have the scars of our struggles with God. The different is in the gift. In the hope of healing the relationships between us and God and with each other…

God does not take away the struggle when we give, but he meets us in that struggle and will leave us reminders when we learn the lessons that God is in charge, God is with us always, and God desires to do whatever it takes to heal the relationship. Even if it leaves evidence of the struggle along the way.

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Hebrews 10:4-10 “God’s Not Pleased with our Bull” JUMC 20120401:0900

1 The old plan was only a hint of the good things in the new plan. Since that old “law plan” wasn’t complete in itself, it couldn’t complete those who followed it. No matter how many sacrifices were offered year after year, they never added up to a complete solution. 2 If they had, the worshipers would have gone merrily on their way, no longer dragged down by their sins. 3 But instead of removing awareness of sin, when those animal sacrifices were repeated over and over they actually heightened awareness and guilt. 4 The plain fact is that bull and goat blood can’t get rid of sin. 5 That is what is meant by this prophecy, put in the mouth of Christ: You don’t want sacrifices and offerings year after year; you’ve prepared a body for me for a sacrifice. 6 It’s not fragrance and smoke from the altar that whet your appetite. 7 So I said, “I’m here to do it your way, O God, the way it’s described in your Book.” 8 When he said, “You don’t want sacrifices and offerings,” he was referring to practices according to the old plan. 9 When he added, “I’m here to do it your way,” he set aside the first in order to enact the new plan – 10 God’s way – by which we are made fit for God by the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus. [The Message]

1 Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who approach. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased being offered, since the worshipers, cleansed once for all, would no longer have any consciousness of sin? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, “See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’ (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).” 8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. 10 And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. [NRSV]

In the Old Testament, the practice of offering God animals has shown conflicting reviews rather than answers and faithfulness.
On one hand, from earliest of stories, [Gen. 4], it is Cain and Able bring offerings to God. Cain is the farmer brings grains that he has plucked, baked or even brewed and God declares that his gift is pleasing and appropriate. Able is the herdsman brings an animal that he has butchered and brazed or barbecued and God declares that Able’s gift is dis-pleasing and inappropriate.

Able’s response to doing what God does not approve or displeased God leaves Able hurt, disappointed, feeling rejected and after internalizing all this, he becomes angry and seek revenge on Cain.. who is later killed by Able. There is a great mis-placed and mis-directed response of Able to go after Cain. Feeling rejected for doing what displease God, Able feels Cain has showed him up. Cain didn’t bring grain to make Able look bad. Able didn’t necessarily know God would be please or dis-pleased.

God makes it clear. I don’t want your animal, Able I. A nice wool sweater would be just fine or some goat cheese. Rather than Able asking God, for instructions or help or forgiveness. Able seeks revenge and resolution by his own judgment. This is his sin. (Not so much bringing the wrong gift.)

What does God want from us this Palm Sunday? Do we need to be waving palm branches high in the air? Is that what God wants from us? Maybe, but probably not if we leave the leaves by the way-side and resume speaking ill of each other. God is probably not pleased if we are interested in getting even with those who hurt us. God is not so happy when we kill someone’s spirit and joy. God is not happy when we don’t learn from our mistakes.

The Old Testament gets confusing, because several generations later sacrificing animals becomes the focal point of seasonal celebrations for God’s people. Did God suddenly change the rules and expectations? The grain, oil, perfume offerings along with the fellowship of sharing meals seems to be approved by God. The next thing you know there is an entire priestly family clan and tradition with rules that are kosher or not. There are offerings of animals for the community, the family and the individual.

Later the people are exiled in foreign lands and cannot come to the temple to worship and the animal sacrifice seems to be the exception and not the rule.
Jesus comes along and becomes the final passover lamb sacrifice that God finds pleasing.. this is my son, listen to him.

In the letter to the Hebrews, God is saying, I’ve come not only to complete my part of the work, I’m going to do it from your perspective. Jesus becomes for us the sacrifice that we need. Jesus becomes our bridge to the no-where we have created out of our sin and detachment from God.

If you look back to the Gen 4 passage, God neither asked for an offering, nor gives any instruction. Only after seeing how we respond, does he correct Able. God doesn’t want us to fix what we cannot repair.
God does not want us to play God’s part in the drama of our own lives.
God doesn’t need our blood, God has given us that life in the first place.

What does God expect, want, need, ask of us? “See I have come to do your will.”
God wants us to trust God’s system
God wants us to follow God’s lead
God wants us to ask for help and direction
God wants us to come to God first and not after we’ve tried all our other options..

But hear the Good News! God has a preference for our life. God has patience for us to find God, if we will patiently continue to seek God.
So often, we try something once or twice, if we fail we give up on it.
Try asking for help again.
Try reading the scripture with a fresh set of questions.
Try coming to the table and finding an invitation, even though we have not done what was asked.

God will teach, correct and straighten out our brokenness.. that may not be pretty no easy.
But don’t give up, Don’t judge or get even with those who have found faithfulness
God doesn’t want our bull, God wants us. Not a stand-in or replacement. God stand in the way of sin, to find us where we are.
Don’t hurt our sister or brother, just because we are able.

Easter is about raising cain… and raising all of us.
So celebrate! Now and through the Maundy and the darkness of Friday… Sunday is coming. Don’t’ give up now.

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