7.29.2008

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Genesis 32:22-31
Psalm 17:1-7, 15
Romans 9:1-5
Matthew 14:13-21

We don’t know about you, but for each of us, some days it is completely necessary to stop everything that is going on and find a place to be quiet and alone. Sometimes it is because anxiety is high, sometimes it is because the body is weary, sometimes it is because there is too much going on and life is simply confusing.

And the quiet takes different forms. Sometimes the quiet is necessary just to get away from all of the noise, sometimes it is necessary to be able to gather thoughts and make the next decision, sometimes it is needed for rest, and sometimes being alone and being quiet are the necessary conditions for prayer.

Oddly enough, sometimes it is not until we are alone and quiet that we recognize how much we are connected or how much we need to connect.

In this week’s readings, we see both Jacob and Jesus with a need to get away by themselves. They may have even had similar goals, but they were in dramatically different situations.

Since we left Jacob last week a lot has happened. After marrying both Leah and Rachel there were several struggles around which one could have children and which one would have children. In an effort to create some assets for himself that were separate from his father-in-law, he became a world class sheep and goat breeder. Because of some of his material success he made his brothers-in-law angry. Then he receives a vision that he should leave Laban and Laban’s land and go back home to his own family. This was both exciting and anxiety producing for Jacob. He was excited to go home, but he was also anxious because of how he left the relationship with his brother Esau. So (after a few ugly interchanges with Laban on his way out of that land) he plans a rather elaborate return trip that happened in stages so as to test for Esau’s anger. He sent wave after wave of wonderful livestock across the river to Esau and he would be the last one to cross so that if by that time Esau was still angry, at least he would be well fed. And that is where we pick up this week’s story.

Jacob sends everyone else ahead of him and stays by himself for one more night. He had a lot to worry about. Moving is hard—every time. And when he added his worries about how his brother might receive him, he was even more worried. And while he was there alone that night trying to clear his mind a bit a man showed up and wrestled with him until daybreak. This is likely not the relaxed evening he had in mind. As the sun was rising the man wanted to leave, but Jacob had a good hold of him and demanded a blessing for the man’s freedom. The man gave a blessing and gave Jacob a new name. He called him Israel because he “had striven with God and with humans, and had prevailed”.

In Psalm 17 we see another person who is reaching out to be in relationship with God. Again, the Psalms were mostly prayers—some of them were personal and some of them were corporate. This writer is pleading with God to be heard and to be judged as one who has held fast to God even when there were difficult times in his life. It is easy to imagine someone walking around alone in the dark having this conversation with God.

In the passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans, Paul is connecting the tradition of God’s providence as told in the history and scripture of the Jewish people to the man who was Jesus Christ. He’s pointing to all that God has done through the ancestry, the Exodus, the handing down of the Law, and the visions of the prophets. Look at all that God has done…surely God was able to be present with people in the incarnate Christ.

In the passage from Matthew we find Jesus attempting to get away from the crowds for some rest. He had been going from place to place and healing people and teaching, and he was worn down. Also, immediately prior to this passage he received news that his friend and cousin, John the Baptizer, had been beheaded. Jesus was suffering grief and loss. There was a lot weighing on him and he yearned for some time alone.

But unfortunately, being the teacher and healer he was, he was popular and the folks were not up for leaving him alone too long. The people followed him and stayed around until dinner time. And then we find that the disciples suddenly needed some time alone. They saw that they had no way to feed these folks and were trying to get them to leave. But Jesus refuses to turn the crowd away and instead instructs the disciples to gather what food they are able and share it with the crowd. This is one of those stories told across the Gospels--it was important. The five loaves and two fishes fed thousands that day with food to spare. We wonder about how Jesus was prepared to face the crowd and provide for their needs.

Again we see several forms of connection that different folks need in these scriptures. Each person was looking for some way to connect / reconnect with both God and themselves. All of us likely have different ways we connect with God.

  • How do you find ways to connect with God?
  • Do you use silence to be in relationship with God? How?
  • Are there physical needs or requirements for you to connect with God? What are they?

Lord, I have shut the door, speak now the word
which in the din and throng could not be heard.
Hush now my inner heart, whisper thy will,
while I have come apart, while all is still.

In this blest quietness clamorings cease;
here in thy presence dwells infinite peace.
Yonder, the strife and cry, yonder, the sin:
Lord, I have shut the door; thou art within.

Lord, I have shut the door; strengthen my heart.
Yonder awaits the task – I share a part.
Only through grace bestowed may I be true.
Here, while alone with thee, my strength renew.
Amen.

William M. Runyan (1870 – 1957)
Composer & Hymn Text Writer
(taken from This Day: a Wesleyan Way of Prayer, by Dr. Laurence Hull Stookey)

No comments: