changing by the Jabbok: proper 13, year a

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Lectionary / Old Testament / Pentateuch
Langon Chapel at The Cloisters, NYC. Photo by Rick Morley.

Langon Chapel at The Cloisters, NYC. Photo by Rick Morley.

A reflection on Genesis 32:22-31, the Old Testament lesson for July 31st according to the Revised Common Lectionary. A reflection on the Gospel lesson for the same day can be found here.

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:31

Jacob sent everything and everyone away. Across the Jabbok. They were gone.

He was alone. But, he wasn’t.

One of the basic precepts that I insist on, is that God isn’t there to just learn about or be acknowledged. God is there to be experienced. God wants to know us, and be known by us.

And, if we’re patient enough, and we keep our eyes open, every once in a while we can drink in the Presence of God. Sometimes those experiences are beautiful. Like a baby laughing, or the crest of a dolphin arcing out of the water.

Sometimes though, the experience is a terrifying one. For the One we’re standing in the midst of is the One with the power to create and destroy. He doesn’t just move tectonic plates. He makes them.

He could spin them like Frisbees.

In my own faith journey I’ve been blessed with several experiences which I fully believe were encounters with God. On one evening, kneeling in a church before the Altar, an overwhelming wave of peace washed over me like nothing had ever before. It quite literally took my breath away.

Another time, years before that, I was kneeling in a different, empty church, and what I “saw” was so overwhelmingly awful I literally began dry heaving.

Two very, very different experiences, and yet, both moments altered how I saw myself, the world, the cosmos-and God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

Jacob had his moment wrestling with God by the Jabbok. He came face to face with God. And, they wrestled all night.

This is a very different encounter than his grandfather Abraham had when the covenant was forged. A very different encounter than his distant relative Moses would have at the burning bush.

But, like Abraham and Moses, when Jacob fell into the hands of the living God, he was forever changed.

Armed with a new name he left Peniel and the shores of the Jabbok a new man. A new man with a limp, to forever remind him of that night, that Face, and the Voice that shatters mountains and crests dolphins.

Have you ever fallen into the hands of the living God? What was your experience like? Do you have a “limp?”

The Author

follower of Jesus, father of two, husband of one, Episcopal priest, with one book down, one blog up...surrounded by empty jars of nutella