Summary: A FUNERAL SERMON that draws on Jacob wrestling with God
When I think of a word that would describe NAME’s life the image that comes to my mind is that NAME was “A plain, hard working man.” His son’s were telling me yesterday that whatever NAME put his hands to he would work until he had mastered it. Whether it was golf or tennis he would work at it until he excelled beyond all those around him. And NAME also enjoyed his life. He loved his wife and his sons. He loved his neighbors, and he loved to fish. He loved the plain, hard working life. This was NAME’s life. He worked by the sweat of his brow. And his labors gained for him and his family a good life, not always an easy life but certainly a good life. But instead of patting himself on the back and pridefully pointing to all that he had accomplished he told his family that he felt lucky. Lucky! Can you believe it! What some might call blessed. Imagine will you, For a man who always needed to be in control. Who needed to have a handle on all that he did and all that he believed. To say that he felt lucky to have all that he had. Reveals to us a man who came to understand one of God’s greatest truths. That divine truth that the really really matters in life, the really important things in life. Are not those things we gain by our own labors but are those things given to us as free gifts from our heavenly Father.
What NAME began to understand later in life was only made more poignant through his struggle with cancer. That all we have in this life is here and now. The past is gone, and the future never comes. All there is here, now, this moment. And this here, this now, this moment is God’s gift to us if we are awake enough to take it and to live it while we have it. In the movie Brave heart the lead character William Wallace is having a conversation with his wife. She asks him not to fight the British for he might be killed. Wallace’s response is, “Any man can die, but few know how to live.” HIS WIFE told me the other day that NAME came to a point in his life where he no longer wanted to miss the important things in life. He wanted to come to the end of his life with “no regrets.” So NAME decide to live each and every moment as if he was the luckiest man in the world to have each and every moment. As NAME began to live each and every moment he also began to think of the Spiritual life. NAME lived his faith as he lived all his life. He worked at it, He worked it out point by point for NAME was a deep thinker. He didn’t accept something simply because others believed it. For NAME to believe something he needed to first understand it. One might say NAME wrestled with faith. And NAME was never one to give in once he had placed his hand to the task.
Remind you of anyone? Remember a man named Jacob. In Genesis 32 Jacob is returning home after having lived with his uncle for several years. Having cheated his brother Esua out of their father’s blessing Jacob doesn’t expect a friendly welcome. Messengers sent out ahead have returned to tell Jacob that his brother Esua is coming with over 4 hundred armed men. Fearing that his brother is coming to kill him Jacob sends his family ahead of him but he remains behind, what a man of courage! When all of his family have passed out of his sight a man comes and wrestles with Jacob throughout the night. In this passage it is unclear who Jacob wrestles with. Is it his brother Esau over the birthright bought, is it his father Isaac over the blessing stolen, or is it uncle Labon over being deceitfully used? Perhaps through this night Jacob struggles with them all, but in the end Jacob comes to realize that it is God he is struggling with and has been all of his life. But Jacob finds here no condemnation for having struggled with God. To his suprise he is not cast out from the presence of God, but is instead embraced. For by the river Jabbok you see, it is not only Jacob who has come to wrestle with God, but it is also God who has come to wrestle with Jacob. God made Jacob a child of His promise, but instead of living out of that promise Jacob has lived by his need to control. Fear of being shafted keeps Jacob from truely trusting God. But no longer will God allow this to continue, so God comes and wrestles with Jacob, but still Jacob will not give in. So God strikes his hip so that it is dislocated, but still Jacob will not give up. Then as the sun begins to rise God tells Jacob to let Him go for He must leave. Finally Jacob realizes that his need to struggle will not win for him what he seeks. God is leaving, this may be his last opportunity. Out of desperation Jacob cries out from the depth of his heart for that which he most deeply longs for, but fears he will never receive. "Bless me." In the following silence of Jacob’s pain he hears God say, "What is your Name?" Without a name there can be no blessing, for a blessing must reach into the very essence of one’s soul. "I am Jacob, the wrestler" And in the speaking of his name, Jacob has laid claim to all of who he is, warts and all. “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” A promise given is now made manifest and Jacob knows he will never be the same. At this moment it dawns of Jacob that no matter where he has been, no matter what he has faced, he has always been dwelling in Bethal the house of God.