OT 18: 10th Sunday after Pentecost

August 6, 2023

Lectionary Texts

Genesis 32.22-31. Jacob wrestles with an angel and receives a new name, “Israel,” meaning “One who wrestles with God.”

Psalm 17. God, I call upon you. Guard me as the apple of your eye. Show your wondrous love. Deliver me from my enemies.

Romans 9. 1-5. God has given the Covenant through the Israelites.

Matthew 14. 13-21 Jesus feeds 5000 with a few fish.

Preaching Thoughts

       Jacob wrestles with… God? .. his life?…his own shadow self?… Yes, all of these, and maybe also his tendency to wrestle! He faces his urge to compete, to supplant. As his spiritual descendants this is who we are: we are Israel, we are people who wrestle with God, with others and with ourselves and our own ways. Faith does not necessarily come easily. It comes with struggle, questioning, even opposing. It comes with labor pains. Faith comes from the impasse of being unable to either overcome God or flee from God.
     In his encounter Jacob receives a new name, Israel, When we really wrestle with God, when we deeply engage all of ourselves, straining shoulder to shoulder, chest to chest with Love and its mystery and its demands and its paradoxes—it changes who we are. We walk away limping, reminded of our frailty, but blessed.
     “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” This is the cry of faith. Because all of our wrestling is with God, we know there is blessing in it. We just have to hang on till we receive it. What strength there is in facing all our struggles like that, whatever our trouble: “I will not let go until you bless me.” This doesn’t mean staying in a bad situation like an abusive relationship. It means not ignoring our pain, not dismissing or minimizing our struggles, not pretending “everything’s fine;” for our pain has something to teach us, our struggles have blessings hidden in them, even our failures impart wisdom.

      Notice the story begins with Jesus seeking solitude. People find him, and so ends his solitude. (Ministry can be like that). Jesus responds with compassion. (Ministry should be like that, too.) But at the end of the day he goes back and gets that solitude time. (May your ministry be like that.)
     The disciples ask Jesus to send the people away, to outsource what is needed. But Jesus says, “No, you feed them.” How often do we look to God for miraculous intervention when the gifts are right here in our hands? How often do we complain about what we don’t have and overlook the miraculous power that is in the gifts that we do have?
     How to “explain” the miracle? Maybe it’s that people shared. Like stone soup: they actually had food with them, they just didn’t want others to see it….. Or maybe everybody had a tiny bit, and that was enough… But maybe Jesus actually produced food for a crowd. Singers know this: when you’re all in tune, you produce another note, a “harmonic,” that no one is actually singing. Maybe Jesus was so in tune with God that his love, in harmony with God’s, produced a new thing that wasn’t there before.
     Notice who Jesus invites to communion. No prerequisites, none, Not believing or understanding. Just hunger. That’s how we come to God—and to the communion table. Jesus surely violated cleanliness laws, and caused everyone there to do so, by eating with sinners and the unclean. What matters is the feeding of the multitude, not the cleanliness of the individual.
     “There were about 5000 men, besides women and children.” Oh, yeah, right, women and children. But we still call it the feeding of the 5000. We still have trouble counting women and children, don’t we?

Call to Worship

1. (Genesis)
Leader: In our solitude, God, you accompany us.
All: In all our struggles, it is you we wrestle with.
Holy Mystery, seize us in your grace.
Bless us, and make us new. Amen.

2. (Matthew)
Leader: God of love, we come to you hungry for your Word.
With the loaves and fishes of our worship, feed us.
We come to you weary and in need of renewal.
With the loaves and fishes of your grace, heal us.
We come weary from the work of love and justice.
With the loaves and fishes of your Spirit, give us strength
for the work to come. Feed us, God, for we need you.

Leader: God of love, you meet us in mystery.
All: Help us to bear your grace.
God of abundance, you meet us in our need.
Help us to bear your grace.
God of power, you pour your blessing into us.
Help us to bear your grace.
Help us to worship. Amen.

Leader: Holy One, to you alone we come for wisdom.
All: Eternal God, to you alone we give our hearts.
As you fed the multitudes upon the mountain, feed us now with your Word.
As Christ made a small offering into a great miracle,
make our lives a part of your mighty acts of salvation. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

God of mystery and grace, Jacob knew you in blessing and in struggle, in daylight and in dreams. Jesus met you in hunger and in feasting, in solitude and in crowds. Our lives are dappled, light and dark, and we seek to know you in every moment. In our worship today, and in all our lives, may we know your presence and trust your grace in mystery as well as in clearness. In the arms of your wrestling angel, in the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

God of love, crowds came to Jesus hungry for your Word. So we come to you. Take the loaves of our prayers and the fishes of our silence, and multiply them by your Spirit to feed us with your grace. Let us hear the voice of Jesus. Amen.

Loving God, the mysteries of life confound us. The challenges of life engulf us. Yet you feed us abundantly with your grace. The angels we wrestle with bless us, and we are made new. We open our hearts to your Spirit as we worship. Feed us your grace, and empower us to bear the bread of life to others in the name of Christ. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

Loving God,
our hearts are the little loaves and fishes
of your presence in us.
By the mystery of your Spirit in us,
multiply them. Feed us with your grace.
We are hungry. We are listening.


Psalm 17, a paraphrase

God, listen to me when I cry out to you.
         Hear the honest prayer of my heart.
Let me know how blessed I am.
          Show me where you see my beauty.
You know me inside out, even in the dark of night.
         Help me to be good through and through.
         May everything I say to reflect your love.
I could choose to live another way, but I will not.
         I will avoid the ways of violence.
Keep my feet on your path.
          Help me not to slip.
I call to you, God, knowing that you will answer.
         I pray, trusting you to hear.
It is a wonder how you show your love,
         how you protect those who seek safety in you,
         and shield them from hurtful things.
Keep me as the apple of your eye
         and hide me in the shadow of your wings.
Everywhere I look I will see you.
         Everywhere I am you will be with me.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

     God, we love you and we trust you. Holy Mystery, in our loneliness you accompany us. In our struggles you struggle with us. In our hunger you feed us. Limping from our encounter with you, we are blessed and made new. We give you thanks.
     Jesus Christ, we love you and we trust you. In our wondering you teach us. In our hunger you feed us. In our fear you empower us. In our dying you die with us; in your rising you rise with us. We will not let go of you, for you will bless us. We give you our thanks.
     Holy Spirit, in the sunless places in our lives, in the night of unseeing, you are the faithful presence. In our struggles you are our foe and our friend. In our inadequacy you are the miraculous power. Restored by your presence in us, we go forth to love. Alleluia.

     We believe in God, Creator of all things, heavenly father and mother, of infinite love, wisdom and power, ruler of all that is and all that is to come, who is mystery, yet revealed.
     We follow Christ, God’s chosen one, who loved and served humbly, who gave his life for our redemption, and who was raised by God to new life. In his teaching, in his death and resurrection, and in his presence with us in all circumstances, he reveals God to us. He calls us to humbly follow him and obediently serve him for the sake of proclaiming God’s grace. We trust that he accompanies us and will help, guide, heal and defend us through all difficulty and suffering.
     We believe the Holy Spirit guides us, empowers us and sustains us as servants of God’s grace. We live as the body of Christ, in the power of forgiveness and the reality of resurrection, and the light of eternal life. Amen.

Eucharistic Prayer

[After the introduction, the body of the prayer may be read responsively with the presiding leader(s) and congregation, or by the leader(s) alone.]

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

God of love, we sing your praise.
You create us, claim us, and continually set us free.
In all our difficulties you have been with us,
and our only struggle is the struggle to receive your grace.

When we are hungry you feed us,
and when much was demanded of us you empower us.
As Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes,
multiply your grace among us, that we may feast on your love.
In gratitude we sing your praise with all Creation.

            [Sanctus, spoken or sung:]
        Holy, holy, holy One, God of power and might,
        heaven and earth are full of your glory.
        Hosanna in the highest.
        Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
        Hosanna in the highest.
               [or alternate version]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
who taught and healed,
who fed the hungry and included the outcast.
He showed us miracles of generosity, miracles of abundance,
and called us to do such works of love.

He was crucified and raised, and the leftovers never end.
He gave the loaves and fishes of his own life,
and from them you have multiplied life for all people.

     (The Blessing and Covenant)
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Therefore, remembering these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

             [Memorial Acclamation, spoken or sung:]
        Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
        Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
        Christ will come again in glory.
             [or alternative]

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Spirit on us, that we may be for the world the Body of Christ.
In these gifts of food perform again a miracle of generosity;
multiply the loaves and fishes of your presence for us.
Multiply the loaves and fishes of your love in us,
that we may bear your grace to a hungry world,
in the name and the Spirit of Christ, for your joy and glory.

     [Spoken or sung]

* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending / after Communion

[Adapt as needed.]
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) You have graced our fear and despair with abundance and power. You have fed us with your love. Send us into the world to feed the hungry, trusting in your grace, ggoing in the name of Christ and the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

All that we hold in our hands (Original song)

What do we hold in our hearts?
The hopes of a hungering people,
longing for you, and for bread,
and to truly be free.
What can we do, who are small?
The power is not ours at all:
God, you have hidden such grace
here in our hands.

What do we hold in our hands?
Nothing we have is unworthy.
An everyday gift you can use
in miraculous ways.
All that we hold in our hands
you’ll use if we give it to you.
Use what we hold in our hands
for what you will do.

What do we hold in our hands?
In it you’ve hidden the wondrous,
fishes and loaves you can use
to feed thousands with love.
All that we hold in our hands
we give in the name of your Son:
more than we ask or imagine,
may your will be done.

What do we hold in our hands?
Grace is abundant, not lacking.
Look now and see what we have
and find power and life.
All that we hold in our hands,
all that we have or can do,
all that we are by your grace
we give now to you.

All that we hold in our hands,
all that we have or can do,
all that we are by your grace
we give now to you.

Five Loaves and Two Fish( Original song)

Five loaves and two fish are enough
to offer the blessing of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.

The gifts that you have are enough
to shine with the glory of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.

The love that you have is enough
to offer the healing of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.

The courage you have is enough
to work for the justice of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.

Five loaves and two fish are enough
to offer the blessing of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.
See what you have. See what you have.

Story of Grace (Original song)

Though we can’t see at the time,
God is here in this place.
No matter the mountain we climb,
this is a story of grace.

Jacob must wrestle his angel,
be brought to the end of his powers,
to know what our suffering teaches us:
the power that saves us is God’s, not ours.

Disciples are weary and overwhelmed
by crowds that need to be fed.
But Jesus welcomes them, trusting God,
who brings forth a miracle: boundless bread!

What are the angels you wrestle with?
Powerless fear, doubt or pain?
There in the struggle it’s God you meet,
blessing you, giving you life again.

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