Limping

A poem or monologue, based on Genesis 32:22-31 and Jacob wrestling until he finds blessing. Permission is granted for use in worship etc, but please credit me (Rev. Becca Girrell). 

Limping

Alone again.

Another night, while I slept, I dreamt of heaven, of angels and light and ladders, of nearness and connection and the places where doorways open.

Young and hopeful, I knew the comfort of that Presence and Promise, that my Companion would go with me, protect me, sustain me.

I’m not so hopeful now.

For years I’ve labored, loved, and lied, struggled with my family, my pride. I’ve watched siblings fracture and relationships die, watched labor bear miracles and wounds alike.

And so sleep eluded me that night. Presence isn’t so simple, isn’t so easy, isn’t always a promise. My Companion hasn’t always been a comfort, but often a challenge and a burden as well. Love has not always been a gift, but sometimes a contest. Life has not always been a miracle but sometimes a way of hurting one another.

I was not surprised that my Companion came. Not surprised when arms encircled me. I couldn’t tell when the embrace became a struggle, which one of us moved first into aggression. Maybe too used to love being a weapon, I didn’t know how to embrace. Maybe (okay, certainly) I was angry, and anger has a way of surfacing. Maybe my Companion wanted to challenge me further, to see how much I could bend before I broke.

Once I grappled, there was no way I was letting go.

Habits die hard, and I’ve been wrestling for a long time, from before I was born. Wrestling with my brother for birth into this life, grappling with him for a mother’s love, a father’s blessing. I’ve been wrestling with my father in law and his herds, grappling with my wives as they grappled with each other, our tangled lives and loves pulling at one another.

I’ve been wrestling with my Companion for a long time too. One who promised to guide and preserve me, to help me to prosper. What have I to show for that?

And so I wasn’t letting go.

All night we grappled, struggled, pushed and pulled, rolled and wrestled. All my life we have been, we will be. But this time, I was determined. This time, I was going to find the blessing in this curse, the joy in this tangled mess of limbs and lives.

My Companion named me, touched me, blessed me. My Companion told me I’d won, let me prevail.

But my Companion did more than that. In tangling with my Companion, I also tangled up my understanding yet again. Tangled love and loss, pain and joy, blessing and struggle. Sometimes to love is to wrestle and to wrestle is to love, to challenge and grapple and struggle are to uncover faith, joy, promise. Sometimes to trust is to question and to believe is to wrestle. To love and be loved is to wound and be wounded. To bless and break. To embrace and to grapple.

Sometimes we can’t tell embraces from wrestling. Sometimes we can’t tell blessing from brokenness.

And that is Holy.

I’ve been limping ever since.

Sermon: The Gathering

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA“The Gathering”

(September 7, 2014) “Gathering” is a word that is both a verb and a noun– it is something we can do (to ourselves or to other things) and something we can be (a gathering of people). Likewise, “church” is something we can be and something we can do. As we think about new and different ways to come together as church, let us not be content to simply be the church, but let us be actively engaged in doing church! (Exodus 23:14-17, Psalm 65)

Sermon: Searching for Scraps

rubble1“Searching for Scraps”

(August 17, 2014) In the face of the death of Michael Brown and the ongoing tension and violence in Ferguson, MO, we hear the story of the Canaanite woman, shouting after Jesus for justice and grace, asking for even the scraps that others might overlook. Where are the scraps of justice and grace? (Matthew 15:21-28)

If you are using firefox as a browser, it sometimes doesn’t like to play the audio file and will tell you it is “corrupt.” I assure you the preacher is not! Please try another browser. I don’t know why it does this.

Sermon: Seeing the Storm…

storm ocean waves rock“Seeing the Storm…”

(August 10, 2014) Peter wants to join Jesus out on the water, where the storm is raging, but when he takes his eyes off Jesus and sees the power of the storm, he is overwhelmed with fear and starts to sink. How often do we feel overwhelmed, like we’re drowning, facing the raging storms of chaos in our lives and in the world around us? Can we still hear and join Jesus in the midst of the storm? (Matthew 14:22-33)

Between the end of the sermon and the prayer that you will hear at the end of the recording, I played a music video that I had created (using some stock images and some images from news and events, the latter for which I do not have copyright permission, and so I have not uploaded the video to a place it can be seen). The song was the acoustic version of “Praise You in this Storm,” by Casting Crowns, and instead of literal storm images, I flooded the screen with pictures of human and natural tragedy, from images of Hurricane Katrina and others, to #BringBackOurGirls demonstrations, to pictures of Gaza exploding, to refugee children in the U.S. Southwest (followed immediately by an old image of a Japanese-American Internment camp, in case we didn’t get the message). You get the idea.

If you are using firefox as a browser, it sometimes doesn’t like to play the audio file and will tell you it is “corrupt.” I assure you the preacher is not! Please try another browser. I don’t know why it does this.

Sermon: From Crowd to Community

Minolta DSC“From Crowd to Community”

(August 3, 2014) When Jesus feeds a crowd of people, the true miracle might just be the transformation of the hearts of people– from individuals in a crowd to a caring community. In communion we see no less– the miracle is not so much what happens in the bread as what happens in all of us. Are we being transformed into a community in Christ? (Matthew 14:13-21)

Still working out the kinks– I know my intro could use some work, etc. Also, sometimes (but not anywhere close to consistently) firefox says the files are “corrupt”; please try another browser if it’s giving you trouble.

Sermon: Hidden in Plain Sight

plant leaves sun shade“Hidden in Plain Sight”

(July 27, 2014) At a local ecumenical worship service, I focused on the treasure of God’s grace, hidden in plain sight. How can we ask the right questions of ourselves that we can focus on being transformed in Christ, on both discovering the treasure of God’s grace and being that discovery for others? (Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52)

This is the sermon from the 2014 ecumenical gathering in Lebanon, “Praise in the Park.” Due to rain, we gathered in the First Congregational Church of Lebanon, and with members of that church, the First Baptist Church of Lebanon, and Lebanon UMC.

I quote and paraphrase from this article by Lawrence Wilson.

 

Sermon: All Mixed Up

nightshade flowers, photo by Len Harris lenharris.blogspot.com

nightshade flowers, photo by Len Harris lenharris.blogspot.com

“All Mixed Up”

(July 20, 2014) Just like the nightshade vine and the black raspberry that both grow in my back yard, sometimes the beauty and the pain of life are woven inextricably together. Where do you try to pull out that which is not life-giving? Where do you let the parts of life grow together and see what fruit they bear? (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 and Psalms 22 and 23- below)

a reader and I alternated lines from Psalms 22 and 23.

Psalm 22:1-21 & Psalm 23

Reader 1: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the sounds of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and I can never rest.

Reader 2: The God of Love is my shepherd. There is nothing that I want.

Reader 1: Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. Our ancestors trusted in you, and you delivered them, cried out to you, and they were saved.

Reader 2: God lets me rest in green pastures;

Reader 1: But I am a worm, less than human, scorned and despised by others. All who see me mock at me; they shake their heads and say, ‘Trust in God if you are God’s favorite! Let God protect you!’

Reader 2: God leads me to streams of peaceful waters, and restores my soul.

Reader 1: You are the one who carried me through birth, kept me safe at my mother’s breast. Since the moment I was born, I have been in your care; you have been my God. Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.

Reader 2: God leads me along the right paths, true to the Holy Name.

Reader 1: Enemies are all around me, like a herd of wild bulls, like ravening and roaring lions, their mouths wide open.

Reader 2: Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me.

Reader 1: I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is melted like wax within me; my mouth is dried up like a broken pot, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.

Reader 2: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil;

Reader 1: Brutal enemies attack me like a pack of dogs; My hands and feet have shrivelled; I can count all my bones.

Reader 2: My cup overflows.

Reader 1: They stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.

Reader 2: Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.

Reader 1: But you, O My God, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the wild dogs! Save me from the mouth of the lion!

Reader 2: And I will live forever in God’s house.

 

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