SER # 32Wa
FIRST UMC – NEBRASKA CITY
9TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
SUNDAY AUGUST 2ND 2020
TEXTS: GENESIS 32: 22 – 31
THEME: ENCOUNTERING GOD.
In our bible story today, we read of Jacob encountering God. In the bible there are several places where different people had an encounter with God. I would like us to explore a few of them, see how they changed the lives of people and what we can learn.
- Jacob Encounter God Through: wrestling (Genesis 32: 22 -31) Jacob like many of us was struggling inside on how he was going to face his brother Esau. The brother he had taken his birthright, a brother that he had stolen his blessing. He was not sure if his brother will ever accept him back or his apology for nothing that Jacob had done would change. His father was already gone. Jacob had come to a moment in his life where he needed to make peace with his brother and himself. It was at this point that God shows up in form of an Angel. We may not have the details of the wrestling match that night, but what we know is that Jacob would not let him go. Jacob must have realized that he was not just a regular wrestler he was wrestling with because eventually early in the morning he asks for his blessing before he could let him go. Jacob’s name was changed to Israel. This tells us we can encounter God in our struggles and when we do, let us ask for his blessing. There are all kind of struggles that come our way but never forget that God’s presence is near us always. Jacob had to have a beginning in his new life where God was to be in charge. God met Jacob on his way to reconnect with his brother through this Angel that he wrested the whole night.
- Moses Encounter God Through: The burning Bush (Exodus 3: 1 – 22). Moses had run away from Egypt for fear that the Pharaoh might kill him for killing the Egyptian. But what Moses had forgotten was that he was the person chosen by God to deliver the Israelites from slavery. God may have a mission for us which has not yet been revealed. He had known about his unusual upbringing, son of a Hebrew mother yet a son of Kings daughter. He never would have imagined that he would meet God in this way. Maybe he had settled to a family life having taken Zipporah the daughter of Jethro as his wife. He had already gotten two boys (Gershom and Eliezer – 1 Chronicles 23: 15) and a life of a shepherd was fine with him. But God was not through with Moses he had work for him. Though Moses may not have been running away from God, he had forgotten that God had a mission for him to perform. When Moses saw the burning bush, which could not be consumed he could not believe his eyes. He wanted to see more by approaching the venue. Here God reminds him is a holy ground and he needed to remove his shoes. We also do encounter God when we are doing our regular work. We have to be observant of the signs that God is putting in front of us. It could even be a song with a message or a scripture verse that keep coming to our mind and we don’t know why. It could be a friend that is connecting to us in a new way. It might be a need that is made clear in our community or in church. I think of a mother whose idea is coming on the TV these days who raised money to send sneakers to the service men and women and the impact it is having on them. This mother must have encountered this truth when doing just a regular thing. Sending a pair to her child in the service. What is God revealing in your ordinary life? Are you paying attention? It could be providing face mask to the needy, or toys to children. Just be attentive where you are and you will see God revealing himself to you in a very real way.
- Abraham Encounter God Through: Act of Hospitality (Genesis 18: 1 – 33). Abraham had heard from God and obeyed God to move from his village to the land to the land of the promise (Gen 12: 1- 9). Abraham welcomes the three strangers to his tent and offered them a meal. He never knew who they were but he knew the good thing to do. That is to welcome them and offer them hospitality. Before departing they were able to confirm to Abraham Sarah was to give birth to the son of the promise (Isaac) by the same time the following year. This would conclude almost 25 years of waiting. Abraham also got to learn that these 3 men had another mission they were coming to accomplish. In doing so Abraham came to know they were Angels going to Sodom and Gomorrah to destroy the cities for their sins. Abraham pleaded with them to save the town because his nephew Lot and his family lived there, but there were no enough righteous people so the town were destroyed by fire. Abraham managed to save his nephew Lot and his family except Lot’s wife who became a pillar of salt for looking back by warning to leave town before it was destroyed. When we do what is right, we might be surprised how God is able to reveal himself. We have to believe God will show up when we are willing to be used in the right way. Abraham never asked the strangers their names or what they wanted before he could afford them hospitality. He knew that it was the right thing to do to the travelling strangers who were tired and in need of a rest and some refreshment. The two disciples walking to Emmaus invited a stranger to their home as it was getting late. They felt it was not right to let this stranger go on at night and start looking for a motel when they could accord him a room. It turned out that this stranger they welcomed in their home was Jesus himself who they were discussing about on their way.
- Isaiah Encounter God Through: Smoke/Voice (Isaiah 6: 1 – 13). Isaiah the prophet remembers his encounter with God very well because something had happened in the land that was very important. It was the year which King Uzziah died that he had his first encounter with God in a very special way. He was in the Temple and on that day and things were different from what he had been used to. He saw the Lord seated on a throne and the train of his robe filled the Temple. This must have been puzzling to Isaiah. There were also Angels around all singing to the Lord. At the sound of their voices the Temple shock and was filled with smoke. This caused Isaiah to reflect on his life and he quickly discovered that he was a sinful who lived among the sinners. He uses the words, “Woe to me I cried. I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5). For him to function right he needed God to cleanse him. Sometimes when we encounter God, he reveals to us our mistakes. Like Isaiah we feel unworthy and in need of God’s own cleansing. God is light and when this light shines upon us our filthy and sinful nature is revealed. That’s why we need God to clean us. When you encountered God, were you able to see the things that need changing in your life so that you can be useful? Sometimes when we encounter God this way we are helpless even to a point where we might need help form mature believers to help us out. When Saul before becoming Paul encountered God on Damascus road, he was struck blind. He needed Ananias who was a disciple of Christ to come and help him out. “In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, ‘Ananias Yes, Lord, he answered. The Lord told him, ‘Go to the house of Judas on straight street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In the vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hand on him to restore his sight” (Acts 9:10 -12). That is why as a young believer we need someone who understand some of the happening around us to help us to grow in our faith. Paul eventually became a big mentor where he mentored people like Timothy. We have always said that every Paul needs a Timothy and every Timothy needs a Paul.
Encounter with God in the bible is not limited to the four instances that I have mentioned above there are many more stories. For us we encounter God everyday in our own ways and our own setting sometimes we miss the moment because we are not paying attention. My challenge to you and myself is to try and answer a very personal question; ‘Where have I (you) seen God today?’ In doing this we learn quickly learn that God shows himself in different ways and different fashion through different means. God over the years, he has never given up on each one of us. We have to be willing to look around and surely enough God will show up. God reveals himself through nature. This we call general revelation. But God can reveal himself in a very personal way. People have heard very clear voices when nobody else is around and they have known it had to be God speaking to them. I have heard moment in my life when I heard God confirming my call the second time when I was starting to doubt if God was truly calling me.