Bible Study

Bible Study: Proper 13 (A) – 2011

July 31, 2011

Genesis 32:22-31


“He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone…”
Despite readings, prayer, and support from others, when we have been wronged, the path to forgiveness often feels like an isolated journey. It is a stripping down to the essence of who we are.

“Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.”

Forgiveness is a struggle, a wrestling with ourselves, with understanding, and ultimately, with God. Often we want to forgive, but forgiveness is not an intellectual exercise. The deeper the wound, the more profound the struggle. The thought of Jacob’s wrestling until daybreak could at times seem a blessing – if only a day, rather than a year, a lifetime.

“You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.”

When finally we have reached a place of forgiveness, we are no longer the same person we were. We have wrestled with questions of Why. We have struggled with our own and others’ humanity. As Christians we profess that God desires the reconciliation of all creation through Christ. Every act of forgiveness is a step towards that ultimate act of reconciliation. Through it we are forever changed. As we walk into the sunlight, though, we do so with a limp, to remind us of what we have overcome.

Psalm 17:1-7, 16

When reading this psalm through the lens of forgiveness, we hear the psalmist pleading to God in desperation for understanding. What is the connection between forgiveness and understanding? This seems to be a never-ending struggle, if only a reason can be found, if only sense can be made of this, then possibly forgiveness and healing will come more easily. It is interesting to consider as well the lines of this psalm that were omitted. Those lines have to do with the perpetrator, the one causing the harm. It is almost as if, in selecting which parts of the psalm to include, an attempt was made to move past blame, to seeking understanding. The last line, a prayer of hope, speaks of “vindication” though the word can also be viewed as a right making, or deliverance. The deliverance from feelings that prevent us from forgiving. That deliverance can bring us closer to God, providing a glimpse of God’s face. In seeing God’s face we are given the mirror opportunity to see God in ourselves.

Romans 9:1-5

In the epistle we hear the voice of a person grappling to understand. Why is this happening? Better to have this happen to me than my loved one. We would give so much to protect those we love from adversity.

How do we make sense of the injustices that befall those we love? Often they have done nothing to bring about the place in which they find themselves. But what about those who have? We still suffer for their struggles and pain. However much we may try to distance ourselves, we still wish and pray that their lives were easier, that this hardship was taken from them. Can we find a ray of hope, a place of forgiveness, to offer ourselves and those we love, while we witness their struggles?

Matthew 14:13-21

“We have nothing here.”

I do not have what it takes, God, to deal with this situation. I have nothing – a few fish, some bread. How can I possibly do what you are asking me to do?

Forgiveness, healing.

Where, in your life, do you struggle with forgiveness? For others, for yourself?

How can you even consider forgiveness for horrible wrongs, atrocities, unspeakable violence? There is no easy answer, no simple fix.

“And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’”

We are human. We ache, we suffer, we hate. When we feel we have nothing, when we feel we are nothing, can we look to God? Seeking God’s face, remembering through Jesus Christ, that yes, we are human, and God loves our humanness deeply, can we remember the depth of that unimaginable love and give our terrible burden to God? Can we give our nothing to God, in the hope that God will do something with it?

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Christopher Sikkema


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