The reading of Genesis tells us a story about Jacob. In the introduction of the story we read that Jacob has sent his entire household across the Jabbok river. Jacob was left to spend the night alone.
A year and a half ago I set foot in the Mexico City airport to begin my mission trip in Mexico. Upon arriving in Mexico I was confident in my ability to speak Spanish so I went to order an ice cream cone. I went up to the McDonald's and ordered “chocolat y vanilla galletas”. Expecting a chocolate and vanilla ice cream cone I received a bag of chocolate chip cookies! My confidence in my Spanish was crushed. After eating my cookies though things became much more serious for me. I went to check on my partners flight, my partner who had been in Mexico a half dozen times and knew exactly where we were going and how we were going to get there. His flight was canceled. I was alone. I barely spoke Spanish. I was away from all of my friends and my family, I had no idea of how to get to where we were going and with all of the patience and Spanish I could conjure up was barely able to buy a phone card and make a phone call.
Have you ever been alone? Have you ever come home from work and found nobody at the house? Your spouse is at a meeting and your kids are at practice. Have you ever lost someone who you love? Everybody around you asks how you are doing and how they can help and you feel like none of them have any idea how you are feeling. Have you ever been broke with your family depending on you? You live paycheck to paycheck and you just lost your job. Everybody expects you to support them but you are the one who truly needs the support. Have you ever been alone? Not sad, not scared, just alone?
Jacob feels alone. He feels deceived and let down. He feels like nobody could understand what he is going through. Jacob has taken God's promise, given to him, of blessing and prosperity and made the fulfillment of it his own responsibility. Jacob has spend his life on his own terms. He has set himself above those around him. Jacob has given himself a sense of superiority through his cunning lies and deceptions which he used to bring blessings upon himself. Jacob has placed his trust in his own powers and abilities to bring the blessings of God's promise into his life.
But Jacob is alone now. He has deceived himself about his ability to save himself and to gain God's blessings. He has let himself down. He has come face to face with his deceptive lifestyle. Jacob fears that tomorrow his brother will kill him. Jacob fears that tomorrow he will lose all that he has worked so hard to attain. Jacob feels, at the least, completely inadequate to fulfill God's blessing.
Then, in the middle of the night, Jacob is confronted. God comes to Jacob in a manner where deception is not possible. God overpowers Jacob physically and overcomes Jacob's lifestyle. Realizing that he had been deceiving himself Jacob pleads for God's blessing. As we read about Jacob hanging on and not letting go of God until God has blessed him we must realize that this is not out of Jacob's power that he does this but out of his weakness. It is Jacob realizing that God had blessed him and that God had given him a promise and that he, Jacob, had taken things into his own hands. In asking for God's blessing Jacob is simultaneously confessing to God his inadequacy and he is asking for God's grace. Jacob must release his selfish ambitions and his stubborn pride before his heart and head can be filled with God's great peace.
God promises us all fulfillment. We can take this promise into our own hands like Jacob did. We can seek to fulfill our own blessings and happiness. We can seek to fulfill our lives through drinking or gambling. We can seek to fulfill our lives through promotions, friendships, traveling. We can even try to fill our lives through family or by reaching out to those around us. Ultimately though we are only deceiving ourselves. We will find ourselves short of fulfillment. We will face the possibility of loosing everything that we worked so hard for. We will, indeed, someday lose someone we love. We will someday face the possibility of loosing our job. We will someday come to realize that we have hurt someone close to us. And when we have lost these things and when we have come to these realities, what will be left of us? Whenever and however we try to fulfill ourselves we ultimately deceive ourselves. We need more than we can ever provide. We will be left short, we will be unfulfilled, we will be alone.
But God has promised us all fulfillment. Ultimate fulfillment is communion with God, being a child of God, our creator, our redeemer, and our sustainer. It is through God, and God alone that we can be fulfilled. All that stands in our way is ourselves.
God has confronted this world. God has told us that the penalty for sin is death, effectively saying that we are unable to have a relationship with God. We all sin. We deceive ourselves as we try to fulfill ourselves. We hurt others around us as we make our own way. We seek things in this world before we seek God.
But God who is faithful has upheld his promise. God has confronted His own penalty of death in the full human flesh of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, who came in full flesh and walked on this earth, has died so that we might have full communion with God. It is through Christ's suffering and death that God's law has been fulfilled and through the resurrection of Jesus Christ that God's promise for us is fulfilled.
We, like Jacob, must deny ourselves. We must let go of our pride and our selfish ambitions. We must come face to face with our inadequacy and seek God's grace.
God will indeed fulfill us beyond any of our ability to understand. God's grace will fill our hearts and our minds will be filled with peace so that though all trials and tribulations and in all things we will have God's peace. It is by God's grace that as we lose our job or as we lose someone close to us or as we come face to face with the mistakes we have made in our lives that we will find peace.
We need not be alone, we need not be fearful. God has granted us the ultimate blessing of communion with God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit. God will be by our sides as we confront our mistakes and as the deception of our own attempts of fulfillment catch up with us. Not only will God be with us and beside us with peace and comfort even more than that, God actively seeks, desires, and wants to be our friend, our companion, our confidant.
As we confront ourselves, our mistakes, our inadequacy and our failures; God's grace will come upon us. As we seek to fulfill ourselves we need to just let go. For God is our fulfillment. Christ is our redeemer. It is through Jesus Christ that we are freed from all that incumbers us. Christ frees us from our sins, grants us communion with God and frees us from the fears, stress and pain of trying to find fulfillment in any earthly relationship, job or material.
Today we celebrate that freedom and God's promise in baptism. We are all born children of God and Baptism is the symbolic representation of us dying with Christ and being resurrected to a new life in Christ. Today we are all blessed as we remember our own baptism or as we realize God's promise for our own lives. We are all blessed to remember that our sins have died with Christ and that we have arisen victoriously with the resurrection of Christ.
Today we celebrate that freedom as we celebrate communion, remembering the reality of Christ in the flesh, that he gave his own body and blood for us. That Christ died and paid the penalty of sin so that we might live in communion with God. Today we celebrate the communion of all the faithful remembering that God's promises are eternal and that God is faithful to all people for all time.
God wants to spend time with us. God wants to fulfill us. God wants to fulfill each one of us. God wants to spend time with us as a church, us as a family and each one of us individually. God wants to be your friend, to talk with you, comfort you and grant you peace. God forgives us all of our sins and fulfills his promises through Jesus Christ who is, who was, and who is to come.