Daily Devotions
 

We are thrilled to once again be sharing a daily devotion with you for the season of Advent. These inspiring devotions have been written by YOU the members of Good Shepherd.  A sincere “thank you” to everyone who opened their hearts to share a small piece of their faith journey with us.   As we journey toward Bethlehem in this season, take time each day to walk with God and experience the stirrings of the deep love that took on flesh to walk with us.  

During the four week Advent season, each Wednesday our devotion will be a video reflection by Dr. Kevin Seal, Director of Worship and Music at Good Shepherd, as he shares a teaching about the Words and Music of Advent.

Each new day’s devotion will go live directly on our webpage, goodshepherd.com at 6am, (look under the worship tab at the top right of the front page) or you can follow the link that will be sent out later each morning in an email from Good Shepherd.  


Good Shepherd Lutheran Church

Daily Devotion

by retired Pastor, Larry Donner

WRESTLEMANIA!

Genesis 32:24-32

Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle.

I find comfort in Jacob wrestling with someone who turns out to be God because most of my life is like an ecclesiastical WrestleMania competition – me versus God.

God and I wrestled from the time I was 14 years old – when I heard God call me to ordained ministry as I sat in the top row of the balcony at Christ Lutheran Church in Chicago, semi-listening to another of dear Pastor Lottich’s invariably long sermons but mostly engaged in stomach-growling competitions with my buddies – until I finally succumbed to God’s firm grip some thirteen years later and entered seminary. Even then I did my best to slip out of God’s hands by twisting out of my first marriage and making a mess of my life. But God had other plans and, with grace beyond words, refused to let me go. I was ordained in 1986.

Jacob, although often a scoundrel, is to be admired in that he persevered, not letting go of the Holy One; causing God to cry “Uncle!” It’s been mostly the opposite in my case, God hanging on to me with irresistible strength. God’s grace holds tight to us no matter how much we try to wriggle away. 

Israel (a Hebrew word meaning “The one who strives with God”) is the new name God gives to Jacob. The name is descriptive not only of how Jacob tussled with God, but also of how I have striven to exert my power over God and make my own way in the world. I assume it’s a name that also describes you. 

The wrestling match between Jacob and God may seem to have ended in a tie, neither of them letting go of the other. But notice Jacob’s hip is put out of joint by his opponent resulting in him limping away after the contest ends. It’s another reason the story speaks to me because, many years ago, I was striving with God about the church I was serving. I was frustrated and thinking of leaving. But God prevailed, I stayed, and by God’s grace, the church blossomed. During that time, however, I suffered a hamstring injury in my right leg. I have been limping slightly ever since – a constant reminder that wrestling with God, although a very human, Jacob-like thing to do, is fruitless in the end.

Jacob’s story is a reminder that God’s grace is unyielding. By that grace, poured over us through Jesus, we who were once called “Israel” are now given the name “Christian.” It means we, like Jesus the Son, are God’s children forever. Remember that whenever you find yourself limping through the world or wrestling with God over who’s in control.

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