2021 Lay Leader’s Report to Church Conference

2021 Lay Leader’s Report to Church Conference

Jacob wrestling by the river Jabbok is one of my favorite Bible stories.  You know the one where
Jacob on the way back to see his brother Esau for the first time in decades, spends the whole night wrestling with “a man”.  As it gets close to dawn, Jacob says “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The first time I heard the story again as an adult, I was struck by the idea that a blessing is something that one could demand.  Yet that is what Jacob does – it costs him – but in the end he receives it.  But what is a blessing?  What does it mean to demand one even if we are wounded in the process?  The story makes room for a wonderfully rich field of wondering and imagining – where do we find ourselves in this story?  What word does it speak to us? 

It’s an understatement to say that this past year has been hard.  Even if you were fortunate enough to remain well or to not feel the shadow of death that so many have experienced, still it has been unspeakably hard.  Unspeakably at least partly because in some ways we’re not even sure what has happened to us.  We just know that nothing seems right.  There is a sorrow in us that we are just now beginning to see the contours of.  As a church our losses are not unique to us but painful still – the death of beloved ones, the loss of a year and more of time spent building relationships, the loss of the presence of friends who are not attending for various reasons, the loss of programs and ministries, the loss of habits and rituals and milestones that give shape to our lives. 

What would it mean for us as a congregation to wrestle, to contend, to struggle with this thing that has happened?  What would it be like to continue to wrestle until we receive a blessing?  What blessing would we receive?  Surely not the Instagram-worthy, #blessed celebration of earthly benefits or prosperity or “the good life”.  Is it not instead the blessing of knowing and naming God’s presence – real and enlivening – among us that we seek?

Reflecting over the past year, looking for the evidence of God’s presence, searching for the blessing, I find it in the creative teamwork and collaboration with the entire congregation that went into our online Come and See worship series.  God is there in the joyful togetherness as we made hundreds of manna bags on a Sunday morning in August.  Surely God is there in the Jazz Brunch of just a few weeks ago.  God is there in conversations happening right now about what we will do, about what is next, about how to bind up the wounds the past year has opened within us.  In your own reflecting where do you see God’s presence, God’s blessing? 

When Jacob picked himself up from the ground, he had a new limp, a new name, and a new blessing.  He knew that somehow in the ordeal he had seen God face to face.  Then he crossed the river uncertain what he would find on the other side – a new life or death?  He found, against all odds of human expectation, the open arms of his brother and he says to Esau “for to see your face is like seeing the face of God.” 

If we see ourselves at all in Jacob’s story, where are we?  Still on the ground wrestling?  Receiving a new name and a blessing?  Dusting ourselves off, limping in the early morning light?  Standing anxiously on the banks of the river, wondering what awaits us on the other side?  Or looking around at each other and saying, “for to see your face is like seeing the face of God?”  Perhaps we are at all those places at once but regardless may we know somehow through it all the blessing that God is with us. 


Katie Myers
Lay Leader