Face of God

Open our eyes Lord, help us to see your face.

Open our ears Lord, help us to hear your voice.

Open our hearts Lord, help us to love like you. (“Open my Eyes,” Jesse Manibusan)


Abraham and Sarah had a son, Isaac. Isaac and Rebekah had twins, Esau and Jacob. Esau was the oldest, he came out first and Jacob right after, hanging onto his brother’s heel. They fought in the womb and they kept on fighting throughout their lives. But Jacob took things a bit too far. He stole his brother’s inheritance and his father’s blessing. Esau vowed to kill him. And so, Jacob had to flee. Years passed… he become very prosperous, with oxen, donkeys, flocks and servants in abundance… Today, we find Jacob on the move again. He is on his way back to his brother’s land. But he is worried. It’s been decades. Has his brother forgiven him? Maybe. Maybe not. So he decides to sends messengers ahead to let Esau know that he has acquired some wealth, and maybe he could offer a few gifts to smooth things over. The messengers go, but when they return they don’t have news of things being smoothed over. They have news that Esau is coming to meet him with 400 of his men. Oh! So, Jacob prays. “Deliver me, I beg you from the hand of my brother…for I fear him, lest he come and slay us all!” (Gen. 32:11).

Then he sends some animals and servants ahead of him hoping to appease his brother and he says, “…Afterwards I shall see his face; perhaps he will accept me” (Gen. 32:20). Then Jacob sends his family to safety across the river.

Jacob is afraid, afraid for his life, afraid for his family, afraid of the unknown. Alone with his worries, the night begins to fall.

And then… someone shows up. And the two of them battle. They wrestle all night. We learn that Jacob’s wrestling partner couldn’t best him until daybreak when he struck Jacob’s hip and put it out of joint. Ouch! That should have worked, but it didn’t. He kept on wrestling. He wouldn’t let go until the man blessed him.

And he offered him more than a blessing, he offered him a new name.

"You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed" (Gen. 32:28).

And in that moment, Jacob realized that he had been wrestling with God.

"I have seen God face to face,” he said, “and yet my life is preserved" (Gen. 32:30). And he named that place Peniel, the face of God.

Alone, in the dark of night, God comes to Jacob and together they wrestle with worries, what-ifs, and questions, and they work out faith, assurance and reconciliation. This is hard work, they battle all night, and Jacob is left with a limp, a new name, and a new perspective, as he heads off to face his brother. And in the distance he sees Esau coming and the four hundred men with him. But then a lone figure runs to the front. As he gets closer, Jacob can make out his brother. When he gets to Jacob he almost knocks him over with a flying hug. He squeezes him so tight that he can barely breathe. He kisses him, and the two brothers weep. Jacob exclaims, “Truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God” (Gen. 33:10).

After all of his anxiety and his wrestling match with God, Jacob encounters the unexpected. In his brother’s embrace he experiences grace and forgiveness where he assumed revenge and death. In the restoration of his relationship and his reconciliation with his brother, he sees the loving face of God.

This is what we are called to do as a church. This is our mission. It comes right from the gospel and it’s in the back of the prayer book, you can go look it up yourself, it’s on page 855.


What is the mission of the Church?


The mission of the Church is to restore all people to
unity with God and each other in Christ (BCP, 855).

We are to be reconcilers. As Jacob and Esau were reconciled, our job is to reconcile, to restore relationship, to see God’s face.

Where else does Jesus teach us about us about seeing the face of God? He does it when he tells us about welcoming children. Whoever welcome one such child in my name welcomes me (Mark 9:37). And he does it when he tells us about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting prisoners (Matt. 25:36-40). Truly, whatever we do to the least of these we do to Jesus. He is the face of God and that face is found in every person we help.

In the time that I’ve been at St. Mary’s I’ve seen SO many different ways that this community wrestles with its faith, works toward reconciliation, and reveals the face of God. It is very clear that this place gets it. I am amazed and so appreciative of the parish-wide efforts to value, include, and help form our young people in their faith. From itty-bitty bible study, cherub and joyful noise choirs, Sunday School, Rite 13 and Journey to Adulthood curriculums, Confirmation and Pilgrimage, the amazing acolyte program, Vacation Bible Camp and so much more. Children are welcomed, and loved, and they show us the face of God. When they are gathered around the altar reaching out to put their hands on the bread and the wine, my heart fills with joy and I picture the Trinity pause in their dance to enjoy the moment with a knowing smile.

St. Mary’s Saturday breakfast allows us to see the face of God in those who are often ignored, the poor, those without homes or voices in society. When we share food and conversation, and get to know names and stories, we see the face of God. When we care for the earth and all the amazing creatures God has created, we see the face of God. When we offer our building to support groups that help others towards recovery and reconciliation, we see the face of God. When we get together for fellowship, food, and fun across generations, we see the face of God. When we attend retreats, and form small groups, sharing, learning, growing, we see the face of God.

I’m sure I don’t have to point out to you that we are in the middle of our annual pledge campaign. Perhaps you’ve been waiting to see how I might connect this great Old Testament story to giving. How is he gonna’ do this? How is he going to make this a pledge campaign sermon? Well, I’ll tell you. Together, as a community, we too wrestle with our faith, we ask questions, we care for one another, and we pray together. We cry together, we laugh together, and we break bread together. Together we do our best to fulfill the church’s mission of restoring people to unity with God and each other. Together we seek God’s face in every face, and together we commit to continuing the awesome witness of this place in our community. That work takes MORE than money.

But it DOES take money. One critical way to make all this happen is to support St. Mary’s with a financial gift. Today I encourage you to partner with us in seeking God’s face by making your pledge. Think of it as an invitation to wrestle, to reconcile, and to see the face of God.

And if St. Mary’s isn’t your church home, if this is you first time here or if you’re just visiting today, I thank you for bringing God’s face here for us to see. I hope that you also have seen God’s face in us and the work we do. And I encourage you to make God’s face visible wherever you find community by supporting them financially.

Open our eyes Lord, help us to see your face.

Open our ears Lord, help us to hear your voice.

Open our hearts Lord, help us to love like you. (“Open my Eyes,” Jesse Manibusan)