Grapple is a good word. We don't use it that often anymore. I don't know why. There are lots of words that have gone "out of use" so to speak until someone resurrects them. Grapple means to wrestle, struggle, come to grips with, usually with a problem that doesn't seem to have an easy answer. We grapple with things that are tangled and convoluted and hard to figure out on the first pass.
Recently, the Gospel lessons from Matthew have been "grapple-worthy". The seem contradictory and somewhat judgmental. They don't sound like something we think Jesus would have said and we ask ourselves, why would he say this? Why would he point these things out. And in our discussions we have come up with a few answers--at least they sound like feasible reasons to us! One of the things I read this week, said something along the lines of, laws set down in Jesus' time for the Jewish people were stringent, yes. But there is "stuff" under and around the law that needs attention as well. It is not easy to be a follower of the One True God. And frequently, we don't understand how we can possibly love our neighbor as our self or how we can turn the other cheek to someone who so obviously likes the sound of a slap on the cheek.
Because God loves us and all of creation, we don't get to choose what is lovable. We don't get to decide if that person is worthy or unworthy of love. Those judgments are for the Almighty to decide and we probably don't have all the facts anyway. We don't have to LOVE everyone, we have to love everyone as a creation of God. I may not like what you do or even what you say, but someone, somewhere loves you and it's not up to me to tell the world what a despicable character you are when you might in fact be an all right person to other people, just not to me. I'm frequently confused by this and want to make sure everyone knows what a bad guy that guy was to me. I want to feel justified in my self-righteousness. But the Gospel doesn't let us get away with that. And so, I have to get down on my knees again and ask forgiveness for being a jerk. And happily, being a Lutheran, I know that God has forgiven me and will give me yet another chance to be the person he thinks I am.
So we continue to grapple with the Good News. And struggle to understand what Jesus said and did and why it was important. And we keep coming back for forgiveness, because we need it and God knows it and loves us anyway. So like Jacob, we or at least I, will keep wrestling away. Come and join us as we question, talk and well, yes, grapple with the Gospel Wednesday nights or Sunday mornings during our Adult Sunday School class. We might need you to "tag" in while we sit out and ponder some more.