Mark your calendars for more Zoom worship opportunities with Yates. We will worship together on August 16, August 30, September 13 and September 27,

Guide for Worship
August 9, 2020

Call to Worship

It is Well With My Soul, Michael Jessup, Hammered Dulcimer

Opening Prayer

(Pray silently or aloud)

God, we come with praise and gratitude.
Thank you for your Word, for speaking to us anew today.
In faith and trust, we open our ears and minds to you.
We know you are with us in the rush of life.
God, you see us as we truly are, with our secrets and shames, our dreams and hopes.
We crave your blessing and direction.

We confess that we have sometimes walked in dark places.
Our hearts are contrite with the memories of past battles and the images of current conflicts which have led us far from you.
In your mercy, create clean hearts in us, forgive us the sins that are past, and bless us with your insights for the future.

Bless us, as you blessed Jacob, with perseverance to find new ways of living in your peace and in the wisdom of your Holy Spirit.
May this time of worship renew and strengthen us to live out the blessing we receive from you.

We pray it in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Stephanie Taylor, Winslow Carter, Lacala Hall, Michael Jessup, Barbara Guthrie, Sean Fenton, Barri Payne, Lois English and Charles Cato
Holy, Holy, Holy, Nyssa Collins

Genesis 32:22-31

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.


“A Season of Wrestling” – Tarvick Linder

Watch the sermon using the player above, or click this summary to read the complete text. An archive of this and other sermons is found on the Yates sermon page.


This sermon that I’m going to share with you today, I entitle, “A Season of Wrestling.” The Scripture inspired a song that I want to share with you. It is a spiritual:

Deep River.
My home is over Jordan.
Deep River, Lord,
I want to cross over into campground.

I find myself frequently being asked today, and also asking, “How is this season treating you?” By the word “season” in this question is an acknowledgement to our world currently amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for social justice, the reality of physical isolation, working from home, and being and adult. For some of us, this “season” might also imply navigating new ways of parenting and teaching, racial tensions, furloughs or unemployment, and even injury and sickness and also old age.

“How is this season treating you?” is a vague question, and loaded with baggage. So, in the spirit of attempting to maintain my own social norms, I tend to answer with the positive – “Well, I’ve been exercising more, I’ve learned how to cook new and interesting meals, reading through some books a semester two ago and trying to find some flexibility in my schedule.” But, if I’m honest, what I want to say is that this “season” has been a season of wrestling. Wrestling with myself, with others, and even God. It is a season which has brought me to my knees more often than I ever thought would be possible. A season which has thrown me into radical vulnerability with myself.

So may this sermon be an invitation to you to join in our vulnerability together.

The inspiration to be vulnerable comes because in Genesis we encounter a story about vulnerability. We hear the story of Jacob. A man whose desire for power and wealth led him to

cheat his own brother and father; and then to dwell in a foreign land. But yet, while cheating and dwelling, he never lost sight of God – or, more accurately, God never lost sight of him…even in his struggle.

Today, we encounter Jacob when he is brought to his knees at the edge of the River Jabbok, a small river which flows into the mighty River Jordan, that deep river Jordan. The scripture tells us that one night, Jacob, while standing alone at the ford, wrestled. We learn that Jacob wrestled with a “man,” but who this man is is uncertain. This figure could have been Jacob’s inner turmoil. It could have been his past actions or future hopes. It could have been an angel, or could have even been God.

We don’t know because the Scripture isn’t clear. But what is clear is that Jacob was living a season of wrestling which brought him to his knees, a season which made him vulnerable, while he stood alone at the crossroads of the river’s edge.

Perhaps you, like Jacob, like me, find yourself in a similar position of vulnerability this “season.”

Is it possible that you’ve been wrestling with your inner self – in your inner mind? In this season, you already know that we’ve been gifted more time than ever before to reflect, meditate, more time to consider our own emotional and mental well-being. As a result, you may have found yourself standing alone in the dark of the night, like Jacob, now forced to confront the inner workings of your mind. You’ve realized that you haven’t been showing yourself compassion. You haven’t been showing yourself mercy and love. You’ve been trying to be like Christ for others, but while neglecting to honor the image of God inside of you. You’re fighting the voices that tell you that you’re not good enough, the voices that tell you you’re not worthy enough, and that you’re not holy enough. The voices of anxiety, depression, and insecurity. The voices that keep you from crossing over the River Jabbok, which leads to the Jordan, on which whose opposite bank – recount the old spirituals – freedom, your freedom, awaits.

Yes, for you, this season may have brought you to your knees on the bank of the River Jabbok, being reminded of the tears that we’ve cried in silence are like a river, as we struggle with our personal fears in the dark night in our souls.

Maybe also, in wrestling with your inner self, you’ve been wrestling with your own history. This, too, is vulnerable work. Jacob did it. On the ford of the Jabbok, Jacob had to wrestle with (in other words confront) the injustice that he had shown toward his brother, Esau. The night the figure confronted Jacob in a wrestling match was the night before Jacob was to meet Esau and ask for forgiveness for stealing Esau’s blessing of land and birthright. Jacob was terrified. He thought that Esau was coming out for revenge. And, likely, Jacob was terrified of not only Esau but also the daunting task that is self-forgiveness. Maybe this, too, is where you are in your journey. You’ve learned more about the history of the United States. You’ve learned more about the history of the Church, and you cannot fathom how forgiveness for injustice – against others, against yourself – is even possible. The waters of the Jabbok which flow into the Jordan just seem far too deep, far too insurmountable, to cross.

Perhaps, while wrestling with yourself (that wasn’t even enough) you’re been wrestling with God. You know all too well that God is present because it is God with whom you grapple on the bank of the River Jabbok. It is God who causes you to pause, God who causes you to listen. It is God who calls. God who calls you, who calls me, into vulnerability with ourselves and with each other.

In this season, you are experiencing Divine encounters. God is showing up, calling you to something, making present the gospel feast on this side of the Jordan. Yet, for these Divine encounters to sink in, they require a slowing down. The require a remembrance. They require lament. They require acknowledgement.

This season brought you to your knees on the bank of the River Jabbok, reminding of water. But there is something special and changing about these waters of this river where we are brought to our knees – the water of baptism by which we receive the Holy Spirit and through which we are made members of God’s holy family. We are vulnerable babes brought afresh into the world. Made worthy enough. Made redeemable. We are made anew amidst our inner turmoil. We are made anew amidst our history. We are made anew amidst all of our mistakes and all of our faults.

In some way, we’ve all been brought to our knees on the bank of this river. We’ve all been confronting the dark nights of our souls. We’ve all been confronting the histories of injustice. We’ve all had to hear the call of God. We’ve been reminded of where we’ve been. We’ve been reminded that we are invited into vulnerability. But yet this river that we are in front of reminds us and tells us where we’re going. It is in these waters of baptism we are reminded when we are brought to our knees on the bank of the Jabbok we can also find our hope. Our hope is the Good News of Jesus that changes us and renews us in our baptism.

His story doesn’t stop with this maiming encounter. Jacob wrestles, he struggles, he endures, but he crosses the river. Now he repents and Esau forgives. Jacob receives God’s blessing and becomes Israel.

From his lineage, comes Jesus – the Jesus who was baptized in the deep River Jordan into which the Jabbok flows,; the same Jesus who fed the 5000 from 5 loaves and 2 fish so that no one would go hungry; the same Jesus who was persecuted and crucified so that we all might be redeemed, the Jesus who is our ultimate source of freedom from ourselves, freedom from unjust systems, and freedom found in God.

You see, baptism is a public sign of a change that is happening inside of us, a change that isn’t always immediate. As we grow, there can be a struggle between who we were and who we are becoming. And it is at the crossroads of the river’s edge that we are brought to our knees in that vulnerability, where we are confronted with the cross. We are confronted with the life-giving cross, the liberating cross through which all creation is redeemed and by which we are called to reconciliation. The cross which transforms. For through baptism, we are made members of Christ’s Body – brought into union with Christ, brought into union with ourselves and the world through his death and resurrection.

So, in my wrestling this season, I turn to the Gospel. I turn to the cross as a source of hope and preach it without shame. I thank God for the struggle because I know it means that God’s presence is with me, and I am not alone. The struggle means that God is changing things through God’s Spirit and changing me along with it.

You see, its’ spirituals like “Deep River” enable me to see that the Jabbok flows into the deep River Jordan and be reminded by this that our story doesn’t end in struggle. Rather, the story is just beginning. May we in our vulnerability, when we are brought to our knees at the crossroads of the river’s edge, find ourselves at the foot of the cross. Amen.

Response Through Song

I Want Jesus to Walk With Me – Nyssa Collins and Anna Moxley

Click here for text to follow or sing along with Anna.


I want Jesus to walk with me;
I want Jesus to walk with me;
all along my pilgrim journey,
Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me.

In my trials, Lord, walk with me;
in my trials, Lord, walk with me;
when my heart is almost breaking,
Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me.

When I’m troubled, Lord, walk with me;
When I’m troubled, Lord, walk with me;
When my head is bowed in sorrow,
Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me.

Response Through Prayer

Tarvick Linder

Response Through Giving

Prelude in C Major – Nyssa Collins

We encourage you to give your offerings online through Pushpay here, through the Yates app, or by mail (2819 Chapel Hill Road, Durham, NC, 27707). We are growing into new ways to be the church together and your giving allows us to keep being the church, even in the absence of our physical presence.


Jess Gaul

Today is Jessamine Gaul’s final day with us in her summer internship through Duke Divinity School. Thank you, Jess, for investing yourself so freely and fully in your summer ministry experience with Yates. We are proud of all the ways you have grown in your gifts for ministry and are stronger for your sharing them with our congregation! You are in our prayers as you return to seminary to complete your final year of study.

Click here for the text of Jess’ farewell.


I am so grateful for getting to spend the last 10 weeks as part of the Yates community. Thank you so much for welcoming me into your Sunday schools, Bible study, worship services and more. I thoroughly enjoyed every phone conversation and Zoom call, and I will look back on this time as deeply formative in my ministry.

I hope to stay in touch with technology, and to one day join you in worship in the sanctuary.

But until then, I want to leave you with these words from Romans 15:13—

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Amen, and God bless you!


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