The Times They Are A’Changin’


Pentecost 22C – The Times They are A’Changin’

Genesis 32:22-31

Luke 18:1-8

October 16, 2016

“For the times they are a’ changin’ …”

That’s my best Dylan…

Many who know Bob Dylan

Weren’t all that surprised to hear the news

That he won this year’s Nobel prize for literature.


Dylan is a poet whose lyrics have captured moments in our nation’s history

in a heartfelt way.

His songs became the movement in many cases.


“For the times – they are a’changin’”

Dylan wrote this song in late 1963.

It became an anthem for the change coming

as a result of the civil rights movement.


“For the times – they are a’ changin’”

“The waters are rising,” he says,

Join with them and swim – or sink to the ground.

“For the times – they are a’changin’”


He tells Congress to move out of the way;

that if they want to be on the right side of history;

now is the time to take part.

“For the times – they are a’changin’”


And quoting Scripture he reminds us,

“And the first one now will later be last.

For the times – they are a’ changin’”


Dylan writes songs about struggle…

When times change – when anything changes that we didn’t necessarily ask for,

and weren’t necessarily prepared for,

there’s struggle.


It can be as mundane as the change back to daylight savings time

  • that’s struggle!


But the deeper struggles come with the changes

that leave us knowing things will never be the same again:

  • the loss of a loved one
  • a divorce
  • and for some, the struggle is especially difficult with societal change –

when those who have been oppressed demand equal rights:

– the widow back in Jesus’ day who demands justice;

– and the women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community who demand the same thing today

“For the times, they are a’ changin’…”

and some are really struggling.


As far as I know, Dylan never wrote a song though

About Jacob…


I’d like to share with you 3 gems about the story of Jacob wrestling with God[i]

written by Benedictine nun Joan Chittister:

  1. When you’re met with change you did not ask for and you do not want – there will be struggle
  2. You can choose to grow from that struggle (or not)
  3. Struggle always comes with a cost – real struggle marks us for life


Jacob is in a good place as the story begins.

It seems that everything in life is finally falling into place for him.

He has made peace with his father-in-law Laban,

And gone out on his own with his blessing.

“He is financially secure,

Married to the woman he pursued for years,

…Destined to inherit the family fortune.

He’s on the brink of great success.”[ii]


But then something changes.

Jacob is about to meet his brother Esau…

The one he had cheated out of his birthright.

The one he ran away from.

The one he hasn’t seen in over 14 years.


Jacob sends messengers ahead to Esau to let him know he’s coming.

But then one of the messengers returns.

The messenger says that Esau is coming to meet him….

And he’s bringing 400 men.


Jacob is frightened.

This wasn’t part of the plan.

He divides his own people into 2 companies,

Figuring that if ½ are indeed destroyed by Esau,

The other ½ may escape.


Jacob sends gifts ahead to Esau to butter him up –

Goats and bulls and donkeys.


And then the night before they meet,

alone at the side of the Jabbok River…he falls into a restless sleep.


“Oh the times, they are a changin’”


  1. When you’re met with change you did not ask for and you do not want – there will be struggle


And Jacob struggles.

All night he struggles – wrestling with a stranger.

Some historical Jewish texts suggest that he was wrestling with the power of evil;

Others say it was an angel.


We’ve all had nights like that –

Those sleepless nights when we wrestle with our own thoughts and fears…

when we’re really struggling.


The second gem Joan Chittister says,

  1. When we’re in that time of struggle – we can choose to grow from it (or not).


She says that struggle is intensified when we feel trapped;

when we feel like we have no options.

But when we feel like we have no options,

it’s only because we lack imagination.

We can’t imagine that with the pain of change,

Ultimate blessing might be hidden within it.[iii]


In the midst of unwanted change, she says,

We can simply grow older

Or we can choose to grow new.


This afternoon I’m attending the 90th birthday of a friend and mentor of mine.


John has had some struggles this past year –

Heart issues, mobility issues, kidney issues;

He and his wife sold their beautiful country home overlooking a valley

and moved to a two bedroom apartment.

John started dialysis –

3 days a week; 6 hours each time.


For the times they are a’changin’ – and the changes are not ones John chose for himself.


But rather than simply grow older,

John has decided to begin again – to grow new.

He’s writing a new book.

He started a YouTube channel where he reads poetry.

And today he’s hosting a birthday party for himself…

He’s got the party schedule all figured out:

There is the gathering at 2pm;

There is the singing at 2:45pm;

There is the eating at 3pm;

And then at 4pm there is what John calls the “holding forth” – his turn to share what turning 90 means to him

(He’s made it clear that he will be the only one ‘holding forth’ –

he said that we’ll have to wait until the funeral to talk!)


In the face of change,

John has chosen not to grow simply older;

he has chosen to grow new.


Jacob wrestles all night with this stranger.

He has a choice…

He can give in and give up…

Or he can hold on for the blessing which may be hidden within it.


Jacob chooses to hold on for the blessing.

He refuses to let go of the hope that somehow in the midst of this struggle,

There is a blessing – there is hope – for him.


And Jacob is right…

He receives blessing…but not without a cost.


Joan Chittister’s 3rd gem is that

  1. Real struggle comes with a cost – we are marked for life.


Jacob limps.

Ever after, Jacob limps.


Those of us who have lived through real struggles know that those struggles mark us for life:

They come with a cost.

They remain deep within us and cannot be undone or forgotten.


The woman who is an alcoholic

Knows what it’s like to struggle with an addiction

Which never completely goes away.


The man whose spouse has been unfaithful

Knows what it’s like to receive an unexpected phone call

Or text message.


The one who has been sexually assaulted

Knows what it’s like to hear stories of assault on the news that are accepted as ‘normal.’


We can choose to grow from struggle,

But it still leaves a mark – a wound.

Sometimes the wound is that we’re more fearful, or angry,

Or more compassionate or more naïve.

It leaves us limping a bit like Jacob.


Chittister adds, however:

“We limp forever to remind us, not that we are weak,

But that inside us lies the strength…(to) hold on…,

To struggle and survive.”[iv]


Jacob names his place of struggle, “Peniel,”

which in Hebrew means, “I have seen the face of God and survived.”


Oh the times, they are a’changin’….

In the midst of the struggles of unwanted change we face,

May we choose growth;

May we hold on for the blessing;

And scarred though we may be, may we name those scars, “Peniel”:

“I have seen the face of God and survived!”



[i] Joan Chittister, Scarred by Struggle; Transformed by Hope

[ii] Chittister, p 93

[iii] Chittister, p 22

[iv] Chittiester, p 82


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