Scripture Text (NRSV)
32:22 The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven
children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.
32:23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he
32:24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.
32:25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip
socket; and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.
32:26 Then he said, "Let me go, for the day is breaking." But Jacob said,
"I will not let you go, unless you bless me."
32:27 So he said to him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Jacob."
32:28 Then the man said, "You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you
have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed."
32:29 Then Jacob asked him, "Please tell me your name." But he said,
"Why is it that you ask my name?" And there he blessed him.
32:30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "For I have seen God face to face,
and yet my life is preserved."
32:31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.
This story reminds us of what we often forget, that the name "Israel" has a meaing -- one who wrestles with God. That is, in a sense, a description of the People of God throughout the ages. The Hebrews (all the Jews through history) continually wrestle with God and so does the "New Israel" of the church.
Blessings, Eric in KS
We've been doing the semi-continuous readings for a while now. I think it's about time I devote the first part of my sermon to the review of the family stories from Abraham/Sarah to Jacob. It's hard to keep everything straight when you just get little bits each week.
Then, I'm thinking of talking about the idea that Jacob/Israel refused to let this man/angel go until he blessed him. When do we wrestle with things in our lives? How willing are we to drop them if they'll go away, instead of holding on to them to find the blessing at the end of the night?
I never get my sermons written til late, but thought I'd put out these ideas for fodder...
"Humbled by God." Have we become so humble about our limp that we are proud of if? When Jacob came up against the almighty, he suddenly felt small but had enough good sense to hang on. I find myself embroiled in an immense congregational struggle, and maybe God calls the people and me to hold on. TN Mack
My first thought was GOD EXPERIENCE remember your God Experience, did God have to chase you down and hog tie you? God is always there, even when we act dumb. Hold on to God , like Jacob-the liar...but of course you will be transformed Jacob gets a new name... and a physical disability... You know some people treat Christians like they have a disability... This passage is neat to use when ministering to a stroke victim, parapelegic, or other injured, Think about those 9 minors in PA- trapped for three days, sharing a sandwich and a pop. Sharing the one good place out of the water... they survived... The tranformation that took place with them and the bond between them is emmense- Now I don't know their Spirituality, however, you can still use that in a sermon-- a difficult situation to get thru and a bond recieved changing you forever... I was a coal Miner's daughter in WV. So, I can relate...my mom packed extra in my dad's lunch...I thought I would get a treat from daddy's lunch box when he got home...little did I know what that extra lunch was for.... in case he got trapped...Lot's on minors were prepared thay way...Maybe we as Christians should take that extra lunch that GOD packed for us...just in case...then we be prepared for---whatever! Pastor mary in OHIO
Jacob sends gifts ahead to appease his brother, and then sends his family ahead in waves, so that the hindmost has the best chance to get away. Genesis doesn't say so, but it looks like he'll BE the hindmost!
Then he wrestles God, admits to being the Supplanter, and is blessed with a new name. (The Contender? Bad humor opportunity...)
The next day, a changed man LEADS his family to meet Esau.
The Romans passage is also about a changed man: Paul/Saul defends himself against charges of abandoning his culture and people.
So both passages are about men who changed their minds, repented, and changed sides. So an habitual liar and thief, and a persecuter of God's people repented and God accepted them and made use of them. Good news.
Many thanks to you all for your thoughts, and the two websites mentioned are great for inspiration. I have entitled my sermon "Face to Face," focusing on the different meanings of the word "face" when Jacob plans the way in which he will meet Esau. What does it mean for us to "face" God or to "see God's face and live?" Being reconciled with our neighbors and enemies? Feeding the hungry? Sharing the abundance and gifts that God gives each of us? My thoughts are moving in these directions....
Thank you, Eric in KS, for that wonderful link. It was a fine message and yielded some great things.
I'm still a bit preliminary in my thoughts, but I do have my usual three points.
My working title is "Sieze the Blessing" I'd love to have it in Latin (Carpe ... what?) if someone knows it.
1) The Muscle of Blessing - If we want to be blessed by God, we must lay hold of God and not let go. Jacob's hip was injured, probably causing him extreme pain. This didn't dissuade Jacob, however, from holding onto God for dear life. Pain and suffering causes some to "let go" of God. Those who receive the blessing hold Him tightly through suffering and find a blessing at the end.
2) The Means of Blessing - If we would be blessed by God, there is a need for confession of who we truly are. The last time Jacob sought a blessing, he was asked his name by his father and he lied. The blessing was stolen. This time, Jacob faced his Father from heaven (whose eyes were a bit better than his earthly father's) and knew he must confess his name - "heel-catcher, cheat, supplanter." If we seek God's blessing, we must be honest about who we truly are. When that happens, God will give us a new name. There's a great Celtic song called "I Will Change Your Name." I may use it.
3) The Marks of Blessing - Jacob walked with a limp ever after. Some wounds are the wounds of defeat. Jacob's wounds were the wounds of victory. (I wonder if anybody asked Jacob, "How did the other guy look?" when they saw him limping.) Wounds gained in retreat are wounds of disgrace. Wounds gained by struggling through are wounds of victory. Jesus had wounds too, but again, they were wounds of victory. Muslims teach that Jesus escaped the cross without dying. That is not victory - that is defeat. We believe Jesus triumphed through the cross and then the empty tomb. Yes, there were wounds - wounds of victory. I'm reminded of the movie "Jaws" in the scene where the two shark hunters were showing their scars.
Hope this helps someone who's truly desperate.
JG in WI
JG in WI: You're welcome. I thought it was a good homily, too. (It should be from a seminary prof.... especially an Episcopalian!)
Anyway, you wanted to know: "My working title is 'Sieze the Blessing' I'd love to have it in Latin (Carpe ... what?) if someone knows it."
It would be "Carpe Benedictio".
Blessings, Eric in KS
What does it mean to wrestle with God?
Perhaps, like Jacob, we are haunted by the past. By a sin, something we did that we can not forget. So we wrestle into the night.
Perhaps, we wrestle with theology, our understanding of God and Scripture. Perhaps the faith we grew up on is no longer sufficient in some way. There are clues of this in Jacob, but it's hard to tell. Jacob's view of the God of Peniel seems like a different viewpoint of God than that of Bethel 20 years earlier.
Perhaps we are haunted by a present, a threat of some kind from a real or imagined enemy, perhaps with names like midlife or grief or aging. Or with a relationship, an Esau in our lives.
In all of these wrestlings, the point is to hang on until the day dawns and the blessing comes. Be engaged, don't drop out. Too often, we want instant, no pain results. The temptation is to give up if it's going to take a long time or if it might wound us. Hang on, keep wrestling.
Jacob was impaired, received his limp, right before he had to face the greatest challenge of his life. He needed that strength that he had used on the "man" to fight Esau. We have one more battle to fight, but this time we fight it with a limp. Yes, we have a new name, a real bonifide blessing, but a limp.