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Wrestling a Blessing

October 22, 2019

 image: One of the giant jackrabbits of New Life. They may not be angels, but they are magnificent, surprising, and hard to pin down. 

 

Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019 – Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Sermon: Carmen Retzlaff, New Life Lutheran Church, Dripping Springs, Texas

 

Genesis 32:22-31

 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. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had.

 

24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 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. 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.” 27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 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.” 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. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” 31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

 

Jacob stole his brother Esau’s blessing. When their father Isaac was old and blind, Jacob and his mother Rebecca, through trickery and deceit, got old Isaac to bless the second-born twin, rather than the rightful heir, Isaac’s favorite, Esau, the firstborn. 

 

Jacob fled, and went to the land of his mother’s family, and worked for his uncle Laban for many years, eventually marrying both of Laban’s daughters. Jacob is the father of the nation of Israel, and he’s not particularly brave. He is a trickster, really. He’s a good farmer - good with sheep and goats. But when the going gets tough, he usually flees. He’s an odd hero. 

 

So maybe that’s part of the lesson for us in this story. The Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, is one of the most ancient books we have, and an incredible historical resource whether or not you believe it is Holy Scripture. But it isn’t written like other history books, then or now. It doesn’t just reco