Lectionary Year A
August 4, 2002
Genesis 32:22-31

Contemporary Address


I will preach this sermon to a very small congregation in a very small town 12 miles south of the State Capital City. My two year service to them recently ended so they could call a Designated Pastor with Redevelopment skills. The Presbytery supports their redevelopment. Part of my strategy as their part-time Interim was to help them recall and celebrate some of their accomplishments in their past history. I plan to mention some of those memories in Part III of the sermon.


This passage can uplift the spirits and remind us that it is God who does so. It faces stressful situations with which we wrestle and allows us to face them with God's presence even when we fail to recognize it.


"Life's a Wrestling Match"


People wrestle through every day. You know your wrestling all too well. We usually want to leave our struggles at the door of the sanctuary when we come here. However, God's Word promises to help us cope with even our struggles.

I. How We Wrestle = Like Jacob's Wrestling Match

Jacob wrestled long before that night at the Jabbok. He wrestled with his twin brother, with his mother, with his twin brother, with his father, with his twin brother, with his father-in-law, with his twin brother, with his wives, with his twin brother again and again. Did I mention his skirmishes with his twin brother? Jacob wrestled, even, with God. We, too, get into skirmishes galore.

Life is a veritable and a virtual wrestling match. We struggle and struggle.

II. Who Wrestles With Us But God

Could Jacob have begun that night wrestling with an unknown? Maybe. Notice, the Scripture passage delays calling the name of Jacob's nocturnal opponent until Jacob justifies naming the place Pinuel. Tradition pictures Jacob wrestling with an angel. Rembrandt has a beautiful painting portraying Jacob wrestling with a lovely angel. Genesis is studiously vague in designating Jacob's adversary. Who is it? If we can expand this concept, we might detect God's in our corner, ready to bless us, i.e. wash us, refresh us, renew us, re-strengthen us, return us to the fray of battle we call life.

Do we think we wrestle with our health, with our friends and family members, with our supervisors and co-workers, with our neighbors and people in stores where we shop and seek services, with decisions, with negotiations, with transactions? We do. And, you know what, we wrestle with God, too. God is in our wrestling matches even when we fail to notice. God lets us struggle, work, try, hope, etc.

III. God Blesses Us, too

God blessed Jacob and God blesses us, as well. You can recite the blessings God bestows on you and I can mine.

God blesses your congregation, too, of course. Count your blessings. God covenanted with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, not as individuals only, but also and maybe even especially as generations of people and eventually as a nation of people, Israel. God expanded the scope of the covenant in changing Jacob's name to Israel = people of God.


Evidently, since we have a written record of Jacob's wrestling there at the Jabbok, he did tell about it. We share our blessings by thanking God and by telling and showing others that we believe it is God who blesses us so very richly.

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