Genesis 32: 22-31

New Resources

  • Blessing Through the Struggle

    Video with Eric Anderson
  • Exegesis (Genesis 32:22-31)

    by Richard Donovan
  • Wrestling with God

    by Bruce Epperly
  • Wrestling Life

    by Trace Haythorn
  • A Little East of Eden

    Art and Theology by Victoria Jones
    Dominic de Grande was one of six composers selected from an applicant pool of about a hundred to write a choral piece approximately three minutes in length that would be performable by a good amateur choir. He was assigned Jacob’s nocturnal wrestling match and was partnered with theologian Marian Kelsey, who oriented him to the ambiguity of the Genesis 32 narrative, the Hebrew wordplay, and the narrative’s appropriations in liturgy, literature, and visual art. De Grande chose to set Emily Dickinson’s poem on the subject, “A little East of Jordan”: A little East of Jordan, Evangelists record, A Gymnast and an Angel Did wrestle long and hard— Till morning touching mountain— And Jacob, waxing strong, The Angel begged permission To Breakfast—to return— Not so, said cunning Jacob! “I will not let thee go Except thou bless me”—Stranger! The which acceded to— Light swung the silver fleeces “Peniel” Hills beyond, And the bewildered Gymnast Found he had worsted God!...
  • Wrestling with God

    by Kelley Land
  • Wrestling in the Dark

    by Erica Lloyd
  • Sermon Starters (Proper 13A)(2020)

    by Stan Mast
    In the midst of the racial tensions of this summer, the police chief of Grand Rapids spent much time talking with protesters who were angry about racial injustice. All the talk did not satisfy the protesters, until he took a knee in solidarity with them. That was a turning point in dealing with the complex and painful issue of racism in our town. But the ultimate solution to that and other vexing problems facing us today is to take a knee before our sovereign and gracious God. Or maybe it’s better to say that human ills cannot be solved until we all take a knee with the Son of God who knelt in solidarity with sinners.
  • Face to Face

    by Kate Matthews
  • Proper 13A (2020)

    by Aimee Niles
  • The Limp and the Blessing

    by Debie Thomas
    We live in a culture that celebrates success and scorns defeat. But sometimes, defeat is a mercy. Defeat is what saves us. What I carry away from the story of Jacob’s wounding is the troubling but rock solid truth that blessing and bruising are not mutually exclusive in the realm of God. We can limp and prevail at the same time. We can experience healing in brokenness. If I want to engage with God, then I must expect that I will be changed in the process — and not always in ways that are painless or comfortable or easy. I can’t dictate the terms of blessing. I can’t say, “I want the blessing but not the limp.” Sometimes, the blessing is the limp. As dawn breaks, the stranger asks Jacob to disengage, and Jacob, tenacious as ever, says no: “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” I love this line. I adore it. I want to make it my life’s mantra, because it assures me that sometimes, “winning” involves nothing more sophisticated than not giving up...
  • Proper 13A

    by Howard Wallace
  • Proper 13A (2020)

    by Amy Merrill Willis

Illustrated Resources from the Archives

  • Proper 13A (2017)

    by Doug Bratt
    ‘In my neck of the Reformed woods, an English professor named Stanley Wiersma used to delight folks with his Garrison Keillor-like musings on life in Iowa and in the churches of Iowa in particular, all written under the nom de plume of Sietze Buining. In one of his more indelible portraits in the book Purpaleanie and other Permutations, we meet a man named “Benny” in a poem titled “Excommunication.” ‘Benny Ploegster is an alcoholic who regularly attended church. For three years Benny had been under discipline: first a silent censure, then a more public censure that initially left his name out of the matter. Later it was announced publicly that it was indeed Benny who was under scrutiny. Three years is a long time to work with someone, and so finally Benny’s persistent struggle with the bottle led the church (and God too, apparently) to run out of patience. So a deadline was set, and when Benny was unable to meet that deadline by cleaning up his act and repenting of his wicked, boozy ways, a date was set for the public excommunication.
  • Non-Violent Persistence

    by Sarah Buteux
    Well anyway, John Stewart had an interview the other night that honestly brought me to tears. He had Malala Yousafzai on his show, the young girl who stood up to the Taliban; the teenager who was shot at point blank range in the head on her way to school because she has been such a strong advocate for girl’s education. Some of you may have seen the interview too, (anyone?) or you may have caught this young woman on 20/20 talking to Diane Sawyer. You all know who she is, right? She’s amazing. She’s incredible; the youngest person ever to be nominated for a Nobel peace prize and I think she should have won. That would have been a headline worth reading, right?...
  • Proper 13A (2014)

    by Brendan Byrne
    In the second series of the animated television show The Simpsons, there is an episode entitled “Bart Gets An F”. In this episode, Bart Simpson must pass a crucial history test, or face the prospect of having to repeat a year at school. However, try as he might, Bart can’t seem to focus on his studies; and on the evening before the test, in his desperation, he falls to his knees and begins to pray. Watching from his bedroom doorway, Bart’s sister Lisa shakes her head and sadly whispers: “Prayer – the last refuge of the scoundrel.”...
  • Rescued Miner Says He Saw God, Devil During Captivity

    by Mariano Castillo
    ("'I was with God, and I was with the devil. They fought, and God won,' Mario Sepulveda said. Sepulveda said he grabbed God's hand and never doubted that he would be rescued...")
  • A Divine Wrestling Match

    by Bob Cornwall
    Grace Ji-Sun Kim offers a poignant reflection on this story, which takes note of the situation that Jacob has not only placed himself in, but his wives, maids, and children as well. His family is, a collection of pawns, whose safety Jacob is willing to sacrifice in the hope of achieving détente with his brother (who apparently was approaching with several-hundred-armed men). Grace writes: This passage challenges us to reflect on what we must wrestle with, our lack of concern for the well-being of others, and even our willingness to make others pay for our wrongdoing and selfishness. Without a thought, we exploit others who are weaker than ourselves, purchasing clothes made by child laborers or others who do not receive a living wage, exploiting and devaluing others for the sake of our own desires...
  • Wrestle Mania

    by Rob Elder
    Consider Jacob’s guilty reflections. I can imagine Jacob thrashing back and forth until he bid God to help him in his worried sleeplessness. And God came, not as a host of angels or a menacing thundercloud on the mountain, but in a form unbidden, as a man who would wrestle with him until together they had made peace for Jacob. One writer asked, “How could Jacob even stay in the ring with God?”[4] But this was not God in all God’s glory. Here God took human form to encounter Jacob at his own level. The man who wrestled with Jacob – whom Jacob was entirely convinced was God – could not defeat Jacob any more than Jesus sets out to defeat us when we encounter him. It is not his purpose. God’s purpose is transformation, which is why God could transform Jacob’s name into “Israel,” while Jacob could not fathom the name of God. Staying perfectly in character, Jacob demanded a blessing from those he engaged. As he demanded a blessing from his brother, his father, his father-in-law, so here he demanded a blessing from God. But a blessing from God never leaves us unchanged. God’s blessings are the very stuff of change, and Jacob discovered as dawn broke that the stiffness in his leg wasn’t his arthritis acting up. He was going to be sporting a limp in his walk from that day forward. Each step of the rest of his life would serve as a reminder of the One who, in blessing him, also transformed him into someone more human than he had been before...
  • Face Time… Out of Joint

    by Peter Haynes
    There is a scene in the movie, Forrest Gump, in which “Lieutenant Dan” wrestles with God. Years earlier, he had been leader of a platoon in Vietnam in which this simple man named Forrest was a private. Lieutenant Dan’s family had a long history of valor in battle, many of whom fell bravely. Dan’s legs are blown off in a firefight, and Forrest carries him to safety, despite Dan’s protest to leave him there to die with honor. Later on, Lieutenant Dan is an angry man with no legs, hating the one who saved him. And yet, he joins Forrest in his shrimp business. And there, on Forrest’s boat at sea during a hurricane, Lieutenant Dan climbs the mast and faces the wind of God and rails against his Creator... After the storm, it seems like Dan has wrestled a blessing from God, for he is finally at peace with himself…
  • Wrestling a Blessing

    by Peter Haynes
    "I’ve met a desperate person since we’ve moved to the mountain. It is a woman. I had gone to the hospital in Fannin County to visit someone else. I didn’t know her, didn’t know I would encounter her, but when I went down the corridor, I saw her. Her head was against the door, and both fists were up beside her face, and she was banging on the door: "Let me in, let me in, let me in!" I couldn’t imagine someone locking her out of the room. I got there, and it was the chapel door. I said, "Let me help you." I tried to open the door, but the knob wouldn’t turn. It was locked. I stopped a worker, and I said, "The chapel is locked." She said, "We have to keep it locked. There were some kids in here some time ago, and they trashed the chapel. We had to get all new furniture and paint the room. We can’t afford to keep doing that, so we keep it locked." "Well, find someone with a key." She came back a little bit later with another woman, who opened the door for us, and this woman and I went in. I would say she was about forty. She had the look of desperation. I could tell that she hadn’t come to the hospital with any planning; she came urgently, she came running. The dress she had on was not typical public wear. She had no shoes, just scuffs. Her hair had not been combed, no makeup. She had the look of desperation. She had the voice of desperation. I can’t tell you if she was screaming or crying or moaning or what it was, but it was desperation. Strange sound. I heard some of her words. "I know he s going to die, I know he s going to die, I know he s going to die."...
  • Pain at Peniel

    from Homiletics Online
    Chronic pain afflicts millions of Americans, and costs billions of dollars in disability and lost productivity. It transforms lives, just as it jolted Jacob and linked him to the Lord and Esau in a way he never dreamed possible. Lee Burke is a delicately featured Massachusetts woman in her 50s. She was married and working as an executive at a real-estate company. But after the abuse began, she left her husband, her job, her money --everything. She found it easier to suffer alone. "It's like being slammed into a wall and totally destroyed. It makes you want to pull every hair out of your head. There's nothing I can do to defend myself." And the attacks just keep coming, day after day after day. But her assailant is not an abusive spouse. Not a violent criminal. Not a street punk or a rogue cop. Instead, it's pain. Chronic pain. Lee Burke underwent surgery for a brain tumor eight years ago, and awoke with an unforeseen and inexplicable problem -- lightning-hot headaches that knock her out for periods ranging from four hours to four days. "It's like knives are going through my eyes," she groans to her doctor. The word "pain" comes from the Latin word for punishment, poena, and the link makes perfect sense -- pain can feel like the work of a sadistic torturer applying thumbscrews or the cat-o'nine-tails...
  • Wrestling Jacob

    Art and Theology by Victoria Jones
    In “Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown,” Charles Wesley merges his own faith struggle with the story of Jacob’s literal wrestling with God at the Jabbok river. Holding on with a fierce resolve, the speaker demands to know the name and nature of the elusive being with whom he grapples, and midway through the poem, both are revealed to him as Love...
  • Fighting God

    by Debie Thomas
    Last Christmas, a friend sent me a gift. It's a framed black-and-white cartoon of a grown man and a little girl. The man's arm is extended, and his long fingers press gently against the child's forehead. There's a look on his face of supreme... acceptance? patience? amusement? The girl, meanwhile, is fury personified. Her pigtails are flying, her fists and teeth are clenched, and her feet look like they're moving so fast they'll never hit the ground again. She's headed for the man with all the spitfire intensity of a bull aimed at a red cape, and though her arms are too short to reach him, it's clear she wants to knock him to the ground. "It's you," my friend explained in the note accompanying the gift. "It's you, fighting God."

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