Reading: Genesis 32:22-31
My life changed forever in the Fall of 1977.
I can remember the month.
It was September 1977.
That was when I was introduced to professional wrestling.
The show was Mid-Atlantic Wrestling and I was watching it with my dad.
The first wrestlers I ever saw were Ric Flair and Greg Valentine (the “heels” or bad guys) making fun of a wheelchair-bound Wahoo McDaniel.
They showed highlights of a recent match where Valentine won the Mid-Atlantic Championship from Wahoo and in the process broke Wahoo’s leg.
I remember watching Wahoo writhing in pain while Valentine and Flair went to work on the leg.
I remember the good guys, Ricky Steamboat and Paul Jones, making the save.
Then they went back to the interview and you could tell Wahoo was getting mad.
Dad was predicting Wahoo would attack both of the villains with his crutches.
My dad said, “Keep watching. He’s gonna get them!”
And I was captivated.
I have been a fan on pro wrestling ever since.
Now, I know some may laugh, and that’s okay.
I don’t hide from what interests me.
I love wrestling, I love comic books, I love sports of all kinds.
But it is week’s like this that I am SO glad I grew up a wrestling fan because in our reading today we get the original Wrestlemania.
And it’s from the Bible!!!
Take that, mom!
(SIDE NOTE: please don’t tell my mom I said that…)
And the Main Event is Jacob vs. …. Wrestler X.
In one corner you have Jacob, who comes from Canaan.
In a way, Jacob had been a heel most of his life.
Jacob was known for being a trickster.
He literally came out of the womb grasping his brother Esau’s heal.
Later he persuaded Esau to sell him his birthright and then Jacob tricked Isaac (his and Esau’s father) into blessing him instead of Esau. After that Jacob moved to live with his uncle, Laban , in order to get away from an irate Esau. But he didn’t learn his lesson. Most of Jacob’s adventures in Genesis revolve around swindling somebody out of money and/or property. All his actions brought jealousy among Laban’s sons.
Eventually Jacob had to leave because he had made enough people mad.
So now Jacob has to come back home to Canaan.
He still has a major hurdle.
You see, prior to this reading, Jacob and his caravan have traveled into Esau’s territory.
And Esau is bound to remember all the bad things Jacob has done.
And Jacob is scared that Esau is going to come for revenge.
So Jacob has sent a big-time bribe to Esau to help ease the tension.
But Jacob isn’t sure it’s going to work.
And then comes Jacob’s opponent in this wrestling match: “Wrestler X.”
At first we don’t know anything about this man.
All we know is he appears at a time when Jacob is alone (having dispersed his caravan to difference places in order that Esau can’t kill every one).
Wrestler X wrestles Jacob.
This is not a 30-minute match.
This is a special “No Time Limit- There Must Be A Winner” event.
Jacob was winning so Wrestler X had to resort to breaking Jacob’s hip (or as we can call it “Pulling A Greg Valentine”).
But despite the injury, Jacob refuses to let go of Wrestler X unless he gets a blessing.
OK…Time Out…Why is Jacob wanting a blessing from Wrestler X?
I believe he realized he was wrestling an angel of God.
He knew that if he could beat an angel, he could…once again…swindle something out of it.
And he does get his blessing.
In fact he gets two.
The first blessing is a new name: “Israel.”
The second blessing is he gets to live.
In a way, Wrestler X is unmasked and is revealed to be God himself.
What makes this such a surprise is back then people believed that if you saw God face-to-face you were dead (or going to die).
But that didn’t happen with Jacob.
Even after seeing God.
So his match with God actually provided him some courage and perspective.
His wrestling match with God puts Jacob’s mind at ease.
It assures Jacob that God is with him.
At a time when Jacob is scared of what might happen to him at the hands of Esau, Jacob is given a gigantic reminder that he does not face the future alone.
God is with him.
God never leaves him.
And no matter what happens, God will be there.
Even for a trickster like Jacob.
God is not Jacob’s opponent.
God is going to be Jacob’s tag team partner.
For many of us in this journey we call life we can find ourselves in moments where we need to know that someone loves us.
We need to know that when our lives go from good to bad that someone will be in our corner.
For those of you who are Christian, I can tell you that you will find your assurance at the font where you were baptized and given not only the gift of eternal life, but the gift of God’s promise.
A promise of presence and love and grace and forgiveness.
If you need more assurance, look no further than the Table.
As you eat the bread and drink the wine at Holy Communion, remember that God is saying, “I am giving this gift TO YOU.
This gift goes WITH YOU.
I…GOD…will go with you, too.”
For those of you who might be seeking (or non-believing), you have the same wants and needs.
You want to know that you do not go through life alone.
Even the biggest lone-wolves in the world occasionally need a helping hand or a guiding light.
If you feel that there is something lacking in your life and in your heart,
If you feel like you need help,
There is Someone ready to make the save.
This Someone does it out of love.
He will not make you feel guilty.
He will make you feel safe.
He will make you feel loved.
If God can love a trickster like Jacob, God can certainly love someone like you.
And I guarantee he does.
And it is a love you may have never experienced before, but once you do, you will want to hold on for dear life.
And the good thing (for Christians and non-believers) is that God is the one holding on to us!