Jacob doesn’t have to wrestle. He could stay with his women and children and servants: there is safety in numbers. He could sedate himself with wine or the web or some ancient Palestinian Prozac, and allow his encounter with the stranger to remain a blur. He could yield to the stranger at the beginning, crying ‘I give up! Leave me!’ But he doesn’t. He allows himself to be alone, vulnerable, wide awake in the dead of night. The stranger comes. Jacob wrestles; he grasps; he is wounded: and he is blessed.
- READ: Genesis 32:22-31 (Year A Proper 13)
On his way home after many years in exile, Jacob made camp at the ford of the Jabbok river. But during the night, he decided it would be safer to shift everyone, so he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had.
Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 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. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”
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.” 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. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Peniel, limping because of his hip. (Genesis 32:22-31)
- REFLECT: What word or phrase jumps out? What do you think the stranger looks like? How does this story make you feel?
- RELATE: How do you wrestle with God or faith? That is, what things do you question or find difficult? Has your struggle caused you pain or wounded you? What things about yourself do you wrestle with?
- RESPOND: Is God calling you to any practical response now? Pray about it, then act.
- REPORT: If you or your household do take action, text or email a photo of that action to Sanctuary with a brief explanation. We can use it during the service or, with your permission, add it to the Facebook page.
- RELAX: For older children, teens and adults: Many film heroes have to wrestle with mysterious strangers and/or hard parts of themselves. For example, Meg in A Wrinkle in Time wrestles verbally with mysterious strangers and internally with her flaws: yet it is her very stubbornness and willingness to struggle which mean she can save both her father and brother.
Cartalk / Tabletalk © Sanctuary, 2020. Year A Proper 13.
Cartalk / Tabletalk
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