Going to the Mat

by admin on February 9, 2015

Reflections for 8 February 2015
Genesis 32:22-31

Wrestling adventures: Cutty Falcovsky—long before Hulk Hogan. The Hook.
Coach Kaligedes—too much effort for me.
Been wrestling ever since.

Take down
Head hold
Body slam
Go to the mat

Wonderful world of pro wrestling: Jesse Ventura. World Wrestling Entertainment.

Genesis text: most interpreted of patriarchal stories. So many levels of understanding that would make Freud salivate
• Battle with river demon
• Contest with enemy, real or imagined
• Rite of passage
• Test of fitness for future responsibility
• Inner struggle that leads to transformed self
• Direct encounter with God
Which one? All of the above.

Story. Trickster Jacob on way back home to Esau. Tense, anxious, scared of future task of amends, he anticipates results. Pre-match jitters.

Jacon’s plan—hold back long as possible searching for better advantage. That’s a wrestling move.

Three moves. Jabbok. Border of frontier. Israelite land one side, pagan on other. Esau has home field advantage. It’s Jacob’s return to civilization. Lots have happened. Land of the living God.

Already filled with angst, a sleepless night ensues with wrestling match with mysterious stranger.

Jacob on top—his misty adversary.
Jacob on top—the opponent
Jacob on top—the enigma (good mat name)
Jacob on top—the unnamed man
Jacob on top—the mysterious partner

There’s a move from adversary to partner

Then there’s a ploy to break the stalemate; a ploy to break the rules. This is no friendly afternoon arm wrestling; this is intense painful body slamming.
Hebrew for wrestle: Ye’abeq

“let me go.” No…not until you bless me.
You shall be known by a new name: Not Jacob but Israel—one who struggles/wrestle with God.

Genesis brings together these three words: these three primal themes: Jabbok, Ye’abeg, Jacob.

Question: does God play dirty? More fundamental truth: you play with God and there’s a guarantee you’ll get hurt. Maybe this God stuff is too dangerous to take lightly.

We know much of Pentetuchal narrative assembled at Israel’s growing ascendancy into power; but decendency into spiritual poverty. Sounds like us.

Who wrote it doesn’t matter—but what does is the truth that if we want to stay close to God, we will end up limping.

Are we at the frontier of faith or safely ensconced in the temples of power? What Jabboks are you standing at? What line in the sand is keeping you awake at night, tossing and turning?

Jacob discovered a far different quality in his life once he crossed the Jabbok and was reunited and reconciled with his brother.

For so many of us life on this side of the Jabbok is what we know. We may not like it: confining, addicted, conflicted-but we’re a lot more comfortable with it then the great unknown that God has in store.

Are you wrestling with God? How so? Jacob walked away with a limp. Seems to me that true spiritual struggle is messy and painful. And remember—what’s my personal pain management plan? Same one I said to Coach Kaligedes—no thanks.

Jabbok, Ye’abeq, Jacob.

Jacob gets a new name out of this: Israel. Church theology—serious reflection on the consequence of saying “I’ll sign up with Jesus”—say that we get a new name and identity at our baptism. After listening to this story, I’m not sure I want it.

It is an awesome and fearsome thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb 10:31)

Is baptism less about the comfort of religion and more about a radical God that comes to assault everything we hold dear?

Over the years I’ve had people say to me: Pastor Bill, you upset everything. [must be my spiritual gift] My first inclination: pain management: Oh I don’t want to do that. Leave me out of conflict. Then I got to thinking afterward—God, why do you pin me like that? Body slammed again.

I still hate wrestling. But I’ll have to admit, my life is infinitely richer, stronger, more fulfilling because of the limp God gives. And your life will be, too.

Jacob called that place Penuel—face of God. Remember getting out of Dodge: Bethel—house of God. And in between—Israel.

I’d like to think that is what/where Nova is.

Cutty’s brother John…Submarine Drive-In. There aint no place like this place around this place…so this must be the place.

This is the place—you can go to the mat on it.

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