Summary: This sermon is about God breaking us in order to bless us.
"A Break and A Blessing" - Genesis 32:24-32
Pastor Antonio Torrence,
Cross of Life Lutheran Church
For the last fourteen days during the Millennium Summer Olympics in Sydney, we have marveled at some of the world’s greatest athletes as they seized every opportunity to meet opposition, break the odds, and come out as champions. We held our breath, as divers like Laura Wilkinson seem to defy the gravity of the world’s expectations and make the pages of history books. We cheered as track stars, like Marion Jones, Michael Johnson, and Kathy Freeman seem to run on the electricity of thousands of voices chanting their names as broke the finish tape in the race of their lives. We were even surprise that baseball coach, Tommy Lasorda, could take a team of minor leaguers and win an Olympic gold medal. But if there were one Olympic moment that seemed to capture the spirit of determination, struggle, and success it would be the defeat of the three time Russian Olympic Wrestling champion, Alexander Karelin, by the unknown American Rulon Gardner. It was a moment that startled the likes of Henry Kissinger and IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch who came to the wrestling event to present this famed undefeated Karelin with his fourth Olympic gold medal. However, this mysterious man, Rulon Gardner who was never a world medallist or a champion was able to beat a champion who never lost a wrestling match in 13 years. When asked how he was able to accomplish such a feat, Gardner said, “it’s not like I tried to win, I just refused to give up. One moment my opponent was struggling against me and the next I heard him say, ‘I give up’.” No one could be it that a man who wrestled his opponents to defeat for thirteen years would surprisingly bow his head in defeat, and give up. It seems that those words “I give up” indicated the breaking of Alexander’s Karelin’s will to contend with an opponent who would not be outdone.
In our text, we read the story about another wrestling match that occurs when a mysterious man wrestles with Jacob and Jacob seems to be an opponent who will not be undone. Jacob seems to be a man who seems as though he would never give up. He spent his life struggling to achieve, trying to take hold of things and people he felt he deserved. From his birth Jacob was a man of struggle – a person of strife. His mother, Rebekah, was in great labor with him and his twin brother, Esau, because while in her womb Jacob struggled constantly with his brother. You see, in ancient times, the first-born son enjoyed certain privileges. He was the eldest son – he would have the family inheritance and his father’s blessing. At their birth, when Esau came out first, the infant Jacob would not be outdone. Jacob wanted to be first. So, he grabbed his brother’s heal in an attempt to pull him back him. Thus, he was named Jacob –meaning (one who supplants or deceives). And so his life would become a life spent supplanting, conning people to get his way, taking hold of other people’s possessions. For instance, when he was cooking a pot of stew, his brother Esau came in desiring to satisfy his hunger from a day of activities. Esau begged him for some of the stew; however, Jacob would make Esau promise to give him his birthright and only with his promise would he give him some of his food. Esau not thinking much of the situation simply agreed and gave him his birthright. But having a birthright wasn’t enough for Jacob, he also wanted Esau’s blessing. And being the con artist that he was, he disguised himself as his brother, went into his father’s tent pretending to be his twin brother, Esau, and asked his father, Isaac for the blessing. Now we must understand that in his day and even in certain cultures today it is critical and important for children to receive their parents’ blessings. To receive a blessing was to receive the favor of God upon one’s life. It was to receive your parent’s approval on your life and once it was given it could not be taken back. It meant that your future, your destiny, was certain. Any goal you set would be accomplished. Any vision perceived would be obtained. A blessed child would be a confident child – a child who knew that they could do no wrong because they had the blessing of their parents. They had their parents’ unconditional love. You see many of us are still seeking to obtain our parents’ blessing. Many of us, subconsciously are still seeking to get their approval. We may have made some decisions that went against their desires, like marrying somebody they did not like or having a child out of wedlock, or going into a career they did not approve of. So we spend a great portion of our lives trying to live up to their expectations. That’s why as children we often came home glad if we had good grade on our paper or accomplished some great deed because we hope to hear the words from them – “this his my child in whom I am well pleased.” We struggle for that parental blessing over our lives – their unconditional love.