Summary: Is your prayer life real or just an exaggerated production?
Genesis 32: 22-32
Olympic or Smack Down?
Prosper CRC: Falmouth, MI
April 8, 2001 PM
On a Thursday night not to long ago I caught a few minutes of WWF Smack Down, trying to get a current picture of what comes to mind when the word wrestling is mentioned. It has been quite a few years since I watched wrestling -- not since the days before Hulk Hogan, when Dusty Rhodes was the ageless warrior and Rick Flair was plotting to overthrow him as the world champ. In fact, wrestling as we know it today was just beginning to blossom.
Vince McMann, the force behind wrestling’s current manifestation was still an unknown. With his ascension to wrestling’s ruling class, today’s particular breed of wrestling has become as much a caricature of what pro wrestling used to be as pro wrestling in my youth was of olympic wrestling. Today, pro wrestling is a sub-culture all its own where the men in the ring portray and are perceived as super-hero types. To watch WWF is to watch a world all its own. The drama outside the ring is just as important -- if not more so -- than what goes on inside the ring. If you want to see wrestling today, you have to sit through a parade of skits and endless banter offered by gravel-throated titans. Oh, for the days when all that was needed to entertain a young mind was the senseless violence of Ricky Steamboat giving the atomic throat chop off the top rope to the evil Mr. Wrestling.
After getting an idea of what wrestling has become today, I began thinking about how it compares to its noble predecessor, olympic wrestling. Olympic wrestling is a contest of endurance, skill, and passion. Those who wrestle for competition are fanatic in their discipline -- using extreme measures to make weight, pushing their bodies beyond all reasonable thresholds as they grapple with their opponents. It is far removed from the choreographed, exaggerated action of the pro wrestling scene. Olympic wrestling is a true contest of athletic prowess and heart. WWF, while requiring acrobatic skill, fakes competition for the sake of entertainment -- its matches are predetermined and movements carefully planned to look like the real thing.
I initially wanted to title this message "WDJD Smack Down!" Or "What Did Jacob Do" Smack Down! I was going to open with an announcer type dialogue that ended with "Let’s get ready to rumble!" But as I thought about the nature of pro wrestling compared to Olympic wrestling, I was forced to acknowledge that our passage this is closer to Olympic style.
Genesis 32:22-32 tells us of Jacob’s bout with a beloved opponent -- who is later revealed to be God. An intriguing notion -- wrestling with God. What does that mean? How does one wrestle with God? What happens when we wrestle with God? These are the questions before us to answer this evening. To answer them we will first need to look at the venue for the wrestling match -- how did Jacob get into this match with God? Second, we will need to look at the match itself -- what happened and who won? Finally, we will look at our own careers as wrestlers -- what kind of wrestler are we, olympic or professional?
So what lead Jacob to this match? Well, the best way to set up the venue for his bout with God is to read Genesis 27-31. But since this sermon is only supposed to be 45 minutes….just kidding -- Let me summarize its content quickly. Jacob, through deceit, has stolen the blessing of the eldest son from his brother Esau. Naturally, Esau is a tad upset and forces Jacob to flee for his life. Jacob’s flight, however, is not simply running away, he’s running to the house of Laban, his uncle in Haran, to get a bride. On the way, as he sleeps one night, he has a dream -- the dream of Jacob’s Ladder. In the dream God promises him that he will be with Jacob and extends the same promise he made with Abraham to Jacob. God will make him a great nation and all nations will be blessed through him.
Once with Laban, Jacob gets more than he bargained for -- he gets two wives, Leah and Rachel. After much hard labor and prosperity, Jacob feels the tug of home, so he packs up the wives, etc. and heads back toward his father’s house. As he approaches the boundaries of his homeland Beersheba, Jacob becomes increasingly anxious. Then he hears the news that his brother, with a sizable band of soldiers, was coming to meet him. So he does what any one of us would do in his place. He divides his entourage, in hopes that some would survive the wrath of Esau and then, he prays. His prayer is crafted to do one thing -- remind God of the promise he made Jacob twenty years before as he was fleeing Esau. Listen: