Baggage Claim (3): Nothing Left to Lose

. 3 min read

Christ Church, Mountain Top
Psalm 85
Genesis 32.1-21
Genesis 32.22-32
love the Jacob story, and I’ve repeated that a few times over the weeks we’ve
been looking at his story.
      Baggage – sibling rivalry, mommy/daddy
      Destructive behavior – treating human
connections as commodities
            “I hired you with my son’s
mandrakes” (Leah to Jacob, 30.16)
this rascal is chosen and loved by God!
      Not because of anything he has done
      Even before he is born
act of grace, a reminder that we are God’s simply because God is gracious, that
we are loved simply because God is love.
Jacob does not “get it”
      “Grabber”, his name, his birth
      Birthright & blessing – but never
received his father’s approval
      Wealth – from Laban
has fought for everything he has, he has earned it all
that is an illusion – it is all a gift, it is all grace
illusion of being my father’s equal – boxing

has fought for everything he has, he has earned it all
God comes to him as a fighter, because that is all Jacob knows
      He’s a concrete thinker, physicality,
kinetic intelligence
      He works out his problems externally, not
            (much like contemporary readings of Beowulf)
God comes in the only way Jacob can perceive God
has fought for everything he has, he has earned it all
he truly wants is to be blessed!
      Every blessing he has he has “stolen”,
grabbed, taken by force
      He has not learned to receive a gift
is not until he is broken that he is ready to be blessed, and his brokenness
becomes a sign of his blessing.
      The accumulation of our pain
      Insulation from God?
            Jacob has to part with everything –
the fruit of his conflict/baggage
            Jacob has to part with everything before
he can receive God’s gift
            It is not until he has nothing left
to lose, not even his baggage
broken and blessed
the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob” (NRSV), “When the man saw
that he could not overpower him” (NIV) (32.25). 
The word for “prevail” or “overpower” is a word for raw ability.  The man “was not able”.  This expression reveals a mystery about God
and God’s dealings with people: God will not force us to submit. God will not
win over us by power. Instead, God intends win us over by love.
      At the same time, God knows that Jacob
must not win the blessing he craves by force. 
He has already done that once, and only found himself more empty and
alone.  If Jacob is to be blessed, he
must first be powerless.  Only then can
this stubborn, hard-headed, fierce competitor know that he has been given a
gift.  So the man strikes Jacob on the
hip, making him limp.  Still, Jacob cries
out, “I will not let you go unless you bless me”.
      Jacob triumphs, through his weakness, not
his strength.  Jacob is blessed, but only
after he is broken.
root for “blessed” is also the root for “kneel”, as in, “kneel before the
LORD”. And I see this man, who wrestled Jacob, kneel before Jacob to bless him.
This God who refuses to force us to submit, this God who refuses to overpower
us, has the humility and gentleness to kneel before us with all our brokenness,
and to BLESS.

man who knew nothing but winning and losing, the man who knew nothing but being
alone, the man who fought for everything he had, the man who never knew his
father’s approval . . . has finally received the blessing.