Genesis 32:22-30: Best of Luck or Blessing?

Best of LuckA saying we use in our everyday lives is “Best of luck.”  Through those words, we wish another well—whether on the phone, at work, or somewhere else.  The idea behind a blessing is to encourage.  Still, do you wonder what “luck” is?  In wishing another “the best of luck,” you are voicing a belief in some unseen power.  By some chance, a random event of fortune will come to someone else.

The idea of luck is the reverse of the Christian faith.  A Christian believes in the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  For He creates, saves, and makes us righteous.  So, you confess a belief in the Lord of all, who is everywhere and in every time.  For faith also believes He is in control, no matter your feelings or what your eyes may tell you.

So, we trust in the supernatural, but a particular supernatural.  In the creeds, we confess our belief in our Savior’s power, who died to ransom us from our sins.  On the third day, He walked out of the tomb.  Now, Jesus sends us the Spirit, who leads us to confess and worship Christ, who brings us to the Father.

The idea of some unknown force, called “luck,” runs contrary our belief in the Almighty.  So, tell me, what is luck?  The best definition for me comes from my father.  One day while chatting, he tells me, “Luck is preparation meeting opportunity.”

“Hmm,” as I ponder those words.  In other words, if I prepare, and opportunity comes my way, I’m ready to take on the day.  Such is my dad’s definition of luck.

Still, we ponder.  For a Christian doesn’t believe in luck; no, we believe in the one, true God.  So, why would we wish someone luck, other than using the language we grew up with and use out of habit?

Brought into God’s family, you can now give something more thoughtful and compelling to someone else.  A blessing—and those spoken words are formidable!  For they carry out the Word of God in peoples’ lives, which is why the Church’s liturgy contains those sacred words of blessing.

Picture how people might consider life, if, before some important event, you give them something from the Almighty, “God bless you.”  “The Lord be with you.”  Why?  Here’s why, Jesus baptized you and redeems you, which means you now can bring Him to others.  Every day, you bring Jesus to people you interact with and where you live.

The mind-boggling privilege to bless others in the name of Jesus is yours.  Yes, you bring His Word into someone else’s life, whether family, friends, neighbors, or strangers.  A blessing comes with God wrapped in the words you speak.

The Old-Testament reading showcases the power from such speaking.  First, we learn what wrestling with God includes.  Second, we discover the meaning of receiving such a blessing.  So, think.

In times past, you wrestled with God over a calamity in your life.  Are you struggling with Him now, as you question His wisdom or scuffle with circumstances?  A sigh of “Why?” leaves your lips—or, perhaps, curses filled with venom!  Murky, foreboding clouds darken your skies, making you anxious, angry.  “How can God allow such and such to happen?”  So, resentment rises, and you want to pin Him down like Jacob did.

No matter how much you struggle with God, or ask Him the hard questions, Jacob’s scuffle with God reminds you—He is holding on to you.  The Lord won’t let go of you, no matter your doubts or distress, your anxieties or afflictions.  To wrestle with God is also to be held by Him.

In Jacob’s case, he grappled with God and asked for, perhaps expected, His blessing.  In your spiritual life, He invites you to do the same.  For what God gives you is real, for He is “in, with, and under” those holy words, helping you in your struggles.

A blessing is more than a mere ritual, for God is delivering His gifts.  The Church’s liturgy reflects this reality.  Examine the Old-Testament reading for today.  The text first comes across as odd.  Here we are, tracking along, learning about Jacob, and he is somehow, at once, struggling with someone.

The unknown wrestler appears out of nowhere.  So, who is He and where does He originate?  For some reason, He shows up, and they grapple, straining muscles, grunting and grimacing.  How strange.  The Scripture reveals more, for they challenge each other all night until the sun breaks the horizon!  What a marathon of a match!

How robust Jacob is, persevering in endurance, intense in strength, and skilled in technique.  For he wrestles with God and does not yield ground.  Does Jacob put Him in the sleeper hold or the full nelson?  Whatever he did, he succeeds and causes the man he wrestles against (God) to resort to some other tactic.

The man realizes he will not defeat Jacob.  So, he strikes his hip socket as they grasp and grip, dislocating his hip.  The man speaks.  “Let me go, for daybreak is almost here.”  “No so fast, not unless you bless me,” as Jacob struggles for breath.

Yes, Jacob figured out what to do, understanding well against whom he tussled.  So, he does not stop until he receives God’s blessing, recognizing the power of the spoken Word.  How so?  Earlier, he deceived his father, Isaac, into giving him the blessing meant for his twin brother, Esau.

The words, which God graces Jacob with, are no mere trifle.  For the Lord gives Jacob a new name with His spoken Word.  “No longer will your name be Jacob,” the man told him, “but Israel, because you struggled with both God and with men and prevailed.”

This wrestling match with the Lord summarizes Jacob’s struggles with his family.  Earlier, Jacob steals Esau’s birthright.  Later, he swindles Esau’s blessing from his father.  Now, Jacob and his family are crossing the Jabbok River, hoping to reunite and restore relations with Esau.  In repentance, as Jacob makes his way, he wrestles with God and receives His blessing.

In Jacob, we find the life you and I also live.  By faith in Christ, we walk in repentance, and we receive God’s forgiveness and His approval.  Yes, His blessing is potent, for no stronger one exists than one from the Almighty.

The liturgy picks up on this before the Prayer of the Day, formalizing God giving us His blessing.  First, the pastor speaks the Lord’s presence to the congregation, uplifting them.  The people also send back a blessing to the pastor.  Later, at the close of the Service, God sends us on our way with His divine words of well-being.

The blessing before the Prayer of the Day is a ritual, but not only.  The words speak Christ’s presence to those who receive them.  “The Lord be with you,” shown by where the pastor directs his hands, toward the congregation.  The people receive the blessing and respond with one back to the pastor, “And with thy spirit.”

In speaking those words, which bring about the Lord’s presence, we learn this is no meaningless ritual or empty performance.  For we are giving and receiving the crucified and risen Christ to one another through our words.  Can you not understand why, after we share the Lord, we go to Him in our prayers and petitions?

So, to the Lord, we go with our prayers, for Jesus promises to listen.  Did He not promise as much for His disciples?  Yes, so also does He do for you.  For He invites you “always to pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1).  Yes, He is with you, and He receives your cries for mercy and well-being.

The Church’s liturgy includes God blessing us before the Prayer of the Day and in the Benediction.  For our Lord comes to us in His words, comforting us, granting us His peace, and strengthening us.

Those words also remind us of this truth—you share Christ with others in your daily life as a baptized bearer of Christ.  How or when?  In Church, when we speak to another, “Peace be with you.”  Every day, in your vocations, as you serve others, and as opportunity allows, you can bring God’s blessing to another.

Consider this for a moment.  In the challenges of life coming your way, which is more compelling and comforting?  “Best of luck” or “The Lord be with you”?  A friend suffers hardship or is hurting.  What comes with more power and comfort?  “Hey, I hope life goes better for you” or “The Lord bless you and keep you” or “The Lord be with you”?

Such power packs itself in a blessing, not because of us, but because those words we speak are rooted and connected to the Lord.  Those words we speak carry out His Word, becoming present, giving peace, and providing comfort.

To bless family and friends or strangers in this way is a marvel of faith.  What a beautiful and Spirited tool for evangelism, as well.  Speak a blessing to someone.  Bless someone at the store, “May God be with you,” as you go about with your groceries.  Tell your neighbor who is going in for surgery or is seeking a new job, “The Lord be with you” and jump on the train.

Such speaking is what we call, “Living out the liturgy.”  For the liturgy does not end at the end of the Service.  By blessing another, you share in the hope God gives you.  By speaking such well-being in the name of Christ, you point others to Him.  The liturgy is meant to be lived and shared, not only performed.  For in the liturgy, we learn the content of the Christian life, including the mission of our congregation.  Amen.

 

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