REFLECTION for SUNDAY 19 JULY 2020
Call to Worship
From the moment we open our eyes each morning,
until we close them at night, God is with us.
There is no one like you, our God!
In times when we are surrounded with struggles,
in all the surprising places we find hope, Jesus is with us.
There is no one like you, our Brother!
When we feel orphaned by the world,
when we are welcomed into faith's family,
the Holy Spirit is with us.
There is no one like you, witnessing Spirit!
READING Genesis 28 10-22
“Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran.
He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set.
Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
And the LORD stood beside him and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring.
Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place– and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
One day when our girls were young we were out for a walk. My youngest daughter came across a broken wooden ladder. She was around three years of age at the time and prone to finding “treasure” which she would insist on bringing home. And so it was with the broken ladder, which was just the right size for her to carry around, having eight rungs.
She loved that ladder and we would see her carrying them round day after day stopping every so often to climb up and down just “checking things”
We even had to trail them with us when we went out anywhere, and I can remember one day getting on the bus much to the amusement of other passengers.
She eventually outgrew this phase and the ladder was relegated to the garage.
Many years later when I was clearing out the garage before moving to the manse, I was going to throw the ladder out, but she was aghast............and came to fetch them to keep.
Seems her memories of that time in her childhood were still important to her.
A ladder features in our Scripture reading for this Sunday, not an earthly one, but a heavenly one.
We read the account of a man named Jacob who was on the run, perhaps you are familiar with his story.
It started in his mother’s womb with his twin brother Esau. As Esau is coming out there is Jacob’s hand reaching for Esau’s heel. Sibling rivalry is present right from the beginning of their lives, and so it continues........................
One day Esau comes home from hunting. He is hungry and wants the stew Jacob has made.
Jacob offers a bowl for a birthright.
Both men are hungry and the deal is done. Esau gets a bowl of soup and Jacob gets a birthright, his older brother’s right to a double share of the inheritance and the title of number one son.
But Jacob is still hungry and wants more.
He wants his father’s blessing, the blessing that rightfully belonged to Esau as the firstborn son. He lies to and deceives his father, Isaac. “Yes, it’s me Esau, your firstborn” Jacob says to Isaac. Jacob steals Esau’s blessing.
Jacob took a birthright and a blessing that did not belong to him and Esau consoles himself with a plan to kill his brother.
Jacob is in danger, so he leaves Beer-Sheba and goes toward Haran.
He is a wanted man not just by Esau but as we will see he is also wanted by God.
This journey is not just about Jacob’s physical survival. It is a spiritual journey which will change him in ways he is not expecting.
I wonder if you have ever felt you were on the run from someone or some difficult situation maybe even yourself?
Some of us are running from our past, trying to escape guilt, regret, failures, disappointments.
Some are trying to get away from the pain, losses, and brokenness of life.
Sometimes we just want to leave behind the parts of our lives or ourselves we dislike.
Other times we are running toward the future.
For some life on the run is a search for something or someone new; a job, a relationship.
Maybe it is the search for answers. Who am I? What is this life all about? What’s my purpose?
Others, driven by a mid-life crisis, chase after meaning and youth.
We could each tell a story of life on the run. It may be specific to us but it is really just another version of Jacob’s story.
The good news for Jacob is that God knows who he is and where he is physically and spiritually.
And the good news is for us to hear this day..........we can run, but we cannot hide from God.
Far away in the wilderness, after having escaped from his brother’s anger, Jacob sleeps and is visited by God in a dream.
He sees angels going up and down on a “ladder”.
Going up, the angels carry to God the fear, the guilt feelings and the suffering of Jacob. Going down, they bring to Jacob God’s presence, God’s words and promise.
During that dark night God speaks personally to Jacob.
Jacob has been running away, and he is very afraid.
But the dream shows him his circumstances in a different light.
God, will accompany him and uphold him.
Now he can continue on his way in trust.
He is an exile, but not an exile without hope. He is lonely, but not alone. Far from home, he can keep going because of this dream and God’s promise.
The dream came to Jacob at a time of crisis.
Earlier, when his life went along planned paths, he would not have been so open to God’s message.
In our life, too, our plans have to be shaken sometimes so that we can become open to what God wants to say to us.
Then we can truly know the healing and wholeness that was and is God’s perfect plan for our lives made possible by our Lord and Saviour, who came down to earth to bring salvation to us through his death and resurrection, and who then ascended to heaven and where day and night he intercedes for us.
Maybe you have felt like you’ve been on the run for a long time, maybe this is the day to stop and come before the God who knows you and who loves you, and wants to set you free.
“Do not be afraid, I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name, you are mine.
You are mine my child, I am your Father, and I love you with a perfect love.”
“Who is there like You?
And who else would give their life for me?
Even suffering in my place
And who could repay You?
All of creation looks to You
And You provide for all You have made
So I'm lifting up my hands
Lifting up my voice
Lifting up Your name
And in Your grace I rest
For Your love has come to me and set me free
And I'm trusting in Your word
Trusting in Your cross
Trusting in Your blood and all Your faithfulness
For Your power at work in me is changing me” (Paul Oakley)