Sermon Ideas 4U - Archived Sermons -- AFTER Advent 2002
This page is in honour of the 'pesky, perpetual, predictable and persistent return of the Sabbath'!!!!!!!!!!!!!
July 20, 2014 -- Season of Pentecost 2014 -
Genesis 28: 10-19a
Romans 8: 12-25
Matthew 13 24-30, 36-43
About 40 years ago, there was a series of safety commercials and one of them was about the old lady who lived in the shoe; “when her shoe caught fire, she knew just what to do”. She had an escape plan.
It is good to be able to know just what to do if you have a burning shoe-house full of children, or any kind of burning house, filled with children, or not. In an era when weather events are increasing in number and severity the “emergency measures” people have all sorts of advice for living through a disaster including the assembly of a “emergency kit” which contains canned goods and a non electrical can opener, bottled water, cash, several changes of clothing and a long, long list of other items, all ready to go at a moment’s notice. With my luck the seasons would have changed and I’d discover that I have packed sandals and shorts for a disaster that happens in February or I would have borrowed the cash when there was too much month at the end of the money and neglected to replace it. .
Sometimes there is a guide book to answer the “what if” questions; sometimes there is not. Jacob’s situation fits into the later category. What do you do if you have taken advantage of your brother’s hunger to obtain his birthright and then tricked your blind and dying father into giving you the blessing also reserved for the oldest son? What do you do if you then get wind of your older brother’s desire to kill you? (As soon as dear-pl-dad has died, that is! )
What indeed! Ask mom! Then follow her advice and run. Do not pass go! Do not collect $200.
Jacob was in this situation; one of his own making! (With some so-called help from his mom!)
So Jacob took off. He didn’t have a GPS or even a map so when dark fell and every bush looked the same, he looked for a good place to spend the night. I don’t know what he would have used for a pillow in his own tent, but out in the wilderness he used a rock which would definitely be “hard on the head”! ) Dear knows what I might dream if I had a rock for a pillow; but Jacob dreamed of a ladder stretching to the heavens and angels ascending and descending and God standing beside him.
What do you do when you encounter the holy? Perhaps a better and more accurate question is, “What do you do when the holy encounters you? Jacob made an altar and, in his own mind at least, changed the name of the place.
v This has been a simply awful week and the ones before it were not much better! This has been a week in which many, many people have responded to what has gone on by, among other things, seeking an encounter with the holy. They have shouted out in grief and anger. They have shouted out the question, “Why?” They have prayed and been prayed for.
To name just a few o the events: We were told that murder charges were filed against a man in relation to the disappearance of a couple from Alberta and their five year old grandson.
On Thursday we heard that a commercial passenger jet flying to Malaysia over the Ukraine had been shot out of the sky and that there are no survivors. Among the dead were dozens of leading AIDS researchers heading to a conference in Australia, two infants and a Canadian. Taking a line from the old, old tv show, someone somewhere, or several someones have “some ‘splaining to do”.
Last week, four cousins, ages 9-11 died when an Israeli warship fired on the beach where they had gone to play, disobeying the orders of the adults to stay inside. They are just four more of the many victims, residents of Gaza, caught between Hamas rebels and the State of Israel. This was, of course, only another page in what seems to be a very long story of conflict in that area of the world. These young residents of Gaza only four more caught in the middle of a fight they neither asked for or participate in. If there is not some way to stop the “eye for an eye” attitude the death toll has not even begun to mount!
And then, there is global warming and climate change.
We are entering an era for which there may be no road map, an era for which there is no one to ask.
Lets get back to Jacob, son of Isaac, grandson of Abraham. If we have an idea that the trio of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were each honest men we are about to be corrected!
Jacob was a not a nice guy. He was a trickster, a man who took full advantage of any opportunity to gain the upper hand over his brother. We think of God reaching out to and encountering holy people; not regular folks and certainly not schiesters and charlatans. However, here in the Bible, in our holy book, the God of heaven and earth comes calling on the most unlikely people including Jacob and promises him great blessing.
When he awakened from this dream he knew that something has changed and he constructed a kind of middle-eastern inukshuk, and re-named the place “Bethel” which means, literally, the ‘house of God”
In this passage, an account of an awesome and memorable dream, Jacob, the imperfect trickster, is reaffirmed as one of God’s chosen, the one through whom God’s purposes to an as yet unborn people will be fulfilled!
Where does this leave us; imperfect Canadians (and American visitors) in the humidity of a Canadian summer - with our own “hungry children and a crop in the field”, with hearts made heavy by the horrible and heart-wrenching events in the news? What does Jacob’s story say to us and to our world in need of some divine inspiration, in need of a “stiff talking to”?
I see in this the clear message that God’s will is for the well being of all of creation. I see that the God of the ages, the God of heaven and earth calls imperfect people to do great things. I see the clear message that God does not abandon us to our own sin but walks with us, nudging us, pushing us, challenging us to be more faithful than we thought we could be and to right actions.
God does not miraculously divert sophisticated missiles aimed at planes loaded with civilians, or a beach where innocent children are playing or intervene directly in a dispute turned to kidnapping and death. God does not do our work for us. God does not give up on us but neither does God want us to continue in our death dealing ways.
In a challenge of the “eye for an eye” theology, Jesus said, “love one another”. Seeking wisdom from other faith traditions we are brought up short by Mahatma Gandhi’s observation: “An eye for an eye can only make the whole world blind”
Of course these are complex problems that cannot be “prayed away”, but we cannot bury our heads in the sand and say that it’s not even a problem or not our problem.
We must pray and work for peace and justice, realizing that we are a world community and that all people must benefit from the solutions that are proposed. Injustice will never create peace; neither will more killing. We must advocate with our governments and with the governments in question to do justice, kindness and mercy on behalf of its own people and the world.
How many must die, how many must suffer before we realize that God is calling us to yell and act STOP. The answer is blowin’ in the wind, the wind from God.
God’s message is to embrace the promise, a promise not only for our people but for all people. We can make a difference if we stop running away and realize that we are a big part of its fulfilment.
1995- 2014 The Rev. Beth W. Johnston.
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