This sermon was preached at St. Mark's Lutheran Church, Baldwinsville, NY on July 17, 2011
When I was 18 years old — just before I left for college my pastor took me out to lunch. He told me that he had seen a change in me throughout high school. I grew up, I matured quite a bit, especially after a few summers at Camp. He said I really believe that you are going to be a pastor one day.
Now this was not the first time I heard this. I was told a number of times that I was going to be a pastor. But I did not want to hear it. I did not want to accept that. I had other plans. I was going to be a world famous tuba player!!
But sometimes, God pushes into our lives and surprises us by being present. What I learned over the next several years is that if we are open to listen and look for God, we can make a discovery that will lead us into a new way of life.
Jacob had an experience like that. In our OT reading we learn that Jacob the grandson of Abraham was being called by God. Abraham if you remember was the one with whom God had made a covenant, saying that his descendants were promised to make a great nation. Surely, Jacob must have heard the stories of his grandfather Abraham.
That would of been a lot of pressure growing up. We are not sure if Jacob felt this pressure or not. The Bible doesn’t tell us of any encounters between Jacob and God before the one today’s scripture lesson.
Instead, the Bible tells us that Jacob lived a selfish life, depending only on himself, looking out only for himself, and using everyone around him to get what he wanted.
He had made an enemy of his brother Esau and taken advantage of his father so without any more options he had to leave home. He was on a lonely journey into an uncertain future when he camped out that night on the way to Haran. Jacob, up to this point had been living as if there were no God.
We understand too well what it means to live as if we can’t see God, don’t we? Most of us have been trained to live lives shaped by the values and expectations of the world instead of the Spirit. The Apostle Paul called that “living according to the flesh.” He contrasted it with another way of life that he called “living by the Spirit.” Paul said that people who live by the flesh are very likely to fall into a life-shaping fear which doesn’t allow us to fully experience the world around us.
Jacob must have been experiencing life in that way when he pitched camp that night on the road to Haran. But during the night, something happened that surprised him. He had a dream in which he saw angels going up and down to the heavens. And there was God. And God spoke to Jacob and initiated a real and personal interaction with him. Jacob was able to see and to experience God first hand.
This is something that I believe that the Bible is in our lives…… the Bible gives us the ability to experience God first hand. Throughout the Bible we read about times that the author had seen God and felt compelled to share that with others. Each story offers us a glimpse of what it looks like when God gets involved.
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