Reflections - Sunday 19th July
Grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
Lord, may this time of worship be as a resting place and a revealing place for us on our journey, a sacred time in an ordinary space. And may we respond well. Become aware of God’s presence with you.
We are coming to God through his Word and in the Spirit, and today the bible readings are about what happened to Jacob and his response to it, and how Paul sees the Spirit as being there in all our struggles, and the whole world’s struggles. God can and will put things all together perfectly in his time.
Genesis 28:10-19 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD, and he said: "I AM the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it." He was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven." Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz.
Romans 8:18-25 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to son-ship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Take a moment and think what takes your attention in these readings, and what feelings are raised within you as you ponder the texts.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.
In his discomfort, as he stopped for the night, and feeling out of control, in this moment when his mind is at rest, Jacob becomes aware of God. According to John’s gospel (John 1:43 – 52) Jesus applies this story to say that he, Jesus, in his person and ministry, is and gives that divine and life re-creating experience which can transform us. Jesus says: ‘I tell you the truth, you will see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man’.
Being in an in-between place: the place of the moment
Jacob reached a certain place. This was a place he had never been to before; he was way out of his comfort zone. He was probably feeling anxious and disorientated. And no hotels or B & B’s here. And he came there at a certain time: the sun had gone down. It’s a place of discomfort and darkness.
‘He lay down to sleep. He had a dream’. Paradoxically, it was in his sleep that he saw! How amazing! Closing his eyes, resting his mind, his eyes were opened! How often it is when our conscious awareness is turned off, that our mind can get to process things. A lot had been happening in Jacob’s life. God uses this certain place, this certain time, to come and show up in Jacob’s life. As for Jacob, so for us, we pray.
And Jacob awoke: ‘Wow’. He knew now, in this in-between place, at that moment, a certain sense of God with him. Immanuel. It was like a powerful seed planted in his heart and mind. He knew God’s presence in this ordinary place.
His hard pillow became a memorial. He gave the place the name ‘Bethel’ which means ‘house of God’, and he made a vow which was his response to these promises from God. Consider these promises and take time to hear them being said to you.
They do not contain one word of judgement regarding his dubious prior actions. Rather, there is one unconditional promise after another, rolling down to him from above. Gracious gifts to a calculating character. The sun has indeed risen on a new day for him. And off he goes, a richly blessed person who will be a blessing to others.
Will you hold on to this story this week and have a good think about it? Hear God speaking to you those words of promise. Consider how we are responding in our lives to all that God is giving and saying to us. Thank God for the gift of Jesus and the promises that Jesus, ‘God with us’, invites us to hold in our hands: e.g. do not be afraid: I am with you always: I have come that they may have abundant life. Which promises are precious to you at this certain time and place in your life? You could write them down and pin them up on a wall, or perhaps, put them under your pillow!
Thank You Lord, that my identity comes from who uou say I am, a child of God, and
not from the roles I have in life, and not through my own broken lens: and not in past failures and regrets. I confess Lord that sometimes I feel lost. I feel like I have to run from my past, or sort it out myself. Forgive us our past failures. Thank You for your Word that tells me that I am your child and that you will re-create me. Thank you for giving me a physical place to call home, and also for that spiritual home with you as we journey on. God with us, in us; sharing being with us, in Christ.
Prayers for the world and others.
The response for this prayer is Psalm 141:2 – “Let my prayer be counted as incense before you’. If you like, you could lift your hands as you speak out the response!
Lord, we pray for everyone we know who has lost a positive self-image, for those who loathe themselves, hurt themselves, who are running from something. We pray for all those who stay in places and with people who wound them. Holy Spirit, help such to know who they are in you: beloved, forgiven, restored. Help us to help them.
Let our prayer be counted as incense before you.
Lord we pray for any church that has lost a positive self-image, who are in a ‘far country’. We pray for your people where they see themselves as defeated and weak. Holy Spirit, help your church believe that she is still the bride of Christ: radiant, spotless, holy. May church be hot coals of enthusiasm and a spring of positive action, in Scotland, and throughout the world.
Let our prayer be counted as incense before you
Lord we pray for a planet that is bruised and bleeding. Help us restore your groaning creation. Let us understand the responsibilities of stewardship you give us. Help us protect this inheritance for future generations.
Let our prayer be counted as incense before you
Lord we pray for the redemption of society, as it groans under so much weight and frustration. When we feel the damaging cultures around us, help us to make a stand for your ways in this world. Help us to be a force for good, working hard to see your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven. Make us ambassadors for inclusion and justice, carriers of forgiveness and makers of peace. May we be voices for the silenced and defenders of the weak. Help us to be doers of righteousness.
Lord, hear our prayers: Amen.
Let nothing disturb you, nothing affright you
All things are passing, God never changes
Patient endurance attains to all things
Who God possesses, in nothing is wanting
Alone God suffices
And may the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be with us all, now and evermore.
Reflection for the week
What might be for you what the stone pillow was to Jacob? Something at first uncomfortable but something which can also show God’s goodness. Repeat the words "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it."
Evening Prayer: As another day comes to an end, help us Lord to let go of the things we need carry no longer: and lay them down in your wonderful forgiving love and mercy: Amen
Singings: a version of Ps 130 by the Getty’s: https://youtu.be/_eJUqY_6tqo
‘Come thou fount of every blessing’ by the Shanes https://youtu.be/3bvYJL6WhuY