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Sunday, 24 September 2017

September 24, 2017

Jacob's Dream

Jacob’s Dream – Pentecost 16

September 24, 2017

Genesis 28:10-17


Definition of “Addicted” -


A: having a compulsive physiological need for a habit forming substance


B: strongly inclined or compelled to do, use, or indulge in something repeatedly ·


I have come to the conclusion that I have two significant addictions.  One addiction is to exhaustion.  As strange, and perhaps as sick, as it sounds, I feel good about being exhausted.  That’s what happens when you try to push yourself and do as much as you can do.  I realize that exhaustion is perhaps not very healthy.  So why do I like being exhausted?


That would lead to a second addiction.  I like feeling like I’ve accomplished something.  When I’ve put time and effort into a project or activity and feel like something good has come out of it, I feel good.  I like that feeling.  (At least one of my neighbors has hinted I mow my lawn too often.  That’s because it’s one of my activities that always leads to the feeling I have accomplished something.)


I don’t usually need to be recognized for my accomplishments.  The self-satisfaction is enough . . . usually.  But, like everyone, it feels good to be recognized for doing or accomplishing something.


And I do feel good when others are shown that they are appreciated for what they have done . . .  when they deserve it.  I can celebrate the accomplishments of friends . . .  when they deserve it.  I can even find ways to show my appreciation for the time, efforts and accomplishments of other . . . when they deserve it.  “When they deserve it” can have a huge part to play in our acceptance of the success of others.


I can’t cheer for the New Orleans Saints.  I don’t know if I will ever be able to do so.  You may remember that they won the Super Bowl eight years ago. They didn’t deserve it.  Why?  Because they had committed assault and battery on an opposing player in front of millions of people and got away with it.  Now I know some people still are bitter about Brett Favre playing for the Vikings, but he had an amazing season in 2009.  He deserved to get another shot at a Super Bowl. It didn’t happen and the major reason he didn’t have the chance was the outrageous behavior of the Saints defense.


We’re in worship so that might raise the question, “Why would God allow those dirty, low-life Saints to be rewarded for awful behavior?”  The lesson today brings up an even more controversial question, “Why did God reward the awful behavior of a lying, cheating scoundrel?”


Isaac and his wife Rebekah seemed to be doomed to be childless.  They, like Abraham and Sarah, seemed to be destined to not be able to have children. But then, in their old age, Rebekah gave birth to twins. 


It was a reason to celebrate, right?  But the babies caused division.  The oldest twin, Esau, turned out to be a big, hairy, rugged lover of the outdoors.  He loved to hunt and bring home game for the table.  He was his Dad’s favorite. 


Jacob loved to stay around the house.  He was a homebody.  He was a Mama’s boy.  I think that, if they had had it back then, he would have loved to watch HGTV.


And did I mention that Esau was not particularly bright? One day, after hunting all day long, he came home famished. Jacob had been home making porridge.  Esau was born first. The oldest son received a birthright.  It meant he would inherit the largest portion of his father’s wealth, land and possession.  Jacob was able to get Esau to give up his birthright for a bowl of porridge.  Nice brother, right?


It gets worse.  The oldest son was the one who received his father’s blessing as the father neared death. When Isaac was near death he asked Esau to get some fresh game so he could have a savory stew.  While Isaac was gone, Jacob and Rebekah prepared a savory goat stew.  Then Jacob went to his father’s bedside with goat skin on his arms so that his father would think he was hairy Esau.  He wore some of this brother’s clothes so Isaac would think he was smelly Esau.  Though a little confused, Isaac blessed Jacob.  He was now the one who would carry the blessing God had given to Grandfather Abraham.


So God would not stand for that, right?  Afraid of the reaction of his brother, Jacob took off.  He headed for the homeland of Rebekah’s family.  In our lesson today, Jacob has settled down for the night in the middle of nowhere.  He was alone in the wilderness.  He had to use a stone for a pillow.  Perhaps that helped cause the dream.


In the dream there was a ladder.  It went directly to heaven.  Angels were climbing up and down.  Then God himself shows up.  Payback time, right?  Nope.  Instead God tells him that he will indeed receive the promise of a multitude of descendants, just like God had promised Abraham.  God would give him a land to call his own. And God promised that he would be with him.  Jacob called the place, Beth-El/Bethel, “the House of God”.


God is not fair.   He is merciful. He doesn’t give us what we deserve.  He does, however, give us what we need.  It was the worst time of his life. God was with Jacob.  He deserved nothing but punishment and rejection. God was with Jacob.  And God promised he would always be with him.


We need a connection to God that can never be broken.  We need to know that we are forgiven when we fall short of being the people God wants us to be.  We need to know that death will not separate us from God.  We need to know that God is with us. We need Jesus.

It would be more than 1,000 years later, but Jesus, a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would be born.  He would share the Good News of God’s love for all people.  He would allow himself to be betrayed, arrested, rejected, condemned torture and killed.  Then he would be raised and that same life giving power gives us the ability to let go of the past, live without fear of the future and know that we are in God’s loving care now and forever.  None of us deserve it. We can’t ever earn it.  We are given the blessing of God.


Why would God do that?  He does it so that we can be a blessing to others.  And how do we do that?  There are too many ways to name, but all of them involve sharing God’s love. 


I take a nap almost every Sunday afternoon.  Why?  Because, after three worship services, I’m exhausted.  Sometimes I even have a feeling of accomplishment after Sunday worship services.  And do I need to be recognized for my efforts?  It would be nice, but what’s really important is to recognize God for his efforts, especially the undeserved blessing we have received in Jesus his Son! AMEN