July 19th Service
On Line Service due to COVID-19 Pandemic

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Saint John's Pulpit (July 12, Seventh Sunday after Pentecost) –
"Nowhere? Or Now and Here?" Genesis 28:10-19

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."

So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first.

Jacob's incomplete blessing

We are all Christians. We want our life to be blessed by God. Maybe, we agree that our prayers focus on God’s blessings. Even if not about huge blessings, but we hope our life be comfortable and peaceful without doing harm others. Jacob in the story today dreamed God’s blessings upon his whole life. Because of his dream, he deceived his twin brother Esau, and got a birthright from Esau. Finally, Jacob deceived his father Isaac and received his blessing prayer before Isaac would pass away. With this special prayer given from his father, Jacob officially became an elder son ‘de facto’ in his family. From then, did he begin his happy life? Was his life quality improved by his taking a birthright? Did his deceiving family turn out his receiving blessings?

Upon receiving a blessing prayer from his father Isaac, one big change in Jacob’s life is this. He became a fugitive. Had to leave his home secretly and hurriedly. Did he expect to see this mess-up? What did it mean to take a birthright for Jacob? He had to leave his home and now is heading to his uncle Laban’s house. Until Esau’s anger could be cooled down, Jacob needs to be out of his hometown. He didn’t finish all paper works to inherit his father’s assets. An incomplete process to be a power of attorney. Even he had no idea about his father’s bank accounts. On the way to Haran, Jacob stayed one night. No holiday inn, but a shabby outdoor camp. No SEALY mattress, but a SILLY stone pillow!

In his dream, he saw a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway. In his life, he never experienced God’s presence before this moment. And Jacob heard God’s voice promising God’s blessings upon his life as his grandfather Abraham did it long time ago. It was a very strange dream but was very powerful. After his dream, he set up an altar with the stone used for his pillow and poured out an oil and worshipped.

All these things happened on that night, and more importantly happened in Jacob’s life firstly. Your careful reading the Book of Genesis makes you find this serious fact. Before this story today, Jacob had no chance to worship. Yes, no story about his worshipping! Moreover, no story of calling the name of God in his life. No record about his prayer life. The only moment of his prayer was the moment when Isaac prayed for Jacob asking for God's blessings (Genesis 27:26-31). However, that prayer was initiated by his father Isaac, not by Jacob! Still we have no idea whether Jacob closed his eyes and received the prayer with humble spirit.

What a big irony! The one who longed for God’s blessings was not a worshipper! Even in this story, it was not Jacob that visited God, but it was God that visited Jacob in his dream! In a word, in Jacob’s life, God is nowhere. However, the strange dream on that night on the way to Haran became a big turning point to find God in Jacob’s life. Please look at Jacob’s discovery in Genesis 28:16.

Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, "Surely the LORD is in this place—and I did not know it!" Genesis 28:16 NRSV

Surely the Lord is in this place… do you like this paraphrasing for this verse? Surely the Lord is now and here…

Before the meeting God, God is NOWHERE Jacob’s life. But after meeting God, Jacob finds God NOW and HERE! What does this story tell us? We need to find God ultimately. Don’t be a blessing chaser only. All your blessings can be completed through your worshipping God. In his dream, Jacob saw a ladder connecting the earth to the Heaven. Later, Jesus Christ identified Himself as a ladder between God and people.

Then he said, "I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth." John 1:51 NLT

Jacob's House Vs. Bethel, the House of God

Indeed, before this story, Jacob dreamed to become a master of his house. His dream was very simple. Taking a birthright from his brother Esau, he wanted to become a master (patriarch) in his house with all family assets inherited from his father. So, Jacob’s place was limited to his house only. However, the mysterious dream on that night made him see another house. It was Bethel, the House of God!

The next morning Jacob got up very early. He took the stone he had rested his head against, and he set it upright as a memorial pillar. Then he poured olive oil over it.  19  He named that place Bethel (which means “house of God”), although it was previously called Luz. Genesis 28:18-19 NLT

Here is a clear message from God. Get out of your house, own the House of God! Before receiving all blessings from God, please know that you need to be a person of worship, prayer and faith. A true worshipper does not care one’s house. Why? The House of God is given to God’s people! Instead of dreaming assets in their house, the people of God dream using assets through the House of God to serve all.

This pandemic took our joy to worship in the sanctuary out of our life. Hope that it would be temporarily. However, as long as we are true worshippers, we believe that our house could be Bethel, the House of God. So, please make your home Bethel again and forever. God is now and here.