Proper 11: July 19, 2020
PRELUDE: Listen and sing along to "God Is Here Today (Dios está aquí)" GtG 411.
OPENING SENTENCES (MGV)
O God, you have searched me and known me. You discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? Search me, O God, and know my heart. See if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. Family, let us give thanks to God!
HYMN: Listen and sing along to "Let’s Sing Unto the Lord GtG 669 / Cantemos al Señor."
God, we walk the world in blindness. Sometimes it is hard to see you. Sometimes it is hard to trust you. Sometimes our own actions make you invisible to others.
Help us to see.
Help us to trust.
Help us to behave in ways that give witness to your grace and to your love.
Guide our feet. Reveal your presence. Grant us peace. Amen.
PARDON AND PEACE (Romans 8:12-14)
Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. Listen to the good news! In Jesus Christ, we receive forgiveness for our sins!
Take time to think about one thing during the week that has given you peace. It can be the sound of birds chirping, flowers coming out, or hearing from someone dear. Share it in some way... tell someone, post it on social media, etc.
PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION (MGV)
God our helper,
by your Holy Spirit, open our minds,
that as the scriptures are read
and your word is proclaimed,
we may be led into your truth
and taught your will,
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
SCRIPTURE: Genesis 25: 27-34 (NRSV)
10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. 11 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. 12 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. 13 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; 14 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. 15 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.” 16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!”
REFLECTION: "Revelations and commitments" (Rev. Marissa Galván-Valle)
When we hear the story about how Jacob took the stone that he had used as a pillow and used it to set a sacred pillar up, we think of it as something that used to happen in the past. He does this so that he can remember a place of revelation. God has spoken to him in a dream, reiterating the promise that God had made to his grandfather Abraham. God has 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… I am with you now, I will protect you everywhere you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done everything that I have promised you.” And Jacob, recognizing that the Lord has been with him, builds an altar that will remind him of God’s blessing.
We don’t necessarily build sacred pillars anymore… but we do place things around our homes or apartments that remind us of God’s presence and revelation in our lives. In our home, two of the first things that we put on the walls of our new home were one sign that said “God bless this home” and another that said, “Me and my house will serve the Lord”. How many of you have similar signs in your homes?
We put up these signs because, like Jacob, we recognize that surely the Lord is in this place, even when we don’t realize it. We recognize that God has promised to be with us and to keep us wherever we go. We affirm that God will not leave us until God has fulfilled the promise that is our gift… and by placing this sign we recognize that God has given us a roof… but recognition of what God has given us or about what God has promised us does not necessarily lead to commitment.
God reveals God-self to Jacob, even when Jacob does not deserve it. Jacob up till now has not been good. He has tried to get Esau’s blessing twice and he is on the run because he disguised himself as his brother to get the first-born’s blessing. Still, God gives him a revelation that emphasizes God’s commitment to him. Jacob sees a ladder full of angels. Jacob sees the glory of God. Jacob hears God’s voice. Jacob gets assured of God’s commitment to his care… but as Carol Calvin-Dillon states… Jacob does not change.
After he builds the sacramental pillar, Jacob continues “to scheme and negotiate”. “If God is with me and protects me on this trip I’m taking, and gives me bread to eat and clothes to wear, and I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God.”
God’s revelation has not lead to Jacob’s revelation. God’s commitment has not lead Jacob to commit. Thank God that as Calvin-Dillon states, “God’s grace is not contingent on our deserving. God’s love is not conditional. God’s covenant does not have any fine print. God loves us and will never stop working on us to become more faithful and loving members of God’s family.” (Brooks, Kyle E. A Preacher's Guide to Lectionary Sermon Series, Volume 2 (p. 50). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.)
As I’m discerning about this, self-revelation is an important part of commitment… and not just God’s revelation, but our own work of thinking about what God's revelation reveals about us.
Maybe Jacob, listening to God’s commitment, should have returned to his father’s home to commit himself to right the wrongs that he committed. As God cares for me, I need to care for others. As God blesses me, I need to be a blessing to others. But that does not happen.
This week, I participated in a training about how to approach the issue of organizational change, especially from the focus of diversity, equity, and inclusion. One of the first things that were emphasized was the importance of awareness: Who am I? What am I carrying? How does what I’m carrying impact my relationships and interactions within and across difference?
As I was reflecting on this, a line from the musical Hamilton came to memory: Angelica, in the context of all the men fighting for revolution, says: “You want a revolution? I want a revelation.” Since I heard that phrase, I’ve been thinking about how part of God’s family has been trying lately to fight a revolution… but that revolution needs to come hand in hand with revelation.
Immediately after the “You want a revolution? I want a revelation” line is uttered, we can get a glimpse about what revelation means for Lin Manuel Miranda: The Schuyler Sisters say: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and when I meet Thomas Jefferson I’mma compel him to include women in the sequel.”
Revolutions without revelations lead to declaring that all men are created equal, without realizing that this should have included, not just men but women… and not just white men, but also Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Chinese, Philipino, and Indian people that were part of the United States when these words were written and that fought on both sides of the American Civil War. Revolutions without revelations lead to beautiful words that look good on paper but that can be dissected in such a way that they can be called into question to discriminate against those that have worked as hard as anybody else to make this country and this family what it is.
God’s revelation is important. Putting signs in our homes that recognize that presence is an important and good witness. But with God’s revelation, there is an invitation to think about what it means to be a child of God and a part of God’s grace, blessing, and family: Who are you? What are you carrying? How does what you are carrying impact your relationships and interactions within and across difference?
If Jacob had asked those questions, I’m sure that he would have not dared to negotiate with God. He probably would have looked at that sacred pillar and would have gone back home, knowing what God wanted him to do.
Who are you? What are you carrying? How does what you are carrying impact your relationships and interactions within and across difference?
Sometimes I think that silences, signs, Facebook posts, and symbolic acts are the easy part… but the hard part is to hear God’s voice and witness in our lives and committing to allow God’s revelation and light to uncover those things in us that need changing and committing to change ourselves and the systems that perpetuate racism, colorism, sexism, and any other ism. Then, we can surely state… “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” to then work to make sure that everyone knows that the Lord is indeed in this place through our actions, through our words, and through our lives.
HYMN: Listen and sing to "Era una escalera" (Jacob saw a ladder). Use the words in English to sing in that language.
//Jacob saw a ladder,
set up on the topsoil//
//And angels going down.
and angels going up. / /
But it was the glory of God,
it was the glory of God,
it was the glory of God,
that Jacob’s eyes were seeing.
PRAYER OF INTERCESSION: Take time to think about prayer requests, and pray for them. Pray for the situations in your home, your community, your city, your country of origin, other countries in the world that face difficult situations, and the country where you live.
HYMN: Listen to a version of "Shukuru Yesu" (Thanking you Jesus), and gives thanks to God for God's revelation in our lives.
May the road God has laid
Rise up to meet you.
May God keep you and bless you,
Shine God’s light upon you,
And give you peace.