19th July 2020
A Jacob's ladder (more formally, a high voltage traveling arc) is a device for producing a continuous train of large sparks that rise upwards.
`Dreams, schemes -
and the God we can trust`
Rev Fiona Winn
Welcome and Grace
` I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us…For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.` Romans 8: 18, 24,25
TIS 121 `God himself is present`
God himself is present.
Let us now adore him
And with awe appear before him.
God is in his temple
Let us all keep silence.
Worship him with deepest rev'rence.
We obey him alone
As our God and Saviour.
Praise his name forever!
God himself is present.
Hear the music sounding.
See the hosts the throne surrounding
`Holy! Holy! Holy!`
Hear the hymn ascending
Saints` and angels` voices blending
Lord come near to us here.
Hear the prayers and praises
That your church now raises
God from heavenly glory
Visiting the lowly,
Live with us and make us holy.
Like the holy angels,
Worshipping before you,
May we ceaselessly adore you.
As we live always give
Hearts that want to please you
As we daily serve you.
God of the lost and the wandering,
God of the confused and the wondering,
Generous Giver, gracious Gift, Spirit of generative joy,
we gather to worship, to praise, to pray…
to enjoy You, the living God,
to join our thoughts and words and deepest prayer
with each other,
to be joined in strange ways with all the faithful,
in this world and beyond,
to remember and think again about our connection and obligation
as Christ`s ones to all humanity…
Come, holy One, invade our dreams, hallow our dreaming.
In these challenging days, grow in us the fruits of Your Spirit;
fruits which defy regulation and law:
the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…
We pray to be found faithful and fruitful.
And we pray to be forgiven…
God of joyous generation and merciful re-generation,
Forgive our self-deceit.
Forgive those, and forgive us, who twist and turn and deviate the truth…Lord have mercy…
Forgive our self-interested schemes.
Forgive those, and forgive us, who plot and plan and pervert the truth…Christ have mercy…
Forgive our self-delusion.
Forgive those, and forgive us, who deny, distort and would destroy the truth…Lord have mercy…
`Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about;
See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—
then guide me on the road to eternal life.`
Ps. 139: 23, 24 The Message
We hear Christ`s word of grace `Your sins are forgiven`
Thanks be to God. Amen
Genesis 28: 10-19a - Jacob’s Dream at Bethel
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[b] 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[c] 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[d] 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!” 17 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.”
18 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. 19 He called that place Bethel…
Psalm 139 - The Inescapable God
1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.
7 Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
24 See if there is any wicked[c] way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Matthew 13: 24-30
The Parable of Weeds among the Wheat
24 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
Song `This is holy ground`
This is holy ground.
We’re standing on holy ground.
For the Lord is present
and where God is is holy.
This is holy ground.
We’re standing on holy ground
for the Lord is present
and where God is is holy
These are holy hands
God`s given us holy hands
God works through these hands
and so these hands are holy.
These are holy hands.
God`s given us holy hands.
God works through these hands
and so these hands are holy.
Reflection and Q and A
Dreams, schemes and the God we can trust
We`ve missed a very interesting and important story in the life of Jacob. Previously we considered the story of Jacob cheating his twin brother of his birth-right for a plate of soup (Genesis 25: 29-34).
We encounter Jacob in today`s reading on the run having deceived not only his brother but his father, Isaac. Favoured by his Mum and at her instigation, Jacob disguises himself and pretends to be Esau. Thus he tricks his, by now, aged, blind and frail father into conferring on him, Jacob, the blessing due to Esau as the first born.
(Read the whole sad story – Genesis 27: 1-41)
As we`ve said before, if it were up to us, we wouldn`t choose such a character, such a flawed, deceitful and twisted character, to participate in a plan to save the world. How could such a person have anything to do with the hope and healing of the nations?
And yet it is exactly people like Jacob that God chooses and uses.
People like him; people like us…
Are you a good judge of character? A perfect judge of character?
We are commanded not to judge (Matthew 7: 1; Luke 6: 37).
God alone knows – and God alone is a righteous, trustworthy judge (2 Timothy 4: 8)
But in this world and in these Trumpian, Covid-19 days, we do have to come to terms with deceptive and deceitful people – wherever and whoever `they` are: those on the `big stage` and those who are not.
The trap is to say `It`s all them`. The truth is – it`s us as well. It`s me.
In the psalm set for today, the writer, King David, who committed despicable acts and wittingly (unwittingly?) took immoral decisions, considers the nature of God`s complete capture of the human person – himself included.
His crimes and misdemeanours notwithstanding, for David, God`s comprehension is a source of wonder and comfort and an encouragement to live a changed life; an aspiration to holiness and wholeness.
For David, God`s total understanding of him, in all his deceitfulness and perversity, is a cause to rejoice, a great relief:
God knows; God knows everything about me – and loves me still!
How do you feel about God`s knowledge of you? Does such a thought bring comfort and assurance? Or does it terrify you?
Do we trust the love God has for us – in all our messed-upness?
The parable of the `wheat and the tares` is about how difficult it is to tell the good wheat from the pesky weeds. They look very alike, in the early stages of growth. It becomes clearer as harvest time draws near. Then the reapers will be able to see what is to be reaped and what is to be burned; what will bring life and what needs to go.
But that call is not for us to make nor is it something with which to concern ourselves overly much in the present time.
There is a time coming…
Would we have given up on Jacob? Or Moses? Or David?
We wouldn`t have thought there much to hope for from him given the evidence of his life thus far. And yet…and yet…
In the mess his life has become, Jacob, on the run, settles down for the night – not a very comfortable night it would appear. His dream is vivid and life changing. He sees things differently. He has heard the word of the living God, the promise of God to protect him and guard him and provide for him, ensuring his future and the future of many.
If you take it to its logical conclusion, ultimately, this story of grace and mercy, transformation and revelation is about us, and our future.
Jacob awakes and sees his situation differently.
He sees the place of this encounter with God - an uncomfortable place, a desperate and desolate place - in a new light.
Full of wonder, his eyes opened to a new and hopeful reality, he hallows the place, anointing the stone on which he slept with oil.
`Surely the Lord is in this place - and I did not know it!`
In these trying times, in whatever we are going through at present, is it possible for us to see `this place` differently?
Have we made mistakes? Are we `on the run`?
Is it all a bit of a mess?
Are we estranged, at odds with those we are called to be close to?
Could this strange, uncomfortable place be, for us, the place of encounter with God? The gate of heaven? God`s House?
Prayer and the Lord`s Prayer
TIS 564`O God of Bethel`
(One verse only of this hymn at the memorial service for D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones)
O God of Bethel, by whose hand
thy people still are fed;
who through this earthly pilgrimage
hast all our fathers led:
Our vows, our prayers, we now present
before thy throne of grace:
O God of Israel, be the God
of their succeeding race.
Through each perplexing path of life
our wandering footsteps guide;
give us each day our daily bread,
and raiment fit provide.
O spread thy covering wings around,
till all our wanderings cease,
and at our Father's loved abode
our souls arrive in peace!
Such blessings from thy gracious hand
our humble prayers implore;
and thou shalt be our covenant God
and portion evermore.
In difficult days, with hope and faith and love,
may we continue our pilgrim walk.
And the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit
be upon you, sustain and inspire you
today and always. Amen