September 26, 2021
Genesis 27: 1-4, 15-23; 28:10-17
Today, Jacob is on the run. He’s done some questionable things and now he’s worried that he’ll be called to account for them.
At the urging of his mother, Rebekah, Jacob tricks his blind father, Isaac, into giving him the blessing intended for his brother, Esau.
When Esau returns from hunting, Isaac realizes the deception and tells Esau that it is too late. Esau begs for a blessing and receives one that binds him to Jacob … which makes him even madder.
Esau is so angry he plans to kill Jacob for first stealing his birthright and now the blessing that was intended for him.
It’s no wonder that in Hebrew, Jacob’s name can be translated into the “heel.”
Rebekah warns Jacob about Esau’s plan and sends him to hide out with her brother in Haran. Before Jacob leaves, Isaac offers him a second blessing … that the blessings given to Abraham would also extend to him.
Even though he received Isaac’s blessings, Jacob still finds himself left with nothing. He is alone in the wilderness … somewhere between the home he left behind and the supposed safety of his uncle’s house. Jacob even has to use a rock as a pillow out in the wilderness.
As Jacob gains some moments of sleep, a ladder between earth and heaven appears in his dream… angels traverse the ladder … then God appears beside him.
God affirms the promise that had been given to his grandfather … Abraham … that
“… 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 blessedin you and in your offspring.”
When Jacob wakes up and realizes that he failed to recognize God’s presence in the wilderness. That God has been with him all along despite all his jealously, manipulation and trickery.
That even with all the things that he has done, God was still with him … not to punish him, but rather to affirm God’s love for him as he suffered the anxiety and exclusion as a result of his actions against Esau.
God appeared in the most unexpected place … in most unanticipated way … in the midst of Jacob’s suffering … God’s blessings can be felt … they can still be recognized and witnessed.
Even though Jacob wanted to limit God’s presence to that patch of wilderness … God’s love … like dust in a breeze … isn’t confined to a single location.
Jacob has been called the first real human being in the Bible because he is presented with depth and dimension.
Jacob acts out of impulse and contrary to God’s desires … and can’t recognize God’s presence. Of course, the same can be said of each of us from time to time … that we fail to see God in our lives.
Lutheran scholar Rolf Jacobsen points out that, “The purpose of worship is really to teach us to see it and recognize it and to train us to participate in what God is doing.”
… to train us to participate in what God is doing.
In short, to recognize God’s presence and recognize that we are called to be God’s agents in the world … through our ministry and service others.
Remember the promise, God made to Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham, and repeated to Jacob.
“…all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring.”
Despite tricking his father … despite all that he had done … Jacob received the blessing that is shared by all. It is the moment of grace in this story … and it is grace that is shared with us, as well.
Throughout the Bible, God picks imperfect people to carry the message of love.
At the end of his story, Jacob’s name is changed to Israel … he becomes a representative for all people … both then and now.
We can each see bits of us in Jacob and his actions … times when we come up short … and can easily feel a bit unworthy.
But God’s love is constant and we are called to be agents of that love … that grace … in the world.
This afternoon, both Lutheran Social Services and Lutheran Outreach Ministries will hold their annual general meetings.
It’s an opportunity to hear and comment on the projects that have been undertaken or that are planned for the near future as we seek to minister to the needs of the community.
These are times when … through our love-anchored actions … through our ministry … when we help make God’s presence known in the world … in the places and times where and when it’s not anticipated or recognized.
In those times, when grace is shared … the blessing Jacob received … the blessing that has been shared over and over again in the centuries that have passed … continues to extend outward into the world and into time.
It is through our ministry … whether through outreach programs or one-to-one … when God’s expansive presence is given recognizable form … as people are gathered in … comforted … protected … loved.