Sunday Sermon 09-08-2020

Service and sermon August 9, 2020

-Leighmoor UC,  Rev Barbara Allen

Hymn suggestions

TIS 119: I sing the almighty power of God

TIS 138: Eternal Father, strong to save

TIS 580: Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us

TIS 589: Jesus calls us!  O’er the tumult

TIS 590: What a friend we have in Jesus

TIS 392: At the dawning of salvation

TIS 585: I heard the voice of Jesus say

Call to Worship

You are a God who speaks and there is light,

a God who wills, and there is life,

a God who moves, and there is change.

Come to us, quieten our frightened hearts with the calmness and peace of your presence.

Amen

Prayers of Adoration, Thanksgiving, and Confession

Loving, Creator God, we praise you with the whole of creation.

As your human creatures, we gather in our homes to worship you.

We give you thanks for diversity, for the gifts of each season.

At the close of a glorious summer, we rest under the vibrant colours of autumn.

Without the chill of winter, we would not be as thankful for the growth during spring.

We see these seasons in our own lives.

In the midst of our own storms, at sea during the world’s calamity, we would not appreciate or be aware of other gifts

-stories of hope and compassion, a recognition that we are stronger than we thought, a stronger sense of you being beside us in our boat in the middle of the world’s rough waves.

Give us the grace to see you walking beside us, comforting us in our struggles, encouraging us in our sadness.

As we are more mindful of your presence, in awe of your majesty, may be conform more and more to the blue-print of the Christ-like nature that is your will for each one of us.

With you beside us, we are able to face all that life throws at us, with courage.

With you walking ahead of us, we are able to walk with confidence, for you are our God.

And yet, we confess, at times, our lack of faith, especially when fears and anxieties pull us down into the waters.

Forgive us.

Forgive us when our own worries have prevented us from noticing the needs of others, when we have neglected our neighbour, when we have not prayed for the world.

Forgive us.

Forgive us when we have done things, or neglected to do things which make it hard for us to forgive ourselves.

In a time of silence we remember other things for which we seek forgiveness.

(silence)

God is love.

Through Christ our sins are forgiven

(thanks be to God)

Take hold of this forgiveness, and live your life in the power of the Spirit.

Amen

Bible Readings

Genesis 37: 1-4, 12-28

Matthew 14: 22-33

Sermon

(Matthew 14: 22-33)

‘A young man was apprenticed to a master artist who produced the most beautiful stained glass windows anywhere.  The apprentice could not approach the master’s genius, so he borrowed his master’s tools, thinking that was the answer. After several weeks, the young man said to his teacher, “I’m not doing any better with your tools than I did with mine.”  The teacher replied, “So, it’s not the tools of the master you need; it’s the spirit of the master you need.”

-it’s not the tools of the master you need; it’s the spirit of the master you need.

v.30: ‘But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Two questions appear in the New Testament over and over again:

Who is Jesus?

and

What is the life of true discipleship?

-what does it mean to be a disciple?

Today’s story, of the wind-battered boat,

of Jesus’ walk on the lake-

of Peter’s doubt and fears-

tackle both these questions.

For many of us-this is a familiar story

and the trouble, or danger, with a story we know is-that we skim when we read it, or tune in a little when we hear it.

-oh, that story!  I know what happens!

-which is often our approach/manner when hearing the Christmas story, or the Easter story.

We skim-and miss so much.

That’s a danger with this story, too.

So let’s take some time, listen, and allow this episode to take hold of you-and the way you live your life.

Today’s story follows on the heels of the account of the feeding of the 5,000.

In that episode, Jesus brings home to his disciples that they will later be in charge-that they will, in a sense, be leaders, or shepherds of the flock.

When Jesus says to them

‘They (meaning the 5,000) need not go away; you give them something to eat’

Jesus wanted the disciples to realize that, as shepherds or leaders, they could not undertake that function in their own strength-they needed his power as well.

So let’s keep that story in the back of our minds-because it helps us understand today’s reading.

Jesus has demonstrated to them his power in the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000.

Now-Jesus is to outline his power-and their role as his disciples in another way.

But first- as I mentioned earlier-

The question: ‘Who is Jesus?’

is answered.

Here- the sea or lake-is part of the answer.

Jesus has sent his disciples on ahead of him, across the lake, while he went up the mountain to pray.

When Jesus finished his time of prayer, he was able to see from the mountain that the boat was having problems in a rough sea against a head wind.

Between three and six o’clock in the morning (the 4th watch) he came towards them-walking across the sea.

The sea. Water.

The sea can conjure up two different types of experiences:

  1. The pleasurable

–holidays at the beach, a picnic on the sand, perhaps the refreshing feel of the ocean on a hot day

–family times. Relaxation

AND

  1. The scary, the terrifying

–caught up in a wave, out of our depth-dumped by a wave.

–not sure if we’d be able to swim back to shore

–maybe in a boat-starts off nicely-but then the sea becomes rough.

Or both experiences can take place at once.

When I was a child, I was taken to Elwood beach by my Nana.

I was a competent swimmer.

I was in the waves, with the crowd.

Time doesn’t mean much when you’re ten, and having a good time.

It was only when I arrived back at the beach towel, that I realized that my Nana was notifying the life guards that I was missing.

The pleasurable and the terrifying.

Fishermen, sailors, people who live and work by and from the sea, will tell you that you should never take its calmness for granted.

-never assume that you can take control of its waters.

In the Bible, water (sea, ocean, lake, flood) is often a symbol of chaos, of deathly, destructive forces that no one except God, can control.

Even back to vs 2 of Genesis 1: ‘the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep.’

Walking on water was seen as symbolic of power and control over the forces of chaos:

Psalm 77:19

‘Your way was through the sea,

your path, through the mighty waters;

yet your fingerprints were unseen.’

Or Isaiah 43: 16-

‘Thus says the Lord,

who makes a way in the sea,

a path in the mighty waters.’

Just two examples.

For the biblical mind, to be ‘at sea’ evokes images of death, of chaos-a power that threatens the goodness of life.

In today’s story, the sea is the barrier which separates the disciples from Jesus, separates them from the power of God.

The story demonstrates that Jesus shares the power of God.

In Luke’s version, the disciples ask: “Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?”(Luke 8: 25)

In Mark 4, Jesus rebukes the wind and commands the sea to be still.  The disciples in Mark’s account ask: “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

-as Lord of Creation- the wind and sea obey him.

So that first question is answered:

Who is Jesus? 

In Matthew, the answer is found in the final verse in today’s reading:

‘And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

 The Son of God, Jesus, Lord of Creation.

But when it comes to Question 2-

What does it mean to be a disciple?

That is much harder to answer!

The problem for the disciples is that, when a crisis comes, when danger looms, and everything appears to be about to collapse, they panic and act as though they had no faith.

And what about Peter and his wet walk?

-he is chided for his lack of faith!

-his fear overwhelmed his faith 

His fear overwhelmed his faith 

When he takes his eyes off Jesus-he begins to sink.

Now there’s a great danger in this passage.

The danger is-that we say we should take note of Peter’s lack of faith

-so we don’t suffer the same damp fate!

BUT

IF we take this approach, then we run the risk of saying that someone sinking in times of trouble, someone who feels overwhelmed by their troubles, or by their grief, or by their illness, or by this pandemic-

obviously doesn’t have enough faith!

That view is both wrong and dangerous.

It may create pride in those who are doing well-who are healthy, who have job security,

and it may lead to despair for those who are experiencing trouble and trials in life.

It may nourish self-righteousness in those who are doing well, and who are in good health –causing them to scorn the less fortunate and the poor.

BUT

there is another way to view Peter and his wet walk.

We’re not to think that having enough faith will keep us from the problems and troubles of the world.

Are Christians exempt from lockdown?

Faith will not keep us from problems.

Jesus never said that he’d protect us from life.

There will be accidents, disease.

God didn’t say we would have a stress-free existence-life isn’t like that

-there is free will.

Free will.

In many cases, a double-edged sword.

If your child decides to fail Year 12 and create stress for you-what do you expect to happen? A miracle?

Or if your child decides not to study…or study very little?  When our son was in Year 12,  I jokingly said that I hope they have questions about the tv show The Simpsons on his exam papers!

What about if a drunk driver kills a family travelling in another car?

Miracles don’t always happen in our day-to-day lives

BUT

Faith is not about being able to walk on the water-only God can do that!

Faith is daring to believe, in the face of the evidence-that God is with us in the boat

-that God is with this community, and with other communities-as we make our way through the storms of life

battered by the wind, by the world, by covid-19.

In other words-faith is not there in order to make us heroes

-nor is faith there so that we can escape from the world.

It is there to help us imitate our Lord-in service to the world.

Being a disciple involves acknowledging that Jesus has the divine power to save, heal, and feed the crowds-and that he is Lord.

Peter needs to have ‘more’ faith, not in order to walk upon the waves

-but so that he will be able to feed Jesus’ sheep.

This story links us back to the feeding of the 5,000.

Perhaps Peter would have shown that faith NOT by jumping out of the boat BUT by staying in it-waiting for Jesus to come to him-staying with the other disciples, not abandoning them.

And why does Jesus walk on the water?

It is not to show off

-though it does lead us to the realization that He is Lord of Creation.

Jesus walks on water in order to come to the aid of his threatened disciples.

-he walks on water in order to help those in distress.

Like the opening story-where the master artist tells his apprentice that he needs not the tools but the spirit

so, too, the disciples.  They are to imitate Jesus’ authority, and his life of service.

But Jesus’ gentle rebuke of Peter reminds us that the typical disciple (and let’s include ourselves in that category) is a mixture

-of courage –and of anxiety-of hearing the word of the Lord-and looking at the terror of the storm

-of trust-and of doubt.

But Jesus comes into our storm tossed lives-just as he came to the disciples in the boat.

In the darkest times-and it is pretty dark at the moment isn’t it-Jesus is there. Jesus is HERE.

His presence doesn’t always mean a removal or end of a problem-but He is always with us, even in the eye of the storm, even in the centre of a pandemic.

In a letter written by a husband to his wife during the American Civil War, there is this line: ‘I shall always be with you in the brightest day and in the darkest night.’

That is also Jesus’ promise:

‘I shall always be with you in the brightest day, and in the darkest night.’

Amen.

Prayers of the People

Loving God, we pray for the world.

We pray for countries and communities struck down by covid 19.

We continue to pray for people suffering from the disease, or dying, for their families, friends, and work colleagues.

We pray for all in aged care: for residents, and staff.  Please decrease the anxiety of the frail, as they try to cope with no visitors, and limited knowledge of what is happening.

We pray for those on the front line-putting their own lives at risk

-for doctors and nurses, health workers, police.

Be with them.

We pray for politicians during this challenging time, as they make their way through unchartered waters.

We feel for them…they did not sign on for this.  Give them the strength, wisdom, and courage they need when making many difficult decisions.

We pray for understanding in our communities; it is hard being in lockdown, but it is necessary in order to save lives.  Teach us to think of others.

We pray for people coping with other illnesses.

We pray for other trouble spots in the world-areas rocketed by terrorist attacks, regions affected by drought, or by floods.

We pray for the victims of the explosion in Beirut, over 137 killed, more than 5,000 injured, half the city destroyed, and many left homeless.  Be with aid and emergency agencies, as they rush to help. We are shocked by the photographs, overwhelmed by the devastation.

In the words our Saviour taught us, we are confident when we pray to say…

‘Our Father in heaven…’

Amen

Blessing

You are people of faith.  

Christ is with you in the boat of life, with you during storms and turmoil.

You are not alone; God is always with you, as pilot, and compass.

May the love of God surround you, the arms of Christ steady you, and the Spirit light your way,

Amen

-Rev Barbara Allen, 9th August, 2020 

Leighmoor UC

 

Barbara’s Friday Email 07-08-2020

Hello Faith Pals,

Welcome to Friday.

I had to share the photos below this -courtesy of Margaret.  What are YOU doing during lockdown? Aren’t some people creative?  It is wonderful we can benefit from their gifts and talents.  When I visit art galleries (remember them?) I marvel at the talent.  I have trouble drawing stick figures! Isn’t it wonderful that God gave us all different gifts and talents? 

Well, I have had some wonderful responses to the favourite film request:

From Lex with some wonderful news about Robyn’s recovery:

‘Thank you Barbara.

The good news here is that our daughter Robyn had her drain dismantled today…..27 days after the lumpectomy.

We are all happier now…..just the radiation therapy to be administered over the next month or so.

 

Favourite movies……just like you, I like musicals and polite comedies.

Try Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; Singin’ in the Rain, The Sound of Music, Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments, A Month of Sundays, Cabaret, Man of La Mancha, Beauty and the Beast, and a confession The Third Man (1949).’

Lex also told me about his work in many theatre productions.  Watch out Lex-after lockdown we may ALL want to put on a show!  Lex has also send a youtube offering, and a write up about it, putting it into context/setting the scene:

‘And now some dance action from Moscow to lift everyone’s spirits.

A bunch of young Russians celebrating a wedding set to Irving Berlin’s Puttin’ on the Ritz. See the blue link below.

Unfortunately I am told by one of Robyn’s DFAT friends that there was a political dimension to this event in 2012.

Vladimir Putin was promoting his re-election as Russian Premier.

A BEAUTIFUL PERFORMANCE!   DANCING TO IRVING BERLIN IN RUSSIA.

The dancing was filmed on Moscow’s “overlook” in Sparrow Hills Looking down from the “overlook” you see the largest stadium in Russia (140K capacity).  The ski jump is for practice and training – if you make a mistake, you end up in the  river below.  The church at the end opposite to the ski jump is Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church. The large building on the opposite side of the road beside the overlook is the Moscow State University and the top of the tall centre tower has one of the Kremlin stars.

Try to not smile as you watch this – you will. It’s a nice, gentle clip. “Putting on the  Ritz”, in Moscow, no less! What a crazy, delightful, ever changing world!  Who could have thought that in 2012 young people in Moscow would put on a “flash mob” happening, dancing to an 83 year old American song? 

Sound  ON!  Enjoy…

https://www.youtube.com/embed/KgoapkOo4vg?rel=0&vq=highres

 Regards

Lex ‘

Other films from people are:

(Geoff and Jan):

We are pleased to nominate our best shows:-

Jan:-

Titanic

Sleepless in Seattle

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

84 Charing cross Road

Doctor Zhivago

Geoff:-

Roman Holiday

Casablanca

On Golden Pond

Chocolat

Girl with a Pearl Ear ring

Here is Janet’s reflection:

 

‘As a child I didn’t see many films at all,but at age 7 I saw a Ma & Pa Kettle film which I thought hilarious. Also I saw Genevieve which was fun – at the time. These two rather date me!

Moving along to about 8 years ago,the Australian Chamber Orchestra played for an amazing film about mountains and people climbing,riding bikes and generally having daredevil activities on mountains.It was an amazing/terrifying film!’

So…have these people’s favourite prompted responses in you?  During these next few cold and grey days, have a think about your favourites.

After lockdown, we could have a movie night!  Wouldn’t that be fun?  Remember rolling jaffas down the aisle? The chew of a columbine or a mintie (a dentist’s delight!)

I will list my favourites next week.  One is in Jan’s list! Can you guess which one?

What about your other homework?  What are some of your favourite things?

News: Lovely to hear the encouraging news about Lex and Leora’s daughter, Robyn, in Canberra.

Jean’s funeral went very well. Rev Christine MacDowall conducted the service with great dignity and sensitivity. I have let Jean’s family know we are thinking of them all, and if they want to hold something in memory of Jean later, when the church is open, to just let us know.  Even if it is just coming for morning tea one Sunday, so stories and memories of Jean can be told/swapped.

Rohini’s shoulder suffered a setback, but is starting to improve again.

John has had some skin problems since returning home from hospital, but he has been to a dermatologist, and hopes the cream and tablets will help.

I came across this story on-line.  I am not sure if it is true, (I have no reason to doubt its authenticity) – it took my breath away!

‘THE SHADOW OF THE CROSS

A young man who had been raised as an atheist was training to be an Olympic diver. The only religious influence in his life came from his outspoken Christian friend. The young diver never really paid much attention to his friend’s sermons, but he heard them often.

One night the diver went to the indoor pool at the college he attended. The lights were all off, but as the pool had big skylights and the moon was bright, there was plenty of light to practice by. The young man climbed up to the highest diving board and as he turned his back to the pool on the edge of the board and extended his arms out, he saw his shadow on the wall. The shadow of his body in the shape of a cross. Instead of diving, he knelt down and asked God to come into his life. As the young man stood, a maintenance man walked in and turned the lights on. The pool had been drained for repairs.’

From the Psalm set for this Sunday:

‘O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name,

make known his deeds among the peoples.

Sing to him, sing praises to him;

tell of all his wonderful works.

Glory in his holy name;

let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.

Seek the Lord and his strength;

seek his presence continually.

Remember the wonderful works he has done.’

(Psalm 105: 1-5)

Blessings and love

Barbara Allen

Subject: Look what they did in Lockdown!

 

How can we  emulate any of these efforts?

Monday Email 03-08-2020

Hello Faith Pals,

Welcome to Monday.  I was wondering how to start this email, when I realized I was humming ‘These are a few of my favourite things,’ from The Sound of Music.

Now, for those who don’t remember the words:

.

(Hammerstein 11/Rodgers)

So…what are a few of YOUR favourite things? Interesting looking at the things listed in the song. Most cost very little, or are free. We might not list the snow ones, or the copper kettles, or brown paper packages, but maybe raindrops on roses?  What about the sound of rain on the roof?  Stars on a clear night?  Sunshine after frost? Steam from a cup of tea? A hot shower? A flock of galahs? Whiskers on kittens can stay…but I’d just change it to CATS! (and dogs!) Phone calls from friends and family?  Being able to pray to a loving God?  Favourite things make good prayer points, things to include in prayer as we thank God for so many wonderful gifts. 

The Sound of Music: made me wonder about favourite films.  What are some of your favourites?  I have to confess that I am not a fan of The Sound of Music. I will have to think for awhile about my favourites.  So…send in your favourites!  We can pretend that we are going to have a movie marathon together!  Wouldn’t that be fun.

An update on Jean Raynor’s funeral details.  I am pleased to say that Rev Christine MacDowall from Sandringham is conducting the service.  Jean had been part of her congregation before coming to Leighmoor UC, so knew her well.  Christine had met up with Jean earlier in the year for a cuppa and catch up.  The service is on Wednesday at 2pm.  When I have details about whether it is going to be steamed live, I will forward those details on.

Joan Bennett is a member of the Heatherton-Dingley congregation.  Her daughter, Candice, works with children and families at St Augustine’s.  Candice is very talented.  Joan has sent me a link in order to watch Candice tell one of her stories about a church mouse named Gus.  Candice has said I can share it with you all.  It is well worth a watch…or two:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUa9X_FRKfE

To conclude with a story many of you know:

You make a difference to many people’s lives, even in lockdown. 

Live in HOPE, and remember…you are NOT alone!

Jesus said to the man whom he had cured: “Go home to your friends, and tell then how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.'(Mark 5: 19)

‘I will bless the Lord at all times;

his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

…I sought the Lord, and he answered me,

and delivered me from all my fears.'(Psalm 34)

Blessings and love

Barbara

Sunday Sermon 02-08-2020

Sermon and Service: August 2, 2020 Leighmoor Uniting Church

-Rev Barbara Allen

Suggested Hymns

TIS 156: Morning has broken

TIS 157: O Lord of every shining constellation

TIS 114: Blessed be the everlasting God

TIS 602: O Love that wilt not let me go

TIS 604: Make me a captive, Lord

TIS 151: The love of God is greater far

TIS 447: Lord your almighty word

Prayers of Adoration, Thanksgiving and Confession

O Creator God,

you spoke, and the world came into being.

From towering cliff faces…to our own faces.

You spoke, and the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.

From a babe named Jesus, helpless as any newborn is…through to an adult, with trials and struggles, from a cluster of mix-matched disciples, educating them about you through miracles…and love… and then to a risen Christ, leading those scared and scarred disciples out in love to form small communities of faith-which became the early church.

You spoke, and we were comforted.

You never leave our sides, or indeed, our hearts.

And yet, mysterious God, we confess that we would rather relate to the gentle comforting aspects of your being than to the disturbing, gripping aspects of your nature.

Forgive us.

Forgive us when we make you in the image of the God we want-a tame-able, ‘soft’ divine.

We know that sometimes we need a shocking word, an unsettling experience, a night of struggle or wrestling, to bring us to our senses- a journey into the dark night of the soul-for us to be enclosed by your arms-and blessed.

Forgive us when we try to hide from you.

We know that your love is such that you will not let us go until you fulfil your plan for each one of us.

Forgive us when we have turned away from our neighbours, when we have switched off the cries of the needy.

In a time of silence, we bring before God other things for which we seek forgiveness. 

God is love.

Through Christ our sins are forgiven

(thanks be to God).

Take hold of this forgiveness and live your life in the power of the Spirit.

Amen

Bible Readings:

Genesis 32: 22-31

Psalm 17: 1-7, 15

Romans 9: 1-5

Matthew 14: 13-21

Sermon: Wounds of Love 

(Genesis 32: 22-31)

Jacob-a cheat-one of the great patriarchs

-a deceiver-given the name Israel

-a supplanter or heel-loved by God.

Jacob-a universe-disturber-yet human

-a dreamer-seeking the sacred, filled with a sense of wonder and awe.

He bargained with God-his response to the sacred.

And now?

He had wrestled all his life-with his father, Isaac, his twin brother, Esau, his father-in-law Laban.

-but here was the struggle that changed him.

-indeed-the change was so marked he could no longer go by the name Jacob

-he needed to be renamed Israel ‘the one who strives with God,’

The fight for the blessing.

In Chapter 27 he had fought for his father’s blessing-he tricked Isaac, disguising himself as Esau

-a blessing cannot be retracted.

But in this encounter, this wrestle,

he does not gain God’s blessing by deceit, or in an underhanded manner-

but by being open and honest about it.

v.26: “Let me go, for the day is breaking”.  But Jacob said “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”

There was a young man who approached a hermit with this request: “Show me how I can find God.”

“How great is this desire of yours?” asked the saintly man.

“More than anything in the world” came the reply. The hermit took the young man to the shore of a lake and they waded into the water until it was up to their necks.  Then the holy man put his hand on the other’s head and pushed him under water.  The young man struggled desperately, but the hermit did not release him until he was about to drown.  When they returned to the shore, the saint asked, “Son, when you were under water, what did you want more than anything in the world?”  “Air” he replied, without hesitation.  “Well then, when you want to find God as much as you just then wanted air, your eyes will be opened to the wonder of God.”

‘when you want to find God as much as you just then wanted air, your eyes will be opened to the wonder of God.’

Jacob wanted to find God.

-to encounter God

-even to wrestle with God.

For Jacob, it wasn’t enough to meet God in a dream (though most of us would have been quite content with the dream of a ladder of angels linking heaven and earth!)

He wanted to meet God face to face.-with all the risk that involved.

(it was thought that to see God face to face involved death-it was a fatal experience-remember Moses, having to veil his face?)

Jacob wanted this encounter so badly-to confront God-not in a dream, lying down, but upright, with his eyes open.

Abraham and Isaac both submitted to God-the idea had come from God, whereas Jacob provoked this confrontation.

Let’s pause for a moment, to consider the possible reasons for such a desire.

-why Jacob was willing to force such an encounter-to risk his life.

Is anything worth that much?

Jacob was scared about meeting his brother Esau.  After dispatching his embassy to Esau, hoping to appease Esau’s anger with presents, Jacob was still deeply troubled.  That very night, without waiting for daylight, he decided to move his family across a nearby ford of the Jabbok river, to a place on the other side.

Jacob-left alone-with his fears and doubts.

He’s scared about meeting Esau(and no wonder-Jacob stole his birthright and the blessing reserved for the elder son-he’s got a lot to lose)

Earlier in this chapter Jacob expressed some of his fear, asking God to

v. 11: “Deliver me, please, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I am afraid of him; he may come and kill us all.”

Jacob, in his fear, surrounded by doubt-alone, in the dark, in solitude-rethinks his life.

-the promises of his ancestors-Isaac and Abraham

-his frustrations with life.

Perhaps he thought God had rejected him.

He may have been considering his life:

“What have I done with my life so far?

What have I done with the promises my father and grandfather received from God?

Have I accomplished anything worthwhile?”

Nothing transcends me-except my dreams, but they were only dreams.

Where are my adventures?  Where and what is my destiny?

God was active in the lives and experiences of Abraham and Isaac-but not in mine-only in my dreams.

Am I worthy of my parents?

What about a name of my own-rather than being known as the son of Isaac, the grandson of Abraham-

-or the deceiver, the trickster, the heel, the cheat!

I’m the grandson of a pioneer-the son of a survivor-alright-I don’t necessarily want to go to Mt Moriah and be bound as a sacrifice and see my father raise his knife above my throat (thank God for the ram!) but I want my own ordeal

-my own destiny.

I am ordinary.  My life is ordinary, lived in the shadows, the light of my ancestors’ experiences have eclipsed mine.”

During his contemplation-in the midst of his fears and doubts-he is confronted by someone, who will not let him pass.

The ford of the Jabbok.  Jabbok is a Hebrew word meaning to wrestle-‘wrestling ford’

The scene is set for a wrestle, a struggle

-an encounter like no other.

We can assume that Jacob thought the ‘man’ was human-but later realized the ‘man’ was God.

Jacob has wrestled with others all his life-but this wrestle is different

-it lasts until daybreak

-until the horror of the night has subsided.

Yet the struggle is undecided-because of the approaching daylight, the struggle is interrupted.

Neither gains mastery-yet God puts Jacob’s hip out of joint.

By now, Jacob has guessed the true identity of his opponent.

When his opponent asks to be released

(perhaps, because, since it was getting light, Jacob would be able to see him)-Jacob demands to be blessed.

Before-with Isaac’s blessing-it was disgracefully won-and-maybe-taken for granted.

This blessing-God’s blessing-is different.

Jacob -battered, bruised and limping-

will not let go-until he is blessed

-and in this lies Jacob’s greatness.

Here we see Jacob as a hero.

He will not take ‘no’ as an answer.

This Jacob has not changed to become a ‘good’ Jacob-but he is desperate

-this blessing from God is for the desperate.

-the desperate will struggle at any cost.

This demand is the answer to his prayer earlier in the chapter, where he asks God to save him from Esau.

His prayer is answered in the struggle, in the wrestle-yet not in terms of Esau, but in terms of God.

Jacob is persistent-because he is desperate.

And in that desperation, in that persistence-

he is changed.

He has courage-courage to ask for God’s blessing-he doesn’t try to deceive or cheat God.

-he has, with all the risk it involves-the courage to demand a blessing.

The blessing is not there for the taking.

It is costly.

Jacob knew he could not earn God’s blessing-but he knew how desperately he needed it.

He did not hesitate to demand it, though he risked death by doing so.

God blesses Jacob with the wound of love.

Faith is costly.

Like Jacob, faith-encounters with God-change us.

We are never the same again.

Jacob has a name

-he has a name which speaks of his encounter with God-Israel ‘the one who strives with God’

(though it can also mean ‘God strives on behalf of God’s people’)

After his wrestle, (which could have ended with his death)-with his new name, having been blessed-

Jacob is a changed man.

Jacob is overcome by the experience-

He knows he has been allowed to live-

So he calls the place Peniel- that is, ‘the face of God.’

v.30: “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.”

It isn’t just that his life has been spared (which is exceptional)

It could also mean that he is now unable to live as before.

‘he is now unable to live as before.’

Peniel: the turning point for Jacob, who becomes Israel.

Bethel: gave him a sense of the sacred, a sense of wonder and awe

BUT

Peniel marked him for life

-from now on, he would live life differently

He had his own name, had survived his own ordeal

-he’s aware that the promises of Abraham and Isaac were his also.

His life has meaning

-encounters with the divine are costly

-blessings should never be taken for granted.

Peniel marked him.

remember-his hip had been put out of joint.

This limping, battered, bruised Jacob is now Israel.

God had blessed Jacob with the wound of love.

A God of relationship.

A God who will bless.

Jacob’s persistence points us towards a robust faith.

Belden Lane wrote: ‘Biblical faith is that which limps like Jacob, bearing with it the wounds of its wrestlings with God…It is a faith admirable only in retrospect. In the moment, it smells of sweat and grins in unhallowed silence before the pain.’

Encounters with the divine change lives.

We cannot live as before.

Like Jacob, we too may demand God’s blessing.

We cry out ‘bless me!’ and God does.

When the going gets tough, and the things we have put our trust in seem to slip away-

We hold on to God

We will not let God go

We are desperate-like Jacob.

And God will not leave us alone.

We cry out,

And God hears us.

It is costly.

It is also part of our calling-to bless.

God’s love is a great mystery.  It transcends our own diminished capacity for love and blessing.

God’s love can transform our love-as we turn our hearts to blessing-we share in Heaven’s blessing.

We are to bless-not curse.

To bless means to be free to bear God’s love.

It isn’t always easy to bless (it took a lot out of Jacob to get God’s blessing!)

It’s easy to bless people you like, or love-but not so easy to bless those you don’t like very much.

But to bless, no matter how little we may feel like it-is to participate in love.

We are unworthy.

We are not perfect.

We are human-flawed.

Yet-because of God’s love for us-we are blessed.

Those who crave our blessings are unworthy, imperfect, flawed human beings.

But to bless them, however hard it may be-is to participate in love.

Sometimes we need God to start wrestling with us, to turn aside from the questions which have easy answers to those which cause us to grow-no matter how painful that growth may be.

-we may limp with Jacob-in pain, but blessed, changed forever.

Jacob’s limp was a wound of love.

God’s love and blessing does not protect us from further pain.

For Jacob, God’s blessing did not protect him-his beloved Rachel died in childbirth, his elder son betrayed him with Rachel’s maid, for many years he thought that his favourite son, Joseph, was dead.

Yet-with the gift of pain, of growth-he was also given the gift of vulnerability.

To be truly human.

For Jacob-wrestling with God changed him forever; from a cheat to Israel, from a fearful man to one who was able to meet his brother with remorse-with honesty.

He was aware of his destiny, his calling.

Are we aware of our calling?

Are we ready, maybe unwilling but ready, to bless, to participate in God’s love?

Are we willing to opt for a robust faith, though we may limp?

Are we willing to go through pain in order to grow?

Childbirth-pain-to new life.

Are we nearing the end of the darkness, the end of the night, when we, like Jacob-can truly recognize each other as brothers and sisters?

The light is breaking through.

Be like Jacob-kindle a sense of wonder and awe.

Realize the importance of God’s blessings-they are costly-yet given in love.

Participate in God’s unconditional love-by blessing others.

Peniel marked Jacob.

May our encounters with God mark us, 

with the wounds of love. 

Amen

Prayers of the People

O Caring Christ,

We know that the world is less than it should be.

Help us to know what to do, help us to remember that praying is ‘doing’, through prayer we participate, and partner with You, in bringing hope and healing to a troubled world.

We know beautiful things are happening, help us to hold on to those heart-acts, so that we do not despair.

During these weeks and months, may we continue to help those affected by the December-January devastating bushfires, recover.  May we not become so caught up in the pandemic, that we neglect other issues that need tending.

We pray for the sick, not only those with covid 19, but also for those with cancer, with diabetes, people recovering from surgery, people struggling with mental health.  Be with those who have had to put off having surgery during this time.

We pray for the dying, for those who have died, and for their families, especially Jean Raynor, and Rob Weir’s uncle.

We give thanks for the life of Joy Cutriss and her life in the church community.

And now, in a time of silence, we remember other issues which weigh heavily on our hearts, which we bring to you…)

Lord, you know us and love us.  As you taught your disciples, we are confident when we pray to say…

(‘Our Father in heaven…’)

Amen

Dismissal and Blessing

Wrestle for truth and for justice, in love.

Be people of peace, stewards and healers of creation, and compassionate carers of the wounded.

The blessing of the wrestling God, the loving Christ, and the prompting Spirit, be upon you now, and always.

Amen.

-Rev Barbara Allen

Here is a hymn written by Charles Wesley, which addresses Jacob’s struggle at Peniel, and our own struggle.  If we were worshipping in church we might attempt it (but not all 14 verses! Some versions of it have only 5 or 6 verses):

Come, O thou Traveller unknown

Come, O thou Traveller unknown,
whom still I hold, but cannot see;
my company before is gone,
and I am left alone with thee;
with thee all night I mean to stay,
and wrestle till the break of day.

I need not tell thee who I am;
my sin and misery declare;
thyself hast called me by my name;
look on thy hands, and read it there.
But who, I ask thee, who art thou?
Tell me thy name, and tell me now.

In vain thou strugglest to get free;
I never will unloose my hold;
art thou the man that died for me?
The secret of thy love unfold;
wrestling, I will not let thee go
till I thy name, thy nature know.

Wilt thou not yet to me reveal
thy new, unutterable name?
Tell me, I still beseech thee, tell,
to know it now resolved I am;
wrestling, I will not let thee go,
till I thy name, thy nature know.

‘Tis all in vain to hold thy tongue

or touch the hollow of my thigh;

Though every sinew be unstrung,

out of my arms thou shalt not fly;

wrestling I will not let thee go

till I thy name, thy nature know.

What though my shrinking flesh complain
and murmur to contend so long?
I rise superior to my pain:
when I am weak, then am I strong,
and when my all of strength shall fail
I shall with the God-man prevail.

My strength is gone, my nature dies,
I sink beneath Thy weighty hand,
faint to revive, and fall to rise;
I fall, and yet by faith I stand;
I stand and will not let Thee go
till I thy name, thy nature know.

Yield to me now- for I am weak
but confident in self-despair!
Speak to my heart, in blessing speak,
be conquered by my instant prayer:
speak, or thou never hence shalt move,
and tell me if thy name is Love.

‘Tis Love! ’tis Love! Thou diedst for me,
I hear thy whisper in my heart.
The morning breaks, the shadows flee,
pure, Universal Love thou art:
to me, to all, thy mercies move-
thy nature and thy name is Love.

My prayer hath power with God; the grace
unspeakable I now receive;
through faith I see thee face to face,
I see thee face to face and live!
In vain I have not wept and strove-
thy nature and thy name is Love.

I know thee, Saviour, who thou art,
Jesus, the feeble sinner’s friend;
nor wilt thou with the night depart,
but stay and love me to the end:
thy mercies never shall remove,
thy nature and thy name is Love.

The Sun of Righteousness on me
hath risen, with healing in his wings:
withered my nature’s strength; from thee
my soul its life and succor brings;
my help is all laid up above;
thy nature and thy name is Love.

Contented now upon my thigh
I halt till life’s short journey end;
All helplessness, all weakness, I
On thee alone for strength depend;
Nor have I power from thee to move;
Thy nature and thy name is Love.

Lame as I am, I take the prey,
hell, earth, and sin with ease o’ercome;
I leap for joy, pursue my way,
and, as a bounding hart, fly home,
through all eternity to prove
thy nature and thy name is Love. 

Charles Wesley 

Friday’s Email 31-07-2020

Hello Faith Pals,

Welcome to Friday.  What a sad week it has been.

I have included the addresses of Jean  and of Joy’s daughter Helen, (thank you, Janet) if anyone wants to contact family/send a card etc.  Janet has sent cards from Leighmoor UC.

I have included a reflection from Bill  as an attachment.

This is wonderful to watch!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nw5KQMXDiM4 It is thought provoking…and uplifting too. I could base a sermon or two on it! It made me think of books, and stories. One person from Heatherton-Dingley had written in an email that at one time at work they were to nominate who they would be if they were to be a cartoon character. She chose Kermit the Frog I I thought that was a lovely choice-(I am rather partial to that green frog!) Who would you be? You can extend it any character from a story, or from real life. Whose shoes would you like to step into for a day? OR…if you would prefer a slightly different slant-if you could invite 3 people to dinner-who would you invite? (of course this wouldn’t be during lockdown…so travel for the invitee would not be a problem.) The person could be living, or have died. After you have made your choice, you may wish to write a sentence about why you chose that person/people. Stories. Books. We are people of stories, we ARE story! No one has lived the life you have lived, or had the same experiences. Look at your fingers-unique fingerprints! How can everyone who has ever lived have a different finger print? Mind boggling! Did you know that a zebra’s stripes are different too, like our fingerprints? Marty, the rather anxious zebra in the animation film Madagascar, asked this question: Zebras are generally thought to have white coats with black or brown stripes, because the stripes end at their bellies and the inner side of the legs, which are white. However, zebras have black skin under their whitecoats! 

Each species of zebra has a different general pattern of stripes. The Grevy’s zebra has very thin stripes. The mountain zebra has vertical stripes on its neck and torso, but horizontal stripes on its haunches. Some subspecies of plains zebras have brownish ‘shadow’ stripes between the black stripes.

It is believed that the zebra’s stripes work like camouflage.  When zebras stand together, it is harder for predators to determine how many zebras are in the group. The stripes may also make the zebra appear unattractive to smaller predators, such as bloodsucking horseflies, which can spread disease. In addition, the stripes may work as a natural sunscreen.

Isn’t God’s creation wonderful? Would we have been able to design such variety? The poet Shel Silverstein posed this question in a poem:

Zebra Question

I asked the zebra
Are you black with white stripes?
Or white with black stripes?
And the zebra asked me,
Or you good with bad habits?
Or are you bad with good habits?
Are you noisy with quiet times?
Or are you quiet with noisy times?
Are you happy with some sad days?
Or are you sad with some happy days?
Are you neat with some sloppy ways?
Or are you sloppy with some neat ways?
And on and on and on and on
And on and on he went.
I’ll never ask a zebra
About stripes
Again.

A few jokes: What’s orange and sounds like a parrot? A carrot. I ate a clock yesterday, it was very time consuming. As I suspected, someone has been adding soil to my garden. The plot thickens. (I didn’t say they were good jokes!) Duncan Macleod, our of our Presbytery Ministers, included this poem in his email this week. I have included it for those who do not receive his emails:  From the Iona book, Sing but keep on walking, by

Jan Sutch Pickard

A time for panic and a time for hope, 
of urgency with much uncertainty, 
of waiting and impatience; 
a time of looking forward and a time for looking back, 
awareness of our mortality, 
with eagerness to celebrate new life. 
A time for prophecy 
and for practical preparations; 
a time for silence and a time for singing, 
a time for stillness and a time for travelling on; 
when plants die while seeds and corms store spring; 
when the safe and familiar give way to wonder. 
As migrating flocks cross our skies, 
constellations wheel with the turning year; 
the story of the seasons, 
the story of salvation – 
Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter, Pentecost – 
the song never ends. 
A time of too many expectations, 
and a time of deep expectancy; 
a time for being human together, 
and a time to celebrate God-with-us: 
Incarnation. Amen 
Duncan Macleod
Presbytery Minister – Team Leader

Port Phillip East Presbytery Well, that is probably enough to read and think about. During these times of anxiety, we are not to despair! God is here with us. I feel for those unable to visit their loved ones in hospital, or to be there when they go on their final journey, BUT our thoughts and prayers are with them, as God is too. Blessings and love Barbara

Barbara’s Monday Email 27-07-2020

Good morning Faith Pals,

Welcome to another week.  Nearly August!  We are getting closer to spring!

Now, some of you may have known (I didn’t) that the words I forwarded to you on the clip about Steve Jobs were actually a hoax ( I am sure Bruce didn’t know either!) I am of that generation that believes that what is reported is correct.  We could echo the words of Pilate: “What is truth?” (John 18:38)

I wondered about what that meant,  does it matter if Steve Jobs didn’t actually utter those final words? The sentiments are still wonderful-doesn’t matter who said them or who wrote them.  It made me think about some of the quotes I find.  Some of them have been attributed to the wrong person-but the words themselves are still powerful.

The beautiful poem ‘Footprints in the Sand’, which has been a source of great comfort to many over the years:

https://taylormertins.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/footprints-in-the-sand.jpg

For years it was thought to be anonymous-no one knew who wrote the words.   Mary Stevenson originally wrote the poem Footprints in the Sand in 1936 when she was only 14 years old.  For many years handwritten copies were distributed by Mary to those who needed something to give them comfort at a low point in their lives. It was sometime after this that friends of Mary saw it in print and wondered why she wasn’t given credit for writing it. A lawyer at that time told her that it would be very hard to prove she was the author because it had been used by many publishers of religious materials and greeting cards. Mary wrote ‘Footprints’ in 1936 when she was very young and knew nothing of copyrighting. Discouraged she didn’t pursue it any further.Unfortunately she did not keep a copy.  However, in 1984 while cleaning out the garage to prepare to move from her house, in a small suitcase, among her other poems, she rediscovered a very old handwritten copy that she thought was lost. It was one of the copies Mary had made and dated 1939, just three years after she wrote the original. Later that year the U.S. copyright office awarded her a copyright for ‘Footprints in the Sand’ 48 years after it was written. It was another 11 years before her handwritten copy was authenticated by a forensic specialist as to its age

Therefore, the record states that the original version of Footprints in the Sand was written by Mary Stevenson in 1939.

There have been different versions of it, one by Mary Fishback Powers, popular in the early 1960s.

I have a wonderful kitchen clock.  It has a drawing of a chicken, and underneath it these words:
‘I dream of a better world, where chickens can cross the road without having their motives questioned.’
I don’t have the source of the quote on my clock.  Some attribute this quote to Emerson:’ I dream of a better tomorrow, where chickens can cross the road and not be questioned about their motives.’
I doubt that it is from the pen of Emerson- BUT it is a fun quote, and I like it.
We have some more favourite Bible verses:
From Rob:
  • John 11:35 “Jesus wept” … as a man of few words, I appreciate this verse which puts so much meaning into two words.
  • Romans 8:26 (from today’s list of readings) … gives me encouragement that when I/we have no words to express the struggle, the Spirit prays on my/our behalf
  • Proverbs 31:10-31 … reminds me of my Mum (and a few other remarkable women in my life)!

I thought I should let you know some of mine!  Most of my favourites have been covered. Others include Psalm 139, and Isaiah 11: 6-9:

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
    the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
    and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
    their young shall lie down together;
    and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
    and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
    on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.

News about people:

John is recovering well.  He appreciates your prayers, thoughts and phone calls.  Possibly a scan today and ? home tomorrow or Wednesday.

Jean : still in hospital.  I spoke to her this morning.  At this stage, she doesn’t know what will be the next step. Rehab?  If so, when?  When I have more news, I will let you know.

I have concluded with some beautiful examples of human kindness.  I had been on-line looking, and then this arrived via an email from a friend.  I hope the images come through (you may have to click somewhere on your screen to allow remote content to be visible).

To close with a bit more Emerson:

“Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would create new religions overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead, the stars come out every night and we watch television.”
Paul Hawken (an American environmentalist, entrepreneur, author, and activist).

Now-you are allowed to watch television: just remember to poke your head out the door, or look through the window on a clear night-to consider the stars and their Creator now and again!

Blessings and love

Barbara

Sunday Sermon 26-07-2020

Service and sermon July 26, 2020 Leighmoor Uniting Church

-Rev Barbara Allen

Hymn suggestions:

TIS 130: We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land

TIS 137: For the beauty of the earth

TIS 581: Happy the home that welcomes you, Lord Jesus

TIS 650: Brother, sister, let me serve you

TIS 703: As the deer pants for the water

TIS 613: Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy

Prayers of Adoration, Thanksgiving and Confession

O God, you are our holy parent.

We, your children, are thankful that you gather us to yourself as a mother hen her chicks.

You cover us, and shield us with your love.

We know you are with us as we sometimes struggle to live as human family.

We thank you for the gift of family-blood relatives, friends, and church family.

Help us as we reflect on the biblical family and our own.

Help us to be amazed yet again, at your patient forgiving love, active in the stories of your children’s lives.

Help us to praise you with undivided hearts.

And yet, O Loving God, we confess the disorder in our human family.

We fight, we bicker. 

Others irritate us-in our blood family, and in our church family too.

Forgive us.

We weep when the vulnerable are abused, but often we fail to honour and respect the ones closest to us.

Forgive us.

Help us to welcome your Spirit within us, and among us, so that our shadows do not block out your healing Spirit that glows within us.

May we feel forgiven, and strengthened so that we may, with joy, bless the lives of those whom you have chosen to accompany us on this journey called life.

This is the best of all:

When we are empty, God fill us;

When we are disheartened, God is compassionate;

When we are wounded, God brings healing;

When we confess our sin, God forgives.

In Christ, through Christ and because of Christ, our sins are forgiven.

(Thanks be to God)

Bible Readings

Genesis 29: 15-30

Romans 8: 26-39

Matthew 13: 31-33, 44-52

Sermon: Are families perfect?

Genesis 29: 15-28

‘Always keep in mind that parenting is like gardening.  You plant and you wait.  Some seeds take a long time to sprout and develop.’

(Denis Waitley, 1985)

Jacob-the trickster.

In today’s story-Jacob is tricked.  Is this a family trait?

Will he learn from someone else’s deception, will he, at long last, sprout and develop?

Or

Does this story-of deception and trickery, fit more in line with this quote from George Bernard Shaw:

‘If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.’

(repeat)

Most of us remember the television series The Brady Bunch.   It was set in the 1970s.  The story of a widow and a widower, each with 3 perfect children.  They became a ‘blended’ family- but unlike most- or indeed all families, this TV series depicted a ‘perfect’ family; the dramas were usually trivial-who keeps using the telephone and those sorts of things, but, on the whole, a ‘perfect’, unrealistic family.-a family many hoped for.

-our own families appeared to be flawed-they didn’t come up to the standard of the Brady Bunch

-were our families the only ‘wrong’ ones?

-was every other family like the Brady Bunch?

What was real?  

-and what was fantasy?

How did this compare with our own family holidays?

We have the ‘ideal’ in our mind, or we see the ads, but, in reality, someone becomes sick the first night away, the accommodation isn’t what it should be, the teenagers argue and bicker all the way to your destination

-making everyone as miserable as they are!

REAL FAMILIES!

-the reality rarely turns out to be as we plan.  Jacob is still on the run, in exile, after tricking his brother out of his birthright and out of his blessing.

Last Sunday’s reading spoke of Jacob’s incredible experience of awe and wonder

-when, blessed with a divine vision, he saw a ladder of angels-

ascending and descending from heaven.

A schemer he might be-but he is also one chosen by God to be part of the family by whom the world shall be blessed.

Perhaps Jacob’s life may take a turn for the better…

Perhaps.

Today’s episode is a strange story.

It’s caught in the middle-between the dramatic dream of the ladder of angels, from last week-and Jacob’s encounter with God at the river of Jabbok-Jacob’s 

‘wrestle’ with God.

Between those two God-filled stories, the vision and the encounter-we have a more mundane episode.

Jacob arrives safely at his mother’s home town of Haran.  He finds himself among relatives.  He meets Rachel at the well, helps water the flock.

Rachel’s father, Laban, welcomes Jacob, the down-on-his-luck relative from far away-into his household.

At first, things go well, and Jacob is no doubt grateful that he has ended up among relatives, family who will care for him and pay him as he works for them.

In a sense- he becomes part of the family business

But, as in some families-

when they work together-there is the potential for conflict.

There will be conflict, because Laban and Jacob are similar-

Both are schemers, both are tricksters!

Laban has another daughter, Leah-she is older than Rachel, her eyes are either ‘weak’ or ‘lovely’- the Hebrew word is unclear.  But whichever- it does not matter, for Jacob has set his sights on Rachel.  He is so smitten with her that he offers to work for Laban for 7 years, in order to make enough money to marry her. (now, if you are married, or in a relationship-would you have worked 7 years for your loved one?)

v15: ‘Then Laban said to Jacob, ‘Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing?  Tell me, what shall your wages be?’

v 18: ‘Jacob loved Rachel; so he said: “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter, Rachel.”

7 years: a long time to wait.

What would we be prepared to wait (or work for-) for 7 years?

-education?

-establishing a farm?

-waiting for the first crop of grapes/macadamia nuts?

-working long and hard for our family?

-tending to a sick relative?

Can we put a value on love?

Can we put a value on dedication?

Can we put a value on our life’s work?

Laban’s reply to Jacob is a little ambiguous, a bit unclear:

“It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.”

They shake hands-it’s a deal.

Nothing is put on paper

after all, they’re family!

So Jacob worked for Laban for 7 years.

At the end of the time, Laban holds a feast-a wedding party.

But what happens?

Laban out-smarts Jacob.

He takes Leah to Jacob’s tent-not Rachel.

It was dark

Women wore heavy veils.

At any rate, it was morning before Jacob realized that his bride was none other than the older sister, the one with either ‘weak’ or ‘lovely’ eyes.  Leah!

In the Midrash: ‘Upon awakening the morning after his first wedding, when he discovered Leah next to him instead of Rachel, Jacob could not stifle a complaint: ‘All night I was calling you Rachel and you answered me; why did you deceive me?  And you, she retorted, your father called you Esau and you answered; why did you deceive him?’

It’s worth noting that in our wedding ceremonies, the bride’s veil is lifted before the vows are said

-to make sure the groom us marrying the ‘right’ woman!

Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me?  Did I not serve you for Rachel?  Why then have you deceived me?”

Laban said, “Didn’t I tell you?  I certainly meant to make it clear that in our culture it would be terrible for the younger girl to marry first.  I thought you knew that.  Oh well.”

Jacob was stuck.  He stayed married to Leah.  Laban said, “Look, in our culture, if you work for me for another seven years, I’ll be delighted to give you Rachel.”

Now- if we think back to the ways Jacob tricked Esau and Isaac- we’re probably thinking that Jacob has at last gotten what he deserves.

Jacob, at last, has been tricked

-and suffers for it.

At last he received the hand of Rachel ( if you read this story carefully, you’ll notice that Jacob didn’t have to work another 7 years and then have Rachel’s hand-at the completion of the week’s festivities for Leah-he then received Rachel-and worked another 7 years)

The story goes on.

Rachel and Leah squabble.

What else would we expect?

Two sisters married to the same man!

Polygamy-a man marrying more than one woman, was accepted practice in those times.

-it encouraged the raising of heirs

-it protected the widowed and the outcast

It meant, in the days prior to benefits and wages for women-it insured food and shelter

-it literally kept them from starving

BUT the marrying of two sisters meant the breaking of levitical law

Lev 18:18: ‘And you shall not take (or marry) a woman as a rival to her sister….’

Eventually the sisters team up with Jacob-to put one over their father Laban (this marriage is not the only trick Laban plays on Jacob!  At last-Jacob has met his match!)

They trick Laban, ending up with most of the property.

Why would today’s story be in the Bible?

Perhaps this story was told as a way of explaining the origins of the various tribes of Israel, Jacob’s family.

-some of the tribes traced their parentage to Leah, others to Rachel.

When there were arguments, they could trace their feuds way back to the beginning of their families.

Maybe.

There’s no mention of God in the story.

It’s an utterly human, thoroughly mundane and earthy story.

Perhaps that is why it is told.

It’s a funny story.

Jacob the trickster gets tricked by Laban.

Jacob, the one who was always putting one over his family-gets one put over him by Laban and Leah.

Laban, who gets 14 years of work out of Jacob for his daughters, plus a further 6 for his flock (20 years!) finally gets tricked by Jacob, with a little help from his own daughters.

It’s a family- a family in a mess.

Not a Brady Bunch at all.

Many families are in a mess, go through tough times.

We mean to love one another, but sometimes our love of ourselves gets the better of us, gets in the way of our love for one another.

And at times we trick, or deceive.

The person we marry is not exactly the person we thought he/she was.

When I would counsel couples before they got married, I would always remind them not to enter marriage thinking that once you are married, you can change your partner!

Sometimes the in-laws are the out-laws!

And sometimes the prospect of Christmas dinner doesn’t sound like good news! Stress, tension.

And so we listen to this story.

It sounds so strange and foreign at first-then before too long, it sounds familiar.

Close to home.

The story from Genesis becomes a story about re union-a family reunion in which we are joined across the ages to the all-too-human family.

And through it all-there is God.

As I said earlier, God doesn’t appear in the story, isn’t there to settle the disputes

BUT 

God is in the shadows, behind the scenes.

In a real sense this story tells of God’s relentless determination to have a people.

That’s the promise that begins with God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah-that he will make of them a family whereby all the families of the world would be blessed.

Jacob is not just an annoying,  ambitious son-in-law.

Jacob is Israel.  God is going to use this Jacob-to bless the world.

These are the ancestors of Jesus.

These are our biblical ancestors, at the top of our Bible family tree.

In most families there is both love and joy-and pain.

There are past hurts, deceptions, a long history of disappointment and disagreement.

That’s how it is with families

-the way it has been from the beginning.

YET 

God meets us, where we are.

God stands in the shadows of our conflicts, gradually moving the story along, moving us closer to love and grace.

In the Gospel reading Jesus uses parables to describe the realm of God

-the pearl, the net, the yeast, the seed.

Something small (with the exception of the net) becoming bigger, or more valuable.

Our own families may be small-but the love, encouragement and nurturing within them are like rain on thirsty soil.

Priceless.

Families are not only made up of blood relatives; many friends become family, and we are part of God’s family, and of the church family.

God’s family: we are valuable, loved unconditionally.

WHERE WE ARE God loves us.

AS WE ARE NOW 

God does not withhold his love until we become ‘perfect’ like the Brady Bunch-for this will never happen!

Surely Jesus’ example demonstrates that we are part of God’s family.

And that is good news indeed.  

We are part of God’s family, loved and cared for-despite our faults and flaws.

God is our parent. 

‘Always keep in mind that parenting is like gardening.  You plant and you wait.  Some seeds take a long time to sprout and develop.’

Amen

Prayers of the People

Lord of all,

We come to you with our prayers for others-including for the world.

We continue to grieve for the ill, for the victims and families devastated by the covid-19 pandemic.

As numbers soar, including within our own city and communities-be with them, be with the medical teams and the emergency crisis teams.

Be with us.

Let us not forget what is happening in other parts of the world.

Stressed relations between China and the United States, and between Australia and China.

Tension in borders between India and Pakistan.

Continuing tension between Israelis and Palestinians.

Guide world leaders so that right decisions are made, egos left at the door-and compassion becomes the currency of the day and the reason behind their decision making.

We pray for our natural world-for the firefighters in Greece, battling wild fires. For the fear of flooding in parts of China.

We also give thanks for brave people-heroes-ordinary people, who, seeing two children about to jump from a burning apartment building in Grenoble-gathered around, and caught them as they fell.

May we celebrate that heroism, and take hold of these jewels of hope, in a much suffering world.

We pray for those in our community and family who need our prayers: for Rohini and Jaya, for Fredrica and Alan, for families at home with children, for Erica’s brother-in-law, James, for Bruce and Maggie, for Lex and Leora and their daughter Robyn, for Jean and Jacqui, and for others near and dear to us who need our prayers.  In a time of silence we bring their names and concerns to you.

(silence)

In the words our Saviour taught us, we are confident when we pray to say,

‘Our Father in heaven…’

Amen

Dismissal and Blessing

‘As the earth keeps turning, hurtling through space, and night falls and day breaks from land to land, let us remember people- waking, sleeping, being born and dying- of one world, and of one humanity.’ (World Council of Churches, 1975)

Amen 

26 July, 2020 Leighmoor Uniting Church

Friday Email 24-07-2020

Hello Faith Pals,

Happy Friday!   And a Happy Birthday to Maureen, who had a birthday yesterday.  It is hard when we cannot celebrate as we would like-but our hearts can still be joyful.  Remember when you were a child, and you were so excited the day BEFORE your birthday?  At least I was! (and I still get excited the night before).

News:

Rohini is progressing very slowly…her shoulder is still causing her some pain…we will keep her and Jaya and family in our prayers.  Jaya is doing well, and his blood sugars have lowered, so that is wonderful news.

Alan and Fredrica: Alan is due for blood tests and chemotherapy next week.  Fredrica’s hand is improving, but still quite sore if she does too much.

Jean: still in Sandringham Hospital.  She said she got a bit worse so they have kept her in.  She said she will be going to rehab before going home.  At this stage, Jean is unsure when she will be leaving hospital. She said Jacqui is doing quite well.

Please keep Rob’s Uncle Kev and Aunty Elv in your prayers please, especially with the disturbing news about the number of covid 19 cases in aged care facilities.

David came home from hospital yesterday, and is doing quite well, so that is good news.  He goes back this afternoon for dialysis-I am trying to fall in love with Punt Road!

Collection of favourite Bible verses from people:

Psalm 46:1

God is our refuge and strength,

a very present help in trouble.

Matthew 11:28-30

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 25:40

And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Proverbs 31: 10-31

Psalm 23

Romans 5: 1-6,

Romans 8

If I have missed any out, or you want others included, please let me know.

I realized I was going to send around a very thought provoking clip from Bruce Bird, about Steve Jobs.  I will send that as a separate email later.

Masks.  Interesting seeing people in masks.  Some are fashion statements-that is fine if it encourages them to be worn.

Reminds me a little of masked balls (masquerade), or carnivals.  They have been popular since the 14th century.  They are very popular in Venice. We have probably seen films where there is a masked ball. 

Who is behind the mask?

This is a question we can ask when we are out walking or shopping: Who is behind the mask?

Masks have been used to describe one’s behaviour: hiding behind a mask-putting up a barrier, or creating a facade to hide or to protect oneself…It might be pretending to be brave, or full of bravado, hiding behind academic credentials…the class clown is often protecting some inner  insecurity,  or perceived  inferiority.

The mask can help our faith-a reminder that what ever mask/front/show we put on…God sees our true self, and loves us.

I don’t mind wearing a mask- BUT I can’t smile at people…well…I do…but they can’t see the smile.  I hope my crinkled eyes give away what is behind my mask.

 

” src=”blob:https://www.leighmoorunitingchurch.org.au/bbf9a327-8a34-4c72-a44d-2a35b211359a” alt=”” class=”Apple-web-attachment Singleton”>

This is an excerpt from a public health poster about the Spanish influenza (flu) pandemic drawn by children’s illustrator and author May Gibbs in 1919. The detail features a gumnut baby and a kookaburra sitting on a branch, with eucalyptus leaves wrapped around their mouths in the manner of surgical masks. Apart from the leaf, the gumnut baby wears only a gumnut on her head. The illustration is captioned ‘Hullo! How are you?’

This public health poster was part of a government campaign in New South Wales to limit the spread of the deadly Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-19, in which about 12,000 Australians died, 6,300 of them in NSW. Soldiers returning from the First World War and infected people were quarantined, wearing masks in public places was made compulsory, schools were closed, many public activities were banned or restricted and pharmacy prices were regulated.

This illustration by children’s illustrator and author May Gibbs (1877-1969) uses familiar characters from her children’s books to encourage readers, especially children, to wear masks to reduce the spread of the deadly infection.

So…I hope you have obtained a mask-if not, you can use eucalyptus leaves!

Blessings and love

Barbara

Keep reading, then you will get to the joke which I have forwarded on from a friend. Last week I think I neglected to include a joke…sorry!  I know I was having internet problems-and that wasn’t a joke!

 

 

 

 

 

 

   An  American decided to write a book about
famous churches around the world.

So he bought a plane ticket and took a trip to
Orlando, thinking that he would start by working
his way across the USA from South to North.
 

On  his first day he was inside a church taking
photographs, when he noticed a golden telephone
mounted on the wall with a sign that read 
‘$10,000 per call’.

 The  American, being intrigued, asked a priest
who was strolling by, what the telephone was
used  for.

 The  priest replied that it was a direct line to
heaven and that for $10,000 you could talk to
God.

 The  American thanked the priest and went along
his  way.
 

Next stop was in Atlanta. There, at a very large
cathedral, he saw the same looking golden
telephone with the same sign under  it.
 He wondered if this was the same kind of

telephone he saw in Orlando and he asked a
nearby nun what  its purpose was.

 She told him that it was a direct line to heaven
and that for $10,000 he could talk to God.
 ‘O.K.,  thank you,’ said the American.


 He  then travelled all across America, Europe, 

England, Japan, New Zealand. In  every church he
saw the same looking golden telephone, with the
same ‘$US10,000 per call’  sign under it.
 

The  American decided to travel to Australia to see
if Australians had the same  phone.

 He  arrived at Newcastle in Australia and  again,
in the first church he entered, there was  the same
looking golden telephone, but this time  the sign
under it read, ’40 cents per  call.’

 The  American was surprised, so he asked the
priest  about the sign. ‘Father, I’ve travelled all
over  the world and I’ve seen this same golden
telephone in many churches. I’m told that it is a
direct line to Heaven, but in all of them, the price was
$10,000 per call.

 Why  is it so cheap here?’
 The  priest smiled and answered, ‘You’re in

Australia  now, son – “This is Heaven,” so it’s a
local call’.

 KEEP  SMILING

   
 

 
 
 

Barbara’s Monday Email 20-07-2020

Hello Faith Pals,

 

I am not sure when you will receive this email.  I am having internet problems!  The things we take for granted-until they go wrong!  You will receive this sometime.  If it is tomorrow-remember-it is still Monday somewhere in the world!

Now, I know home schooling is back, as is being on site for senior students.  A reminder that I set you some homework several weeks ago. 

Do you remember?  Some of you have already submitted them to me (virtual gold stars for you!).  Favourite Bible verses or parts of Scripture.  I have some, but I would like more!  Then I can compile them and we can all have a handy page to turn to during these challenging times in lockdown (which will end).

The 11th July was listed as The Feast of Non-Pilgrims.  Edward Hays writes that this is a good day to stay at home, instead of heading off on pilgrimage.  Now you know why I have chosen to write about this feast day! Hays quote these words of the 14th century Kashmiri poet, Lal Ded:

‘I was passionate,

filled with longing,

I searched

far and wide.

 

But the day

that the Truthful One

found me,

I was at home.’

 

Hays points out that Christian pilgrimages to the Holy City of Jerusalem and other holy sites did not become popular until after a few centuries.  In the first centuries of the early church, Christians believed that Christ could be experienced,  as though on pilgrimage, in one’s home, or when visiting a neighbour [we are not to do that at present, though!] The home was holy because that was where worship, and the Lord’s Supper, took place.

Well…isn’t that where worship is taking place now? We often talk about church buildings being ‘soaked in prayer’- surely our homes also come under that category?  If not…now is the time to give them a good soaking!  Look around.  What have you got on display, or tucked away safely in a drawer or cupboard, that can be brought out to signal that your home is also a place of worship?  A Bible that could be left open on a table, a candle, a cross?  An Easter card…a Christmas decoration…a sculpture of praying hands?

Set aside an area if you would find that helpful.  I know I mentioned a Christmas decoration-yes, there is a tradition that states that if you don’t take down all your Christmas decorations by January 6th (Epiphany) you will suffer bad luck (and no, the fact that I ALWAYS find a stray one AFTER they have been packed away IS NOT the reason for covid 19!), but I am now of the opinion that a little reminder somewhere of the birth of the baby Jesus is suitable all year round.  My angels might come under that category, or the Australian nativity set that I still have arranged on a bench because it is so cute.  I’m  not good at maths, but I figure I don’t have as many Christmases in front of me as behind me…so I will enjoy the beauty and the reminder of God’s son, in a small way, all year round.

How does it alter things, seeing the home as holy?  Remember the saying that Jesus is the unseen guest at the table, and at every conversation?  Would we be kinder to one another? Or more mindful of the important things and let the petty things disappear?

News: David is improving-hopefully home Thursday or Friday.

Erica  said that James has been discharged from hospital (they decided against operating) and he is now at Goldlinks Road Rehab.  Please remember Erica and family in your prayers too. It is hard for families working from home, juggling children etc.  Long hours and much tiredness.

Rob : could we keep his Aunty Elv and Uncle Kev in our prayers please?  Rob’s uncle, who is in Aged Care has developed a nasty chest infection (not covid), and is struggling.

I have forwarded a lovely story from Margaret. You will probably need a tissue or hanky-very moving.

One of my favourite quotes is from Abraham Heschel ( I don’t think I have shared it before…if I can’t remember, you probably don’t either!):

‘When I was young I admired clever people.

Now that I am old, I admire kind people.’

-Abraham Heschel

 

Remember:

God will visit you at home.

Blessings and love

Barbara Allen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grab a cuppa and keep the tissues handy, well worth the read.

This obviously originated in America but it’s a “feel good” sort of story!

The Folded Napkin … A Truckers Story

If this doesn’t light your fire … Your wood is wet!

 

I try not to be biased, but I had my doubts about hiring Stevie. His placement counsellor assured me that he would be a good, reliable busboy.

But I had never had a mentally handicapped employee and wasn’t sure I wanted one. I wasn’t sure how my customers would react to Stevie.

He was short, a little dumpy with the smooth facial features and thick-tongued speech of Downs Syndrome. I wasn’t worried about most of my trucker customers because truckers don’t generally care who buses tables as long as the meatloaf platter is good and the pies are homemade.

 

The four-wheeler drivers were the ones who concerned me; the mouthy college kids travelling to school; the yuppie snobs who secretly polish their silverware with their napkins for fear of catching some dreaded “truck stop germ,” the pairs of white-shirted business men on expense accounts who think every truck stop waitress wants to be flirted with. I knew those people would be uncomfortable around Stevie so I closely watched him for the first few weeks.

 

I shouldn’t have worried. After the first week, Stevie had my staff wrapped around his stubby little finger, and within a month my truck regulars had adopted him as their official truck stop mascot.

 

After that, I really didn’t care what the rest of the customers thought of him. He was like a 21-year-old kid in blue jeans and Nikes, eager to laugh and eager to please, but fierce in his attention to his duties. Every salt and pepper shaker was exactly in its place, not a bread crumb or coffee spill was visible when Stevie got done with the table. Our only problem was persuading him to wait to clean a table until after the customers were finished. He would hover in the background, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, scanning the dining room until a table was empty. Then he would scurry to the empty table and carefully bus dishes and glasses onto his cart and meticulously wipe the table up with a practiced flourish of his rag. If he thought a customer was watching, his brow would pucker with added concentration. He took pride in doing his job exactly right, and you had to love how hard he tried to please each and every person he met.

 

Over time, we learned that he lived with his mother, a widow who was disabled after repeated surgeries for cancer. They lived on their Social Security benefits in public housing two miles from the truck stop. Their social worker, who stopped to check on him every so often, admitted they had fallen between the cracks. Money was tight, and what I paid him was probably the difference between them being able to live together and Stevie being sent to a group home.

 

That’s why the restaurant was a gloomy place that morning last August, the first morning in three years that Stevie missed work.

He was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester getting a new valve or something put in his heart. His social worker said that people with Downs Syndrome often have heart problems at an early age so this wasn’t unexpected, and there was a good chance he would come through the surgery in good shape and be back at work in a few months.

 

A ripple of excitement ran through the staff later that morning when word came that he was out of surgery, in recovery, and doing fine. Frannie, the head waitress, let out a war hoop and did a little dance in the aisle when she heard the good news.

 

Marvin Ringers, one of our regular trucker customers, stared at the sight of this 50-year-old grandmother of four doing a victory shimmy beside his table. Frannie blushed, smoothed her apron and shot Marvin a withering look. He grinned. “OK, Frannie, what was that all about?” he asked.

“We just got word that Stevie is out of surgery and going to be okay.” “I was wondering where he was. I had a new joke to tell him. What was the surgery about?” Frannie quickly told Marvin and the other two drivers sitting at his booth about Stevie’s surgery, then sighed: ” Yeah, I’m glad he is going to be OK,” she said. “But I don’t know how he and his Mom are going to handle all the bills. From what I hear, they’re barely getting by as it is.” Marvin nodded thoughtfully, and Frannie hurried off to wait on the rest of her tables.

 

Since I hadn’t had time to round up a busboy to replace Stevie and really didn’t want to replace him, the girls were bussing their own tables that day until we decided what to do.

After the morning rush, Frannie walked into my office. She had a couple of paper napkins in her hand and a funny look on her face.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“I didn’t get that table where Marvin and his friends were sitting cleared off after they left, and Pete and Tony were sitting there when I got back to clean it off,” she said. “This was folded and tucked under a coffee cup.” She handed the napkin to me, and three $20 bills fell onto my desk when I opened it. On the outside, in big, bold letters, was printed “Something For Stevie.”

“Pete asked me what that was all about,” she said, “so I told him about Stevie and his Mom and everything, and Pete looked at Tony and Tony looked at Pete, and they ended up giving me this.” She handed me another paper napkin that had “Something For Stevie” scrawled on its outside. Two $50 bills were tucked within its folds. Frannie looked at me with wet, shiny eyes, shook her head and said simply: “truckers.”

 

That was three months ago. Today is Thanksgiving, the first day Stevie is supposed to be back to work.

His placement worker said he’s been counting the days until the doctor said he could work, and it didn’t matter at all that it was a holiday. He called 10 times in the past week, making sure we knew he was coming, fearful that we had forgotten him or that his job was in jeopardy. I arranged to have his mother bring him to work. I then met them in the parking lot and invited them both to celebrate his day back.

Stevie was thinner and paler, but couldn’t stop grinning as he pushed through the doors and headed for the back room where his apron and bussing cart were waiting.

 

“Hold up there, Stevie, not so fast,” I said. I took him and his mother by their arms. “Work can wait for a minute. To celebrate your coming back, breakfast for you and your mother is on me!” I led them toward a large corner booth at the rear of the room.

I could feel and hear the rest of the staff following behind as we marched through the dining room. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw booth after booth of grinning truckers empty and join the procession. We stopped in front of the big table. Its surface was covered with coffee cups, saucers and dinner plates, all sitting slightly crooked on dozens of folded paper napkins. “First thing you have to do, Stevie, is clean up this mess,” I said. I tried to sound stern.

Stevie looked at me, and then at his mother, then pulled out one of the napkins. It had “Something for Stevie” printed on the outside. As he picked it up, two $10 bills fell onto the table.

Stevie stared at the money, then at all the napkins peeking from beneath the tableware, each with his name printed or scrawled on it. I turned to his mother. “There’s more than $10,000 in cash and checks on that table, all from truckers and trucking companies that heard about your problems. “Happy Thanksgiving.”

 

Well, it got real noisy about that time, with everybody hollering and shouting, and there were a few tears, as well.

But you know what’s funny? While everybody else was busy shaking hands and hugging each other, Stevie, with a big smile on his face, was busy clearing all the cups and dishes from the table..

Best worker I ever hired.

Plant a seed and watch it grow.

 

At this point, you can bury this inspirational message or forward it fulfilling the need!  If you shed a tear, hug yourself, because you are a compassionate person.

Well.. Don’t just sit there!

Send this story on!

Keep it going, this is a good one. 

The Folded napkin

Virus-free. www.avg.com

 

Sunday Sermon 19-07-2020

Service July 19, 2020  Leighmoor Uniting Church

-Rev Barbara Allen

Hymn suggestions

TIS 134: Praise my soul, the king of heaven

TIS 128: Sometimes a light surprises

TIS 398: Come down, O love divine

TIS 564: O God of Bethel, by whose hand

TIS 651: Take, take off your shoes

TIS 547: Be thou my vision

Call to Worship

Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it!” (Genesis 28:16).  God is indeed in this place…wherever we are during lockdown.  We may offer God our praise, and listen to God’s word-wherever we are.  God is indeed in your living room, or in your kitchen, or sitting outside with you in the garden. The Lord is in those places too.

Prayers of Adoration, Thanksgiving and Confession

Eternal God, how great you are!

On the first day of the week, we commemorate your creation of the world, and all that is in it.

We also praise you for raising Jesus from the dead, on the first day of the week.

We give thanks that you sent your Holy Spirit on your disciples, on the first day of the week.

This day is, indeed, special: from Genesis to the Gospels, to the book of Acts…remembered by the church, making this day, Sunday, our Sabbath.

O God, you are our holy parent.

We, your children, are thankful that you gather us around you, that you cover us with your love.

We come trusting in you, as we quite often struggle, trying to live together as human family-in the home, in church, in our community, and in the world.

As we reflect on the biblical family story-seeing it as our own story too-help us to be aware, and then thankful for, your patient, forgiving love.

O God, you are a dream maker.

You have shown us your vision and spoken your word through prophet and angel, and you have revealed the fullness of your dream for all of us in Jesus Christ.

Help us to grow into the dream you have for each one of us.

And yet, O God, we confess that we do not always want to hear you, or listen to the dreams you have for each one of us.

At times we prefer to follow our own desires.

Forgive us.

Sometimes we run away to avoid hearing you, in case your dreams for us are different from what we want, in case you ask of us that which might make us uncomfortable, or risk unsettling our comfortable lives.

Forgive us.

Forgive us when we return your love with apathy,

Forgive us when we return your dreams and hopes for us with a sense of unworthiness.

Forgive us when we neglect our neighbours, when we have become self-consumed.

And in a time of silence, we remember other things for which we seek forgiveness…

God is love.

Through Christ, our sins are forgiven

(thanks be to God)

Take hold of this forgiveness and live your live in

in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Amen

Bible Readings

Genesis 28: 10-19a

Psalm 139: 1-12, 23-24

Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43

Sermon: Dreams are more than just wishful thinking

 Genesis 28: 10-19  

[It was hard to choose between the Genesis reading, and Psalm 139, which is one of my favourite psalms.  Maybe I will preach on it another time.]

A student went to a famous old rabbi and said,

“Master, in the old days there were people who could see God.  Why is it that nobody sees God nowadays?”

The old man answered- “My child, nowadays nobody can stoop so low.”

-“nowadays nobody can stoop so low!”

v.16 ‘Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place-and I did not know it!”

The story of Jacob’s dream at Bethel is remarkable, all the more remarkable when one considers the character of Jacob.

-from birth-Jacob is a ‘grabber’.  

In last week’s reading:  ‘Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob.’ (‘he takes by the heel’, or ‘he supplants.’)

He has duped his brother Esau out of his birthright-Esau sold his birthright -for a bowl of red lentil soup.  Now, I think my lentil soup is pretty tasty, but would I expect someone to give me their inheritance-that’s what Esau’s birthright meant-for a bowl of soup-or even for the recipe?

Jacob is a shrewd, conniving, trickster!

Jacob isn’t named ‘Heel’ or ‘Grabber’ -for nothing.

Jacob also deceived his father Isaac; when Isaac was blind and on his deathbed, Jacob dressed up in animal skins and tricked his father into blessing him-giving him the blessing, or the inheritance that is for the eldest son

grabbing the inheritance that should have gone to Esau.

Not a likeable person

A shady character

A trickster.

Poor Esau-the not so smart brother.

We feel for him-

In Genesis 27, after he realizes what Jacob has done:

‘ …he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, :Bless me, me also, father!”  and  “Have you only one blessing, father?  Bless me, me also, father!” And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.

Later,

‘Esau said to himself. “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.’ (Gen 27:41)

Jacob gets out in time.

-slips out the back door.

Jacob, a shrewd, conniving trickster- flees his homeland, pursued by his estranged brother.

A fugitive.

He had wanted, more than anything-

-to inherit the estate

-to have it all

-to supplant his older brother in the process.

Now he’s ‘out there’

-out between Beersheba and Haran-

Which is another way to say

‘nowhere’

Between the ‘known’-his family

And the ‘unknown’- the future.

-He is without family protection

-He is without family support

-banished, alone.

Alone.  Vulnerable.  Nowhere.

It is night, time when wild beasts roam.

Jacob prepares to sleep with nothing but a stone for a pillow.

In an interview with the actor Richard Pryor, Pryor told of his lifelong struggle with drug addiction and depression.  The interviewer asked “What do you dream of doing now?”

He answered: “I try not to dream.  Dreaming is too painful for a man in my condition.”

“I try not to dream.  Dreaming is too painful for a man in my condition.”

The sleep of the exile is a restless sleep.

A long night-vulnerable.

Between nowhere-and no place.

Far from home-with a stone for a pillow,

With his defences down.

Now, not the striver, the grabber, the heel-but the naked, defenceless one alone in the night.

Jacob sleeps, tosses and turns and dreams!

And what a dream.

There’s an old Afro-American spiritual: ‘We are climbing Jacob’s ladder.’

Some of you might know it.

Freud noted that one of the functions of dreams is to recall past events in our lives, especially painful events which tend to bubble up from our subconscious as we sleep.

If that’s true-what a dream Jacob should have had!

Yet-he sleeps like a baby, and has a magnificent, awe-inspiring dream.

A great ladder, or stairway is thrown down from heaven right to where Jacob sleeps.

‘And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.’

Angels: messengers of God.

-ascending and descending.

It was a two-way staircase with angels travelling from earth to heaven and from heaven to earth.

These messengers are not only carrying messages from earth to heaven (we call that prayer)

but also from heaven to earth (words from God)

Much of our dreaming is a one-way street-we are trying to catch an angel who will take a message up to God.

We are told to have a dream-and to follow it.

-we hear this at school, when we attend graduation ceremonies and the like. 

Woodrow Wilson said: ‘We grow by dreams. All big people are dreamers. Some of us let dreams die, but others nourish and protect them, nurse them through the bad days-to the sunshine and light which always comes.’

Patch Adams said: ‘When a dream takes hold of you what can you do?  You can run with it, let it run your life, or let it go and think for the rest of your life what might have been.’

And yet-there are times when we stop and say

-dreams are only wishes

-dreams are only wishes.

In the film Cinderella, Cinderella says ‘A dream is what your heart wishes…when you are fast asleep.’

There is a sweet little film from the 1980s called ‘Electric Dreams’.  It has a great sound track.   It is about a computer who has a malfunction, and becomes human like.  As he turns off the light in order to go to sleep, the man says to the computer , “Sweet dreams.”

Then he has to try to explain to the computer what a dream is-and he uses this quote from Cinderella:

‘A dream is what your heart wishes…when you are fast asleep.’

And if that is so-then even our best dreams are only projections of our best wishes. (repeat)

still the longing of ourselves as we are-as we are at best

(we can only hope to achieve such dreams-not to be transformed by them) -repeat

So that’s why it is important to note that in Jacob’s dream there are angels ascending AND DESCENDING!!

Jacob already had a dream.

-from the moment of conception, still in the womb-he’s had a dream-

-to be running the family

-to gain the inheritance, the blessing.

Jacob’s been sending heaven that message for a long time-

“God get me…God make me…

God give me…”

Isn’t that a little like ourselves at times?

When we pray, we talk mainly about ourselves and our needs

-the fulfillment of our dreams and desires

-and that’s part of valid prayer.

BUT the angels were descending on that ladder.

-God will not let Jacob go until he has his way with him.

-until Jacob is transformed.

Jacob is a dreamer

BUT 

SO is God!

Jacob had thought that he was alone

-fleeing from Esau

-a stranger in a strange land

BUT NO!

God is with him.

God speaks to Jacob-not a word of rebuke-but, instead, words of hope!

A promise, almost identical to that which grandfather Abraham, was given.

Jacob’s descendants will be as numerous as the specks of dust.

Jacob is overcome-by the promise and by God’s blessing.

He creates a shrine there-as a memorial.

Bethel-‘house of God’

God’s steadfast commitment to him,

God’s promises.

-the descending angels, messengers of God.

Jacob said “How awesome is this place!  This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

And that’s a nice, fitting ending.

-where the story ends, in today’s reading.

BUT

Vs 20-21, which were not included in the lectionary are: ‘Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God…’

Ifthen!!

Is Jacob grasping again?

Is Jacob grabbing God’s heel?

-putting conditions on God’s promises to him?

-requesting proof?

But-for Jacob-there will be another night

-beside a dark river

-when Jacob shall encounter -not a dream about a ladder of angels

-but God!

Jacob wrestles with God!- but that’s another story!

For today-let us note how the story reminds us that God is always present.

-we are not abandoned-even the worst of us.

-there is always two-way traffic going on

-earth-heaven

Heaven-earth.

Some of us are in church today because of reaching out to God.

But God is also reaching out to us.

Our dreams are more than just wishful thinking.

Sometimes our dreams are notions that only God could put into our heads.

Only dreams, even the best of them-are subject to divine intervention.

-to God’s intrusion-to re-orientate our dreams to God’s dreams.

-to be transformed by our dreams rather than to achieve our dreams.

Jacob was to be transformed.

As Jacob wakes with a shudder, realizing that here earth and heaven meet

-he is not alone on this journey.

Somewhere on our own journey through life, we have had a similar experience.-that heaven has invaded our ordinary life, letting us know

-that we are not alone in our world, but that we are accompanied on our pilgrimage by a mysterious presence

Jesus Christ, and by God.

We get or receive the message: 

‘I am with you, I will keep you, I will bring you home, I will not abandon you…’

-might be late at night at home, by the hospital bed of a loved one, at a grave site, or at the kitchen sink.

Heaven descended to earth in a special way in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, and now he walks the road with us, as we go on our journey.

Do we believe that God descends to us?

-that God has plans/dreams for us?

Remember the opening story-

‘Why is it that nobody sees God nowadays?’

‘My child, nowadays nobody can stoop so low.’

Be transformed by God’s dreams for you.

To lie down, to wait prayerfully is to stoop-and to be surprised-for

‘The Word has become flesh and dwelt among us, and we have its glory.’

Or, as Jacob said,

‘Surely the Lord was in this place and I didn’t even know it.’

Amen. 

Prayer.

Lord, give us the grace to awaken to your intrusions among us, the eyes to see clearly those holy moments when you stoop to us, and touch us, and bless us with a vision.

In the tug and pull of everyday life, while sitting in church, while standing over the kitchen sink, while at work-you come to us.

Help us to expect, to look for, and to celebrate your gracious disclosure of your will for our lives. How often have we been moved to exclaim, with our ancestor Jacob, “Surely the Lord was in thus place, and I did not know it!”

Above all, give us the courage to hold fast to our dreams, the dreams we have for ourselves, the dreams we have for a better world-dreams planted in our hearts by your love.   Amen.

Prayers of the People

(today I have incorporated a prayer from the World Council of Churches, which addresses the covid-19 pandemic)

Loving God, we pray for the world, for all countries struggling with covid 19:

pastedGraphic.png

In prayerful silence, we remember other issues in the world which weigh heavily on our hearts, or people we know who need our prayers…

(time of silence)

And in the words our Saviour taught us, we are confident when we pray to say…

‘Our Father in Heaven…’

Amen

Blessing

May the blessing of the Holy Trinity be upon you:

the fire of the Spirit ignite you,

the love of God encircle you,

and the wisdom of Christ enliven you,

today and always,

Amen

19.7.20  

-Rev Barbara Allen, Leighmoor Uniting Church