April 26, 2015

Genesis 27:41-28:22


Intro:  Over the weekend, I spent a lot of time with Presbyterian Elders.  One spent the night at my house.  On Friday as we drove to Sylvia’s for our gathering, she shared that their new pastor has requested all of the elders to share with him their conversion stories – of when they became a Christian.  She was concerned that having grown up in the church she couldn’t pinpoint a time and place, but she could identify significant moments in her faith when she acknowledged the truth and reality of God’s love for her.  Many folks who grow up in the faith don’t have a big moment of conversion, but can identify times that the Holy Spirit took them deeper and they were able to know that in their heart, Jesus was Lord. 


The passage we read today is the story of Jacob’s conversion to faith in the God of Abraham and Isaac.  We read about the moment in time when God’s love for him became reality.  It appears that up until this time he knew about  the God of his father but had not done much to live out that faith in his heart.  We might say that up to this point he was perhaps religious but his heart was not full engaged in a relationship with the God who loved him. 


The natural application of this passage is then to ask “What’s your story?”


To help get you to think, let’s review Jacob’s encounter with God and the response he had.  We’ll be focused on Genesis 28:13-22


God appears to Jacob in a dream.  God comes to Jacob.  God initiates the encounter.  In this story we can’t deny it.  It is obvious.  But in every story of salvation/conversion, God is the one who initiates the conversation.  When God sent Jesus to be born a baby and dwell among us, he was beginning a conversation with the sole purpose being to redeem humanity.  God has always been the one to initiate the conversation.


When did God initiate the conversation with you?  I believe God initiates the conversation through the Holy Spirit deep in our hearts, preparing us to hear words and respond with actions and faith.  For me the words came through songs and church camp – that’s where I came to understand that God was real and true and that he was seeking me out to be in a relationship with me. 


How was it for you?


The next thing that happened is that God made Jacob some promises.  Promises to prosper him, to assure him that he would be the one through whom Abraham’s descendants would come.  He goes on to promise that he will watch over Jacob and that he will bring him home to the land that has been promised him.  He promises that he will never leave Jacob.


The God of Abrahams, Isaac and Jacob is a God who makes promises to the ones he loves.  What promises has God made you?  Let me remind you of just a few from the lips of Jesus himself:

  • The first promise many of us memorize is found in John 3:16.  Say it with me . . .   That’s a really great promise.
  • Luke 11:9 that we talked about last week: And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
  • In John 10:10 Jesus states his purpose for coming, I came that they might have life and have it abundantly.

There are too many to list.  Whole books have been published on God’s promises to us.  And then there are the promises that God speaks specifically to our hearts.


What promise of God resonates in your soul?  What do you hang on to?  When the great theologian Karl Barth was asked this question in the early 1960’s his response was, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”  What promise of God are you sure of?  And how does it shape the living of your life?


One promise I have held onto has been that God will be my Father in the place of the one that went missing in my life.  He has been faithful and true in that role for over 50 years.  I’m pretty certain of that promise.


So thus far, God initiates a relationship with Jacob and makes him amazing promises.  Next we see Jacob’s response.  He wakes up and acknowledges his encounter with the holy and sets out to worship and give God honor.  He establishes a place of worship and memorial.  And then he makes a vow.


Worship is a key element in the life of someone who has encountered the salvation of God.  We worship because we are thankful.  I think that the more thankful we are the deeper we worship.  The more aware we are of God’ grace and favor, the greater our gratitude and the stronger our desire to honor God with all that we are.


In Jacob’s life he accepted God’s care for him and vows that the God of Abraham WILL be his God too.  He promises to return to God a portion of every good thing that comes to him.  This is part of his worship too.


What sorts of vows have you made God out of gratitude for your salvation?  Just before God called me to seminary I said to him that I would go anywhere and do anything.  That continues to be my offering to him but I confess sometimes I like to just live among the blessings.  I feel a call today to lay that offering before him again – I’d hate to miss out on where God leads because so far this has been a pretty incredible journey!  How about you?  What promises have you made God as a response to your salvation?  How are you holding up your promises?                       


Concl.  The Hallstead session isn’t the only group of elders working on their faith stories.  As part of what your session is engaged in for the Elder Leadership Institute, they also are writing their Spiritual Autobiographies to identify the times and places that God became personal to them.  I bet that they’d be willing to share that story with you if you asked.  We all have a story.  We’ve heard Jacob’s. What’s yours?