This is my written message for Sunday, September 24 on Genesis 27:1-4, 15-23; 28:10-17, part of the story of Jacob's blessing and his dream. A recording of the message from one of the churches is above.
May God’s grace and peace be with you always. AMEN.
If you ever feel that your family is just a little different, or a lot different, grab your Bible, turn to Genesis, and soon you will feel better about your circle of love.
To catch up from last week, Isaac, who was nearly sacrificed has married and has twin sons. Esau, the older son, is a hairy outdoorsman, and his father’s favorite. Jacob, who was born grabbing Esau’s heel, prefers life around the camp and is beloved by his mother, Rebekah. While she carried the twins, she had a vision from God that the younger son would be served by the older, a reversal of the traditional roles. Previously, Esau sold Jacob his birthright, an extra share of the inheritance, for a bowl of lentil chili.
As Isaac approaches his death, he wants to confer his blessing on his oldest, and favorite, son. Rebekah, remembering what God had told her, arranges for Jacob to attempt to fool Isaac, whose vision has gone. She dresses Jacob up to feel and smell like Esau. Isaac doesn’t appear totally convinced, but give this son his blessing.
When Esau finds out, he plans to kill his brother. Rebekah brings Jacob to Isaac, who gives him another blessing. The first blessing was for him to be prosperous, and for others, including his brother, to serve him. This second blessing, done in haste, is that Jacob receive the blessing given to Abraham by God; that he be fruitful and have a large family, and that he have the land promised to his grandfather. He leaves, fleeing to the land in Mesopotamia where his mother and grandparents came.
After a few days of his 500 mile plus journey by foot, Jacob lays down to go to sleep. He has so little with him that he uses a stone for a pillow. During his sleep he sees a vision of angels traveling from heaven to earth and back again. He also hears God’s voice, reaffirming the family blessing is his, and God says, “I am with you and will keep you wherever you go.” When he wakes up, Jacob declares that God was in this place.
Many people wonder about this whole situation. Why should Jacob, the scoundrel, the schemer receive the blessings of his father and of his God? Why should someone so unworthy be blessed to be a blessing to the world? Jacob is the type of person who after you met him, you should check to see if you still have your wallet and valuables.
But God has chosen to bless the world through this family, even though it is a messed up family. Esau was no prize, and Isaac was conspiring as well. But when God gave the blessing to Abraham, God knew that not every one of those descendants as numerous as stars in the sky would be an exemplary individual. No one is truly worthy of God’s blessings.
The Blessing of God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness do not come because we are worthy. We’re not. We are far from worthy. But Christ is worthy, and we are made worthy by his death on the Cross, joining us into a life like his - without sin, and a death like his - where death has been defeated.
The blessing given to Abraham and Isaac, and now Jacob changes them. They do not always do the right thing, but they are moved to act in response to the responsibility of this blessing.
God’s blessings are tenacious, even our faults & failures don’t excuse or except us. God’s blessings are always with us. That is what God tells to Jacob, despite what you’ve done, no matter where you go, I AM with you.
Jacob wakes up to realize that God is with him, where he is, alone, in the midst of suffering, with only a STONE for a pillow. God is with us when we are defeated, miserable, sad, lonely, embraced, ashamed. In the times when we feel most alone, God is always with us. It may be that only God is with us, but isn’t that more than enough? The promise to be with Jacob is made for us as well. “I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
When Jacob wakes up, he prays, promising that if God will be with him, he will serve God. But it is not a conditional prayer, it is a“because…therefore” vow. Jacob’s faith isn’t conditional; he trusts and has faith that God will fulfill God’s promises. The change is not Jacob’s doing, but God’s. Remember what God tells Jacob, “I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” God fulfills God’s promises even when we are unworthy of the promise.
While Jacob commemorated that spot, the people of Israel misunderstood the significance of that place - known as Bethel. They felt people should come there to worship and find God. They did not realize that instead God comes TO us in our daily lives, and especially in times of misery & suffering.
You, we, have been blessed by God just as Jacob was. How are you living out the blessing given to you by God, the blessing made from the cross, the empty tomb and the baptismal font? How does your life reflect being blessed in order to be a blessing?
What do you think the blessing of God’s grace is? Is it something like your baptismal certificate, something to be framed? Or stored - literally God, or Mom, knows where? Or could the blessing of forgiveness be a call to serve, since we are saved? A call to give, because we are forgiven? A call to work for justice for all, since we have all been justified? We are beloved children of God, sent into the world to share and spread God’s love. We are blessed to be a blessing to others.
This is my sermon outline and an audio recording of my message for September 17. The primary lesson was Genesis 21:1-3; 22:1-14, the binding of Isaac, and John 1:26-31. Much of my message was inspired by Rob Bell in his book What Is The Bible?, and his chapter on this passage.
For today’s lesson and message, I’m going to do two things differently. First, I’m going to read a portion of the lesson, then speak about it, then read another portion, and so on. Secondly, I’m going to change the names of those in the lesson to what their names mean. I think it helps with the story.
Pastor A reading from the book of Genesis, beginning in the 21st Chapter.
The Lord dealt with Princess as he had said, and the Lord did for Princess as he had promised. Princess conceived and bore Father of a Multitude a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him. Father of a Multitude gave the name Laughter to his son whom Princess bore him.
After these things God tested Father of a Multitude. He said to him, “Father of a Multitude!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Laughter, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.”
So Father of a Multitude rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Laughter; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Father of a Multitude looked up and saw the place far away. Then Father of a Multitude said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” Father of a Multitude took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Laughter, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Laughter said to his father Father of a Multitude, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Father of a Multitude said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.
When they came to the place that God had shown him, Father of a Multitude built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Laughter, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Father of a Multitude reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son.
But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Father of a Multitude, Father of a Multitude!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
And Father of a Multitude looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Father of a Multitude went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.
So Father of a Multitude called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
Pastor This is the Word of God, the word of life.
All Thanks be to God.
Attached is the text of my message for September 10, 2017 on Genesis 1:1-2-4, the story of creation, and John 1.1-5, the beginning of John's prologue. A recording of my message at Our Savior's is above.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
These two lessons tell about creation. These two texts tell the same story, but they tell it from different perspectives.
Genesis describes the details of creation. First this happened, and it was good. Then this happened, and it was also good. John explains what that all means.
Creation in Genesis happens in pairs. On days one, two and three, creation occurs by things being separated and put into place. Light is separated from darkness. The sky is separated from the water. The land is separated from the water.
Then, beginning at the end of day three, light and life comes into these separate areas. Plant life comes to the land. The lights of the sun, moon and stars come to the sky. Life comes to the sea and the waters. Life comes to the land, concluding with human life, made in the image and likeness of God.
There is an order and a process to God’s creation. God speaks. God sees. God separates and moves. God calls. God says it, and it happens. Words turn into actions. As John tells us, the Word was with God and through the Word all things came into being.
The Word is Jesus Christ. Through Christ, all things came into being. Without him not one thing came into being. John purposely began his Gospel harkening back to the story of creation from Genesis to tell us that the one through whom we are saved and forgiven, the one who died to defeat death, the one crucified to show us we cannot do anything to lose God’s love, was the one through whom all things were made.
God spoke the Word of creation, and it happened. The Word turned into action. His Words did what they set out to, just as His promises are true.
Through Jesus, life was spoken into being. Through Jesus, death has been defeated. Through Jesus, and his resurrection, we have light, light for all people, light that draws and calls all people to him, to God. This is done through the gift of love and grace, given freely for all people.
All people were created by God in God’s image. Listen again to that passage from Genesis. "So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
We are made in God’s image, in God’s likeness. We are made in the image of God, but we can only live into the fulfillment of that responsibility because of Jesus Christ. By his death on the cross, he has allowed us to be seen sinless in the eyes of God. God sees Christ when God sees us, because of the Cross, we truly are made in the image of God.
We were made to have dominion over creation. That does not mean to dominate, but to supervise, to manage, to be responsible for. I fear that our mismanagement and abuse has lead to the escalation of storms like the horrific hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
We were made in the image of God to continue the work of God. We were made to model in creation what God had done in creation. As John wrote, “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
Christ came to give life and to be a light. A light that shines into the darkness which the darkness cannot overcome.
We were created, and we are called, to be that light, to stand out, to shine out in the darkness of the world, and to provide a light that cannot be put out by the darkness of the world.
We are made in the image of God to love one another, because we are all made in the image of God. The person or people who you fear, who you dislike, who you avoid, who you hate, bear the imago dei; they share the eikon theou; they wear the likeness of God, just like you do.
In the time of Creation, God’s Word did what it was meant to. It turned chaos into order. It turned darkness into light. From nothingness, it brought life. It brought light and life into our world and our lives.
May we bring that light into the darkness we face, and may we share that light with those in need. AMEN.
Here is my manuscript and a recording of my sermon from Sunday, September 3. The text was Ephesians 6:10-20.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
This passage is a great one for a preacher to describe how we must defend ourselves against the evils of the world and the Evil one. We must put on the whole armor of God. We must put on:
But I have to admit, spending three years of my life in a monument to war, my perspective on fighting has changed. In Gettysburg, there are monument plaques to all of the troops that fought there. They tell you where they were from, what they did during the battle. Then, the bottom line is given; number killed, number wounded, number missing.
My three years in Gettysburg has made me aware of the cost of fighting. While I am glad for the results of the Battle of Gettysburg, I’ve driven by and I’ve walked through the Gettysburg National Cemetery with its numbered gravestones too many times to hear any call to take up arms without wanting to know why, and who we are fighting.
So, why are we putting on this armor? Who are we fighting against? We are told in the opening lines of this passage.
Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
We are not actually going to be putting on armor and fighting against enemies of blood and flesh, but rather will be fighting against the wiles of the devil.
The wiles of the devil are those that defy God and God’s will. I think we can agree this is a foe worth fighting. But look at how they are identified.
For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
The opposition are rulers, authorities, cosmic powers of darkness, and the spiritual forces of evil. The adversaries against whom we are putting on armor are those who lead us away from God’s will and God’s love and into darkness and evil.
This isn’t an individual fight. This is a battle we are all engaged in. This isn’t a struggle for you to do right. This is a fight for us to reject being lead astray. This is a war against those who want to separate, and divide us, by making us unwilling to defend, fight for, care for, and love others.
Let me remind you why we are to put on the armor and prepare to fight. We are doing this so we are ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
The Gospel, or Good News, of peace, is living in lovingkindness – a mutual care of, and for, one another. It is loving your neighbor, and the stranger, as you love yourself. It is loving others with the love God has shown for us. It is the love of God shown through what we do, what we say, what we think, and how we act.
And the cosmic powers of this present darkness and the spiritual forces of evil call us away from that.
We are to put on our armor to fight the forces that draw us away from God and God’s will.
They appeal to our self-interest. If you give, you won’t be able to take care of you and yours. If you help, you won’t be able to do what you want. If you say yes, you’ll never be able to say no.
They feed to our fears. You know you’re not good enough to do this. You have your own problems. You don’t know enough to do this. You will fail. People will laugh at you.
They call to our concerns. If you help them, they won’t appreciate it. If you give, they will take advantage of you and your kindness. They got into that trouble on their own, they should get out of it on their own. They should have known better. They’ve never helped you. They have to do it on their own. They’ll just abuse and misuse whatever you give them.
The powers of darkness and forces of evil want to do one thing: make you see you and the one to whom you are called to reach out to be on two different levels. Because if you are not equal, then at least one of you is not worthy.
If you are above, they are not worthy of you, or your help. They are beneath you. They may drag you down to their level.
If you are below, then they don’t need you, or whatever you could offer. You are beneath them. Who do you think you are to presume you have anything of value?
The powers of darkness and forces of evil want to divide us. They want to divide however they can. If we are separated, then those are boundaries we have to reach across and social stratum we have to scale. But if we realize that we all have one identity that matters, that of beloved child of God, then other divisions are superficial. We can realize that the structures that hold others down or apart are the same ones that elevate and privilege many of us. Part of sharing the Gospel of peace and our lovingkindness is to dismantle the privilege and prejudices that keep us apart.
And for that fight, we will need the whole armor of God.
In a world that is screaming for mercy, may we be the ones willing to give of ourselves to begin healing, reconciliation and unity. Amen.
Pastor Brian's Page
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell has served at Our Savior's and Emmanuel since August 1, 2011, and began serving Nazareth on December 1, 2015.
Pastor Brian is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. He graduated from Alma College with a B.A. in Business Administration, and worked for the Saginaw Public Schools' Community Education Department for 17 years before answering the call to ministry. He graduated with a M. Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish is his first call.
He is the only child of Robert and Charlotte Campbell, both who have entered the Church Eternal.
He is accompanied in ministry by his faithful bulldogge Ananias, who regularly writes for our newsletter. His articles are archived here.
He is a fan of sports teams from his native Michigan, especially the Tigers and the Lions. But we tolerate him despite that.
ONE in Christ
on Social Media
Our Savior's Facebook
Our Savior's / Emmanuel: 715-267-6142
Nazareth's Office: 715-229-2051
is at 8:00 a.m.
is at 9:30 a.m.
is at 11:00 a.m.