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.
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.
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