Sunday, July 17, 2011

Oil on the Rock

Genesis 28:10-19a

This morning’s topic is about recognizing God in our lives, and upon recognizing declaring, how awesome is this place.

Ruby Gene, now that she’s two and a half, knows well how to tell things apart.  
She knows that some things function for specific purposes, and for that purpose alone.
She knows that bracelets don’t go on ears.  
She knows that her hat doesn’t go on brinca’s head.
She knows her daddy shouldn’t use a sock to blow his nose.
She knows shoes go on feet, gloves go on hands, and diapers go on bottoms.  

Ruby knows what pillows are; she has a Dora pillow, and she has an owl pillow that I named Bury (playing on her name).  
So yesterday, I had to experiment,
in light of this passage, I had to try a rock.
I selected this one (show it)
brought it inside, and promptly lied down...and rested my head on it.  
And I asked, Ruby, do you like my pillow.  She went nuts.  
Esta no es almuada.  Papi. No!  
She pulled my hair as she lifted my head several times.
Then she went into the other room to get a real pillow and she said, here daddy, here. Esta es una almuada!  

Oh if only she could have seen Jacob out in the middle of nowhere using a rock as a pillow.  Esta no es almuada Jacob!  Jacob, evidently, had more to his imagination than a 2 year old.  

Jacob saw a rock, and said, that will make a great pillow!  Maybe not a great pillow, but a pillow none the less.
He was exhausted.#  He had left Beersheba a fugitive, fleeing for his life after deceiving his brother, Esau. He’s stumbling toward Haran. a vagabond, somewhere between a conflict-ridden past and an uncertain future. Far from his homeland; at the center of no man’s land.  The sun was setting there in that nondescript place. That rock looked like a good pillow to Jacob.

Many of us can relate to sleeping on a rock pillow.  Certainly many of us have questioned actions of our past
decisions we made; things we’ve done; We were sleeping on a rock pillow.
And what about our futures?  How many of us have had feelings of uncertainty about the future?

And yet we run run run, trying to get somewhere, but where? It’s exhausting, and rocks look like good pillows after a long day of running to no where right? Some of us may be sleeping on rock pillows right now.
And where is God? Do we see God?

The sun is setting on Jacob’s life that was. He falls asleep on his rock pillow....he dreams.  

He dreams of a ladder that reaches to heaven with angels of God going up and down on it.
A stairway to heaven connecting heaven and earth.  Jacob dreams and God speaks!

God speaks to Jacob where he is; God is not distant and far away, God is immanent, close, present. God speaks, and reminds Jacob of the promises God made to Abraham and Isaac and now to Jacob. God speaks when Jacob is most vulnerable, and reminds Jacob that God is his God.

God speaks and transforms a desperate man into a purpose filled man.  God speaks and tells Jacob his future is one in which his life will not be governed by self-interest, but rather he and his off-spring are to be a blessing for all people.  

Jacob hears God speak:  Then he wakes up.  The place has changed.  Jacob is a changed man.  

Jacob wakes up from his dream, And says, God was here the whole time, I just didn’t see it.  
His once bleak desolate world has all of a sudden become AWESOME! How awesome is this place!  

So, Jacob’s not through with that rock. Jacob, sees that rock.  That rock that he made into a pillow.
And he says, that Rock is going to mark that God has been here. He pours oil on it. And names the place, Bethel - house of God.  

I love the imagination of Jacob. Taking something so ordinary. A rock, and seeing a pillow.
Taking something so ordinary, a rock, and seeing an alter for God.

So much of what we see depends on how we see the world.  So much of what we see depends on how much of God we recognize in the world. Our imaginations can be holy. As we see what is, and yet, recognize that God is.   

Is that just a rock, or is it a pillow? Is that just a rock or is it an alter? Is this just a desolate place, or is it a place where we can find God? Is my life without purpose, or is it a life purposed for God?

We, as human beings, are so creative. Creatures of the Creator, we create some amazing things: from the wheel to the iPad we see materials in certain forms and creating something new.  But, I think we can sometimes limit ourselves in this process.  Our society has become known as a throw away society.  Items and materials that once were purposed and functioned in a specific way, like a can opener, or a spray nozzle for the watering hose; end up in the trash can after they grow dull, or break. We love our well functioning material, until, until, they no longer work well for us.

As creative as we are, so often we have limited visions, limited imaginations, so often we see a rock, and that is all we see. But Jacob saw a rock, and saw a pillow. Jacob saw a rock, and saw an alter for God.

In the middle fleeing anxiety, Jacob saw God’s presence. In the middle of an unknown future, he saw that he was called to be a blessing for others.    How awesome is this place!  He says.

I love that Jacob pours oil on the rock.  No one is watching him.  He is just there, but he has experienced God in a profound way.  He has to do something. Something to mark the occasion.  

He could have used the rock to give himself a haircut - do any of you do that, get a hair cut when a something big has happened.  Getting a tatoo was not really an option for Jacob - I know some of you do this when you go through something big. But he does have oil, so he pours that oil on the rock, and declares it sacred. Bethel.  The house of God. How awesome is this place!

How awesome is this place.

How awesome is this place?  

I think a lot about this church. This church, the people, and this church the physical building.  When I see the people gathered here, coming by, calling, emailing, do I just see people, or do I see children of God - heirs as Paul calls Christians? When I see this building, do I just see bricks and mortar, or is there something else that is happening here? Do I see God’s sanctuary?  A holy place?

In the 1950s, key leaders of the congregation, iglesia segunda presbyteriana de santa fe (hispana) had a dream, they had a vision. They saw more than just meeting in some space designated to them by people at First Pres.
They saw a place, a building, a gathering of people who would experience God.  They built this building, installed pews, built a chancel; hung a picture on it.  Brick upon brick, the sanctuary, the social hall, the rooms were formed, and given purpose. Dedicated to God.

Can you see past generations of people working hard to make this place special? They had experienced God, and wanted to share that experience by building.

And, since then, many have experienced God in this place.  In the midst of change and transitions, people have experienced God in this place. Through prayers, through gatherings, through Christmas Pageants, and Easter Sundays.  Through music, yes even through session meetings.  God’s presence has been felt has been so many:  

Have you experience God here?

In a hug when you were lonely, in a smile when you were down. In a bible study, or a Spanish Supper?

I have seen God do some amazing things in this community. I have seen people experience healing and wholeness. I have seen people freed from addiction. I have seen lonely people make friends and live out their calling in confidence. I have seen broken relationships restored. Here in this place, among this people, I  see God at work. How awesome is this place!

Right now, this building, which was beautifully and accurately described by Louise Singleton in a recent letter as a dear elderly grandmother who has loved us well and given and given; this beloved building needs some help. The session has approved a 15k capital improvement plan to give the building some help.  So, the session is asking for all of us to pitch in and help out.

Building and grounds care group have identified: Getting a stove and a dish washer, doing some energy improvements, some electric work and some roof repair, and hopefully, a history display to honor and celebrate those who had the vision long ago for this place.

We are quick to discard things in this society that no longer function to meet our needs.  In the 21st century, life has changed, and this church continues to transition, I believe God is present here, and is calling us out of our past, and constantly re purposing us and giving us a future, to witness to the reality of God in the world, and be a blessing to the nations.  So we can exclaim, and future generations can exclaim: How awesome is this place!

I’d like for us to use our imaginations.  If you have experienced God in this place, I’m asking that you give a gift to the capital campaign, as your able, which will be like the oil Jacob poured on the rock. Put some cash or a check in an envelope and mark it Capital campaign - oil for the rock.

That’s what I want to call the campaign - oil for the rock.

I also want to encourage us to recognize God’s presence in many places. ON the communion table, are small rocks.  I want to invite you, when you come up for communion or before you leave, to take one, take it home with you, and carry it with you each and every day, until a time when you say, Hey, God is present here and I didn’t know it! And place that rock there, and leave it, as a reminder that God is present. I’d love for you to email me or call me when you put your rock some place; and to tell me about that experience, we could have running list of where we saw God.     

How awesome is this place.  God is present here, There, in our hearts, Everywhere.

And calls us to a future which is a blessing for the nations.  

Thanks be to God.

1 comment:

  1. I left my rock in the church "garden" in great gratitude after learning that Sherl would not be leaving us after all. - Erik Mason