This Sunday I will be preaching (I believe for the first time) on the story of Jacob’s ladder in Genesis 28. The word most often repeated in this story is “place.” Some commentators say that the word behind our English word “place” means “sacred place.”
Place matters – something we might forget in our Internet, interconnected age. The where of things is as important as the why or who or how. Imagine a picnic in the midst of the Sahara? Or playing golf in the Antarctic? Place is important, maybe more so than ever. How much of our news is about place? The conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis is over place, for instance.
Jacob finds himself in a certain place. At that place – not in another- Jacob has a dream of a heavenly stairway. A stairway that connects two specific places – heaven and earth.
One of the things that Jacob’s dream foretells is a time when place will not limit God. God is not a God of a place but a people. Not a local deity who cares about local concerns but a God whose concern is everywhere and for everyone. BUT who cares about the place where you are, where I am.
God is in THIS place – no need to search for where God might be. No need to move to where God might be found. No need to wonder if you are in the correct place.
God is in the place where you are right now.
“You realize, don’t you, that you are the temple of God,
and God himself is present in you?”
1 Corinthians 3:16 The Message
July is a month of anniversaries for me. July 1 I began my third year as pastor of Aldersgate United Methodist Church. July 1 also marks the beginning of my twenty-third year as a pastor in The United Methodist Church.
Hard to believe it has been that long. Truthfully I think sometimes how little I have really learned 🙂 I have joked that I have one year of pastoral experience repeated twenty-two times.
I could say the same (boy, just ask my wife) about marriage. Next Tuesday, Dana and I will have been married twenty-five years. THAT is even harder to get my mind around. Are we that old??? I have been married longer than I was unmarried. Wow.
Often anniversaries cause us to look back (as I am doing above). We should give thanks for the years we have enjoyed with our spouse, in work that we love. I wonder, too, if we ought to look ahead on these days as well.
The future is the only thing we can change, the only place where we can grow. Yes, it flows out of this present moment. But the past is immutable and while a source of gratitude it can also be a fertile ground for regret and pain.
In the future God awaits. In the future there is a place for change. In the future I can be a better husband, a more faithful pastor, a more deeply committed follower of Jesus Christ.
Here’s to many more milestones and anniversaries! And the future that contains them.
“This is God’s Word on the subject: “As soon as Babylon’s seventy years are up and not a day before, I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.”
Jeremiah 29:11 – The Message
We live in funny times. Freedom is a word at the core of our American credo. But we may disagree more than ever on what it means. Freedom for one person sounds like something entirely different to another. We will hear it used a great deal the next few days as Independence Day comes around once more.
What does freedom mean for the Christian? What does freedom have to do with our faith?
On Monday of this week, Donald Miller posted the following on Facebook —
“God doesn’t try to control people. And He’s the only one who actually can. Perhaps there’s a lesson in there for us.”
We muse about freedom from the power of sin and death, freedom from anxiety and fear, freedom to live abundantly in a world of scarcity. All true. But at the core of our faith, in some sense, is human freedom. And the fact that God apparently submits to that freedom in not controlling us divine power might allow.
Donald Miller’s point is about our inability – and what should be our unwillingness to try – to control others. But it begins with the observation that God leaves us absolutely free. Free to say “no” to God’s gracious invitation. Free to reject what Christ offers just as freely. Free to take the other road, the road much traveled, the road that leads to suffering and death.
Human freedom may be the greatest power in the universe as it turns out to be the only thing greater than the power of God (at least in the realm of individual and corporate decision-making).
Freedom’s greater power comes when it is surrendered in love, gratitude, and wonder to the only One to whom we should submit our freedom. Something to consider as we celebrate another year of freedom in our land. And to think about what it says about our earthly ideas of freedom perhaps.