Links of Interest/Bibliography:
Child Poverty Links
Mental Health Links
Domestic Violence Links
Words of Welcome & Announcements
Lighting the Christ Candle & Acknowledgement of Place
As we gather to worship, let us pause to remember that in this region we live and work and worship on lands that are, by law, the unceded territories of the Wabanaki peoples—predominantly the lands of the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, and Passamaquoddy. May we live with respect on this land, and live in peace and friendship with its people.
Hymn This is the Day MV 122
Call to Worship “One: From the deep waters of the Atlantic, to the warm waters of the St. Margaret’s Bay,
All: From Hammond’s Plains, to Hubbards, to Hubley, One: From the places we came from this morning,
All: To the places of our hearts,
One: We celebrate your presence.
All: We celebrate your Spirit in our midst. ”
Opening Prayer R Hunt, Adapted
“Creating God, whose rugged beauty fills our planet,
may we discern your vibrant presence among us,
especially in the wonders of our Bay.
May our spirits be lifted to rejoice with the sand
and the wind and even the fog.
May it be so with us.”
Hymn Spirit God, Be Our Breath Be Our Song MV 150
Theme Conversation It’s the Climb
Readings Genesis 27: 1-4, 15-23; 28:10-17
From “What is the Bible?”
Musical Response I Know Your Word MV 108
The Narrative Lectionary has served up to us a continuation of the story of Abraham and Isaac. At this point in the story though, Abraham has died and Isaac is on his death bed. By this time, Isaac has married and now has twin sons, Jacob and Esau. Jacob and Esau are opposites in many senses, and their relationship at this point in their lives is still very much a rivalry. By this time, Jacob has tricked his brother out of his inheritance and in this story also tricked his father into giving him the blessing originally intended to bestow head of the family status on Esau, shortly afterwards, Jacob is encouraged to run away under the guise of going off to find a proper wife. During the journey, after sleeping on a rock, Jacob has a weird dream that frightens him. A tall ladder with angels going up and down. God appeared in the dream to Jacob, promising him land and prosperity. Keep in mind our lesson from last week. People in these times felt they had no choice other than to let the things that had happened to their ancestors also happen to them. For people who had been displaced for generations, this promise of land and prosperity would have been huge. In the end, Jacob pledges his loyalty to God in worship and then goes off to find a wife.
In our passage from John, Jesus is quoting scripture. The thing that I like about the Narrative Lectionary is that when Jesus quotes scripture, they include that story as part of the lectionary readings for that day. So yes, Jesus is referencing Jacob’s dream about the ladder. It’s like a dream coming true. Jesus is in the process of recruiting Phillip and Nathanael. He’s pretty much got Phillip onboard and Phillip brings Nathanael over. Nathanael is surprised that Jesus knows who he is. Jesus tells him he shouldn’t be surprised, and that if he’s surprised that Jesus recognized someone sitting on the edge of the crowd gathered to listen, then wait until he’s sees what’s next, it’ll be just like THE dream…
Jacob’s dream was certainly epic, but the dreaming didn’t stop with him. We hear of dreams and sometimes nightmares throughout the Bible. All the same general theme – the world would be a better place if …dot, dot, dot or if we don’t stop ____________ things will get worse. Throughout history, there have been many famous dreamers. Martin Luther and his 95 theses for the church. Beethoven and his symphonies. Albert Einstein and the theory of relativity. Martin Luther King Junior and the most memorable speech in history. Dr Fredrick Banting and insulin. Woodsworth and Douglas and universal health care. John Lennon and a song that continues to move people. And these are just a few. The dreams have continued. The 100 delegates from the United Church who travelled to the Greenbelt festival to experience a different kind of church. All of the women who marched in Washington for equal rights. Theologians such as Rob Bell, Mary Daly, John Shelby Spong, Rosemary Radford Ruther, John Dominic Crossan, Ian Lawton, Don Murray, Bruce Saguin and so, so many more who dream of a broader understanding God, the role of the church and the Bible.
In addition to the Jacob’s ladder story, the kids are getting a little bit of Midrash in Sunday School. Midrash is a Hebrew tradition of Rabbis filling in the gaps in the stories of the Torah, which is the sacred Hebrew scripture. The details are added to help the listener understand the concepts of the story in a contemporary way. In their story, Jacob climbs up the ladder and has a fun day experiencing what heaven was like. While Jacob likes heaven, after all, everyone loves, everyone is equal, and everything is easy, he realizes that there are somethings about home he misses too, like the satisfaction of climbing to the top of the mountain, or the joy of playing a game even if you lose and the feeling of accomplishment as you try harder and learn from the times you lost. So he climbs back down the ladder at the end of the day. While this is a noble attitude, what would it be like if the gap between winning and losing was a little closer? What is the mountain was the size of one in Nova Scotia rather than one in the Rockies? Maybe it would have taken Jacob so long to leave Laban and go home to apologize to his brother.
One of my favourite things in ministry is dreaming with churches. I love to dream about how our organization can make the larger community a safer, healthier, and happier all by showing the loving kindness of God to others. After being here a full two years next Sunday, I’m wondering how we here at St. Luke’s are going to connect to the larger St. Margaret’s Bay Community? What can we do to make the world a little safer, a little healthier, and a little happier for those who need it most?
Did you know that one in 3 people in some areas of Nova Scotia live below the poverty line? St. Luke’s happens to be located in an area where 10% or 1 in 10 people live in poverty. 1 in 5 Nova Scotians suffers from mental illness. 1 in 25 Nova Scotians has experienced sexual violence and reported it to police. A little bit safer, healthier and happier couldn’t hurt.
As an almost 38 year old minister I have a minimum of 27 years left before I’m 65. That’s a long time. Especially considering the national church has needed to restructure for financial reasons and I’m not sure when the national church will finally produce a balanced budget. I’m not opposed to challenging myself. I’m not sure what the church will look like in 7 years, let alone 27 years. But I’m pretty sure that without the United Church of Canada challenging society to be a little happier, a little healthier and a little safer, in particular for vulnerable people won’t happen as often. And if our stats are any indication, it’s not happening enough now.
Declaration (here is where we are headed, here is what God is doing)
So Jacob had a conversation with God. From this we can assume a few things:
1. Broken and damaged relationships does nothing for God. In fact, broken and damaged relationships harm God. Since Jacob proclaimed his loyalty to God when he woke up, he probably knew then that he would eventually return to his brother.
2. He had a profound and life changing experience during that conversation that affected not only him, but the people that would follow him, otherwise it never would have been included in the Torah or Bible.
3. Although there was a ladder going up into the sky with angels coming up and down, we aren’t actually told that Jacob goes up the ladder – only that God is standing beside him. If Jacob got a glimpse of heaven, it was the possibility of heaven here on earth or as I like to call it “The Good of the Whole”. Jacob’s trickery wasn’t for the Good of the Whole, but his apology was.
A dream of love can change the whole way we look at things, to desire to live a life of love can change the way we live. Living our lives with love can change a community. A community living lives of love can change the world.
The task before us, is not an easy one. We live in a time where success is measured by how much power and control a person has rather than how much love a person has. Jacob learned this lesson. The power and wealth he tricked his brother out of didn’t give him the success he longed for. After his dream and his pledge, Jacob’s life started to turn. It didn’t happen overnight, it took decades. But like Jacob’s, a life lived in love is never miss-spent.
With your generosity, we can work towards dreams of justice, equality, and love here in our community and around the world.
Offertory For the Gift of Creation VU 538
May these gifts, those given through PAR and our commitment to give be seen as the gifts they truly are. Amen.
Prayer Music God of the Sparrow VU 229 (v1,3, & 6)
Prayers of the People & the Prayer of Jesus
Ending with the spoken Prayer of Jesus. During the Prayer of Jesus, you are invited to use the translation and language of your choice. A variety of translations and expressions of the Prayer of Jesus (also known as The Lord’s Prayer) can be found in Voices United pages 916-927.
Commissioning & Benediction
Musical Blessing May the Blessing of God Go Before You VU 962