Sermon – July 20

Ps 139 vs 7-12

Not even in the darkest places on earth – large caves beneath the earth can we hide from God. God’s presence permeates every moment of our lives, no matter where we are. In a way that remains a mystery the Holy One overcame the darkness of nonbeing, bursting forth as light and life that is unceasing in its dynamism and creativity.

The earth was born 4.45 billion years ago as an offering of the sun. For ½ billion years earth’s main activity was to cool and form a hard outer crust that eventually became mountains and valleys. Half a billion years later life emerged as tiny cells.

For billions of years there was nothing but fire and stardust and then without any fanfare a tiny lifeless spark became alive. And as soon as it came alive it began interacting within and among itself. Life came accompanied by relationships and it’s been so ever since.

Three billion years ago that simple cell developed the ability to capture light from the sun and convert it to food and oxygen. And vola plants and all living things!

The generosity of the Sun is constant—each second the sun converts 4 million tons of itself into energy in the form of light which streams to the earth. The earth accepts this offering as photosynthesis and an intimate bond is created between earth and sun.

For 13 billion years God’s love has been radiating toward earth and earth evolved into greater and greater complexity. It was a breakthrough moment when we realized the grace which has always been present. Still divine grace continues to work from within the evolutionary process and 2.6 million years ago humans appeared and this was another breakthrough moment in the living world’s relationship with the divine. Remember the difference between the old story of the cosmos and the new story?

Old Story                                                       New Story

Static, fixed universe                              Universe is every changing

Mechanistic images                                 nothing is static/fixed
Universe does not operate like a machine

Matter is assembly of                              Matter (everything) is all connected
separate pieces

Individual is highest entity                   Individual is one of the crowd
controlling creation                                 we are servants of creation

Universe is an object                                Universe is thinking/caring/creative
An ‘it’                                                                  Has self awareness

Old/new ways of thinking and of living our lives; living our lives in relationship to everything around us. If we believe and pray in a way that has no contact or connection with the world in which we live and work then our lives can feel meaningless and without purpose; our lives can seem fragmented and disconnected. But our religious tradition is rooted in our ability to use language to reflect upon experience and to intuitively grasp that we are not alone. That tradition tells us that there is a gracious power or energy at the heart of all life. This religious tradition is millennia old, beginning far back in time with the early Israelites. The Hebrew Scriptures can be summed up as the story of how a group of people discovered that this gracious energy wanted to be in relationship with them. I use gracious in a broad sense because sometimes God has been and is perceived as far from being gracious….all those shadow words we can use….So over and over again the Hebrew people grappled with who God was and how divine grace was to be lived out in a conscious way.

This understanding of living life in a conscious relationship with God can be seen in the covenants of the Old Testament. There are 7 major covenants in the Hebrew Bible. Jacob’s dream is part of the covenant made with Abraham – that God would make Israel a great nation and scatter them far and wide on the earth but would guard them and bring them back to the land which God had given them. It didn’t matter if any of the ancient patriarchs sinned, it seemed that God would forgive them and they’d begin again. The same as our belief today.

Through the ages these covenants have been a blessing and a curse both for the Jews and other people they came in contact with, even still to today.

With these covenants we can see how a certain type of rigid thinking can keep people locked in an endless cycle of violence. But I believe there is hope for breaking this violent cycle because we’ve seen it happen in our own time of living—South Africa and apartheid, England and Ireland, East and West Germany. We can only pray that wisdom comes quickly.

Back to Jacob – – Jacob’s dream, Jacob’s ladder always been one of my favorite stories. I can just see all those angels going up and down the ladder. What are they doing? Bringing messages back & forth between earth and heaven; bringing healing, peace, songs, silence. Or is it the way for them to come down to silently walk us?

“There is an open way between heaven and earth for each of us. The movement of the tide and the circulation of the blood are not more regular than the intercommunication between heaven and earth. Jacob may have thought that God was local; now he found Him to be omnipresent. Every lonely spot was His house, filled with angels” (F. B. Meyer, Through the Bible Day by Day).

And then God was there right next to Jacob, speaking with him, telling him what God told his grandfather—blessing him with a most precious thing – – land, just like in Eden, just like in Ur of the Chaldeas, just like in Africa, Ireland, Canada, Israel, Palestine – – it’s always about the land. It’s always about having a little piece for yourself. But in the end we really don’t own the land we only tend it and keep it for the next generation. That’s the wisdom from our aboriginal sisters/brothers. And is most true.

God coming and speaking to Jacob, then Jacob awakening, realizing that God was found in the inmost silence of his dream. The silence of being, silence of knowing and being understood. Silence is one of the reasons why people are able to find God inside our church buildings. Some people find God more easily through ten minutes or so of silent prayer in an empty building than they do through an hour of noisy church service. It’s why some sanctuaries are open all the time for people to pray. Perhaps in those areas where God seems to be most absent, we in the church should aim to encourage oases of quiet and calm, places where people can sit for a short time undistracted and undisturbed in silence. Perhaps we need to offer the opportunity for silence and teach people how to use it. I know I appreciate silence far more now that I’m living on Cook Street. Frequently I wake in the middle of the night, 2:00 or so, and just listen to the silence.

Where is God found for you?

Mother Theresa found God in the slums of India and enabled those who were dragged down by the drudgery of daily life to find God too. God was present in those ugly slums, but needed a Mother Theresa to help other people to see God. Because when God is sought, there is beauty even in ugliness and nowhere is beyond God’s reach.

Perhaps one of the roles of the church today should be to enable those who are dragged down by the drudgery of daily life, to see God and to meet with God. When Jacob found God in his own heart, he found God everywhere.

And when we find God in our own heart then we too will be able to say with Jacob, “Surely the Lord is in this place–and I did not know it!”