Church Pic 2
  • Pastor David’s Sermon – 2014/07/20

    Sorry for no video today! We were having our annual church camp-out at Lake Vermillion, and we didn’t record. Video will be back next week. In the meantime, presented here is the text off of which I preached.

    Scriptures:
    Romans 8:12-25
    Genesis 28:10-19

    Sermon:
    When I went away to college, I came to discover that the way colleges have a spring break and a fall break has absolutely nothing to do with students needing extra time to prepare for midterms, and has everything to do with going to my parents’ house to clean the gutters. It’s the first thing I think of when I think of ladders, actually: going up on the roof and pulling out slimy and half-decomposed leaves and pine-needles that smell like a toilet that hasn’t been flushed in a decade. Yup. That’s what ladders mean to me.

    But our story from Genesis today has nothing to do with that. There’s no discussion of going up on roofs at all. In fact, there’s not even any housework for Jacob here. Instead, this is a story about Jacob having an experience with God, and what comes of it.

    Now, in order to give context to that, I’m going to give a brief overview of Jacob’s life to this point. There are some words that we could use to describe Jacob, but not a one of them is church-friendly. Maybe “clever,” but he’s much more devious than that. Let’s just say that he’s not the kind of guy you’d want to spend too much time around.

    I don’t know how much of Jacob’s story you know, but we’ll do a brief check-in. The last time I preached on the Old Testament was when Abraham was about to sacrifice his son Isaac. Well, he didn’t – sorry if I spoiled the ending on that one. Anyway, when Isaac grew up, he had two sons, twin boys, named Jacob and Esau. Esau was strong and hairy; Jacob was clever and beautiful. Isaac loved Esau more, but Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, favored Jacob.

    Since Esau was born only minutes earlier and in those days, the eldest boy inherited everything, Esau was meant to earn everything Isaac had. But one day, when Esau was out hunting, Jacob was just lying about. Esau came in, famished from his hard work, and said he’d give “anything” for some food. Jacob said, “You mean it?” And Esau said, “YES!” Jacob said, “Then give me your inheritance, your rights as the eldest son.” Esau, so hungry, said, “Fine.” And so, Jacob weaseled his way into a better position.

    But that wasn’t enough. You see, in that family, there was still a father. And that father was able to give a blessing to his favorite son. So one day, Isaac is going to bless his son Esau, but because Isaac was old and nearly blind at this point, Jacob tricks him this time, and pretends to be Esau, in order to gain his father’s blessing which was meant for his brother, along with the inheritance he’d already stolen.

    Jacob was not what you’d consider a traditional “good guy.” And remember, of the two brothers, he’s the one we’re supposed to like! Now, he’ll go on from this point to have one of the great love stories of the Bible, laboring 14 years before he can marry his beloved Rachel; he’ll wrestle an angel; he’ll have 12 sons of his own, one of whom becomes famous for a certain Technicolor Dreamcoat. But those things are in his future, and maybe we’ll get to them later in the summer.

    In today’s story, though, Jacob finds himself on the lam. After all Jacob stole Esau’s blessing back in chapter 27 of Genesis, Esau had had enough. He decided that, once their father died, he would kill his brother Jacob. Even though Jacob’s really a pretty bad dude, Rebekah his mother still loves him. She overhears Esau say this stuff about killing Jacob, so she tells Jacob to lie low for a little while – maybe go find himself a wife. And why not go to her brother Laban’s house, where he’ll be safe?

    So Jacob departs, so as not to be murdered by his brother. Of course, it’s a long journey, so Jacob needs to rest during it. And that’s where we find ourselves in today’s text. It’s odd that this text would come up on our camping weekend. This is, after all, a camping text. Jacob needs a place to rest for the night, so he just makes himself a bed where he is and sleeps under the stars. I’m guessing those of you who stayed here last night were probably a little more comfortable than Jacob, who was out in the open air and used a rock for a pillow.

    And as Jacob sleeps, he has a very famous dream. In it, he sees angels going up and coming down a ladder (or, more probably, a staircase). And then God shows up, and promises Jacob to always be by his side, and that Jacob’s descendants will be as plentiful as the dust on the earth, and will spread out everywhere.

    Well, this experience is so miraculous that Jacob wakes up and realizes that he is in a divine place. So he takes the stone he had used as a pillow, anoints it with oil, and renames the place where he is. He calls it “Bethel,” or in Hebrew “Beth-El” which means “House of God.” So Jacob decides that he’s going to make this a place of worship for God.

    But then, he makes this weeeeeird little promise. He basically says, “God, if you keep me safe, well-fed, in clean clothes, and get me home safely, then you’ll be my God, and then we’ll call this place Beth-El (“God’s House”), and then I’ll offer up to you from what I have. But only if you meet my conditions first.”

    On the one hand, I think, this seems like a pretty reasonable thing to say. After all, God has promised to be right beside Jacob; but promising that you’ll do something, without actually explaining what you’re promising, is kind of a dubious thing. So Jacob says specifically, “This is what I need.”

    The problem, though, is that we can see the arrogance in the statement, particularly in light of what kind of a guy Jacob is. He’s been a nobody. He’s been a liar, a cheater, and a thief. And even to this guy, God promises to be steadfast. And Jacob’s response is to make demands? Well, it sounds like something he’d do – but it sure doesn’t sound like the right thing to do.

    I got to thinking about this in light of all of us, and how we live our own lives. I think many of us have experiences in our lives that are truly religious experiences. Sometimes they’re in worship, sometimes they are at camp, sometimes in a relationship with someone who has deeply held beliefs, sometimes at the loss of a loved one when we feel a comfort that comes from beyond ourselves. These things all happen, and give us a sense of the divine. And in those moments, it’s really easy to turn ourselves over to God. To dedicate (or re-dedicate) ourselves to living a Godly way – doing as Jesus did. To reading our Bibles every day, or spending some time with God each and every day. Yup. Those are easy things to say. And just as Jacob, in his initial excitement, dedicated a place and turned his life around, we make promises and change our way of life.

    But just like Jacob, we falter. For Jacob, it’s only a paragraph later. For us, it may be longer than that. Either way, eventually, apathy settles in. We lose some of that dedication that we thought we’d have. Old habits return. Sometimes, we may even get the arrogance of Jacob – “Well, God, I really tried to turn my life around, and you haven’t done anything for me yet, so I’ll just go back to the way things were before.” Maybe we don’t think it in so many words, but a lot of us have been there.

    But all is not lost for us. Jacob was a guy with a tremendous number of flaws. God used him anyway. That’s the really encouraging thing about this story, I think. Here we have Jacob, who’s given a tremendous gift by God, and who practically rejects it. But that doesn’t stop God.

    For me, that’s one of the greatest lessons we receive in Scripture. Now, I’m attracted to this story of Jacob because of how tremendously true it is. This is exactly how people react when they’re given a gift. They scrutinize it and wish for a better one; a perfect one. We all do this to some extent or another. But none of that dissuades God from coming to our aid.

    I think that, for most of us, if we gave someone a gift every year, and every year they told us why it wasn’t good enough, we’d stop giving them gifts. But God doesn’t react that way. God’s way of dealing with Jacob is to continue to be faithful, even when Jacob refuses to show that same kind of courtesy to God.

    We also have a story here that shows how God uses people. Maybe people aren’t perfect. Maybe they have more problems than we’d like to admit they have a lot of the time. But God is actively attempting to pull people toward the Good, even if they insist on choosing the Bad. God doesn’t simply reject the people who do bad. That’s the popular thing to do in our society today: we decide that some people just aren’t worth our time, and we reject them. But that is not the way that God deals with people. And that’s because God can see beyond the obvious, and has hope that people will change.

    So what are we to do? Are we to just reject God’s offers of help and let be what will be? I don’t think so. I think our role is twofold. First, we are asked, like Jacob, to change our lives. We can go chasing after these amazing experiences with God, just as Jacob did. And when we feel ourselves changed, we do our best to stay that way. But if we fail, we know that God is a safety net for us.

    The other thing that God is doing is calling us to be like God to the people around us. By that, I mean that if God is our safety net, we should be that safety net to others. It’s funny; there are a lot of things out there in Christian culture that will tell you how to act and how to be. But the truth is, very few of them ask you to emulate God as revealed to us in Jesus Christ. Be merciful; be steadfast; hold onto what is good; render no one evil for evil. Those are Christian virtues. We’re asked to present to the world the faith, hope and love that Jesus shows us. We do that by showing the same willingness that God shows to support those who cannot support themselves – financially, emotionally, however.

    We may not always succeed. But we don’t have to be like Jacob. And, in our weak moments, when we are like Jacob, we can know that God is always there, steadfastly standing by us even when we have turned away, waiting patiently to give us a second chance. Amen.

  • Pastor David’s Sermon – 2014/07/20

    Sorry for no video today! We were having our annual church camp-out at Lake Vermillion, and we didn’t record. Video will be back next week. In the meantime, presented here is the text off of which I preached.

    Scriptures:
    Romans 8:12-25
    Genesis 28:10-19

    Sermon:
    When I went away to college, I came to discover that the way colleges have a spring break and a fall break has absolutely nothing to do with students needing extra time to prepare for midterms, and has everything to do with going to my parents’ house to clean the gutters. It’s the first thing I think of when I think of ladders, actually: going up on the roof and pulling out slimy and half-decomposed leaves and pine-needles that smell like a toilet that hasn’t been flushed in a decade. Yup. That’s what ladders mean to me.

    But our story from Genesis today has nothing to do with that. There’s no discussion of going up on roofs at all. In fact, there’s not even any housework for Jacob here. Instead, this is a story about Jacob having an experience with God, and what comes of it.

    Now, in order to give context to that, I’m going to give a brief overview of Jacob’s life to this point. There are some words that we could use to describe Jacob, but not a one of them is church-friendly. Maybe “clever,” but he’s much more devious than that. Let’s just say that he’s not the kind of guy you’d want to spend too much time around.

    I don’t know how much of Jacob’s story you know, but we’ll do a brief check-in. The last time I preached on the Old Testament was when Abraham was about to sacrifice his son Isaac. Well, he didn’t – sorry if I spoiled the ending on that one. Anyway, when Isaac grew up, he had two sons, twin boys, named Jacob and Esau. Esau was strong and hairy; Jacob was clever and beautiful. Isaac loved Esau more, but Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, favored Jacob.

    Since Esau was born only minutes earlier and in those days, the eldest boy inherited everything, Esau was meant to earn everything Isaac had. But one day, when Esau was out hunting, Jacob was just lying about. Esau came in, famished from his hard work, and said he’d give “anything” for some food. Jacob said, “You mean it?” And Esau said, “YES!” Jacob said, “Then give me your inheritance, your rights as the eldest son.” Esau, so hungry, said, “Fine.” And so, Jacob weaseled his way into a better position.

    But that wasn’t enough. You see, in that family, there was still a father. And that father was able to give a blessing to his favorite son. So one day, Isaac is going to bless his son Esau, but because Isaac was old and nearly blind at this point, Jacob tricks him this time, and pretends to be Esau, in order to gain his father’s blessing which was meant for his brother, along with the inheritance he’d already stolen.

    Jacob was not what you’d consider a traditional “good guy.” And remember, of the two brothers, he’s the one we’re supposed to like! Now, he’ll go on from this point to have one of the great love stories of the Bible, laboring 14 years before he can marry his beloved Rachel; he’ll wrestle an angel; he’ll have 12 sons of his own, one of whom becomes famous for a certain Technicolor Dreamcoat. But those things are in his future, and maybe we’ll get to them later in the summer.

    In today’s story, though, Jacob finds himself on the lam. After all Jacob stole Esau’s blessing back in chapter 27 of Genesis, Esau had had enough. He decided that, once their father died, he would kill his brother Jacob. Even though Jacob’s really a pretty bad dude, Rebekah his mother still loves him. She overhears Esau say this stuff about killing Jacob, so she tells Jacob to lie low for a little while – maybe go find himself a wife. And why not go to her brother Laban’s house, where he’ll be safe?

    So Jacob departs, so as not to be murdered by his brother. Of course, it’s a long journey, so Jacob needs to rest during it. And that’s where we find ourselves in today’s text. It’s odd that this text would come up on our camping weekend. This is, after all, a camping text. Jacob needs a place to rest for the night, so he just makes himself a bed where he is and sleeps under the stars. I’m guessing those of you who stayed here last night were probably a little more comfortable than Jacob, who was out in the open air and used a rock for a pillow.

    And as Jacob sleeps, he has a very famous dream. In it, he sees angels going up and coming down a ladder (or, more probably, a staircase). And then God shows up, and promises Jacob to always be by his side, and that Jacob’s descendants will be as plentiful as the dust on the earth, and will spread out everywhere.

    Well, this experience is so miraculous that Jacob wakes up and realizes that he is in a divine place. So he takes the stone he had used as a pillow, anoints it with oil, and renames the place where he is. He calls it “Bethel,” or in Hebrew “Beth-El” which means “House of God.” So Jacob decides that he’s going to make this a place of worship for God.

    But then, he makes this weeeeeird little promise. He basically says, “God, if you keep me safe, well-fed, in clean clothes, and get me home safely, then you’ll be my God, and then we’ll call this place Beth-El (“God’s House”), and then I’ll offer up to you from what I have. But only if you meet my conditions first.”

    On the one hand, I think, this seems like a pretty reasonable thing to say. After all, God has promised to be right beside Jacob; but promising that you’ll do something, without actually explaining what you’re promising, is kind of a dubious thing. So Jacob says specifically, “This is what I need.”

    The problem, though, is that we can see the arrogance in the statement, particularly in light of what kind of a guy Jacob is. He’s been a nobody. He’s been a liar, a cheater, and a thief. And even to this guy, God promises to be steadfast. And Jacob’s response is to make demands? Well, it sounds like something he’d do – but it sure doesn’t sound like the right thing to do.

    I got to thinking about this in light of all of us, and how we live our own lives. I think many of us have experiences in our lives that are truly religious experiences. Sometimes they’re in worship, sometimes they are at camp, sometimes in a relationship with someone who has deeply held beliefs, sometimes at the loss of a loved one when we feel a comfort that comes from beyond ourselves. These things all happen, and give us a sense of the divine. And in those moments, it’s really easy to turn ourselves over to God. To dedicate (or re-dedicate) ourselves to living a Godly way – doing as Jesus did. To reading our Bibles every day, or spending some time with God each and every day. Yup. Those are easy things to say. And just as Jacob, in his initial excitement, dedicated a place and turned his life around, we make promises and change our way of life.

    But just like Jacob, we falter. For Jacob, it’s only a paragraph later. For us, it may be longer than that. Either way, eventually, apathy settles in. We lose some of that dedication that we thought we’d have. Old habits return. Sometimes, we may even get the arrogance of Jacob – “Well, God, I really tried to turn my life around, and you haven’t done anything for me yet, so I’ll just go back to the way things were before.” Maybe we don’t think it in so many words, but a lot of us have been there.

    But all is not lost for us. Jacob was a guy with a tremendous number of flaws. God used him anyway. That’s the really encouraging thing about this story, I think. Here we have Jacob, who’s given a tremendous gift by God, and who practically rejects it. But that doesn’t stop God.

    For me, that’s one of the greatest lessons we receive in Scripture. Now, I’m attracted to this story of Jacob because of how tremendously true it is. This is exactly how people react when they’re given a gift. They scrutinize it and wish for a better one; a perfect one. We all do this to some extent or another. But none of that dissuades God from coming to our aid.

    I think that, for most of us, if we gave someone a gift every year, and every year they told us why it wasn’t good enough, we’d stop giving them gifts. But God doesn’t react that way. God’s way of dealing with Jacob is to continue to be faithful, even when Jacob refuses to show that same kind of courtesy to God.

    We also have a story here that shows how God uses people. Maybe people aren’t perfect. Maybe they have more problems than we’d like to admit they have a lot of the time. But God is actively attempting to pull people toward the Good, even if they insist on choosing the Bad. God doesn’t simply reject the people who do bad. That’s the popular thing to do in our society today: we decide that some people just aren’t worth our time, and we reject them. But that is not the way that God deals with people. And that’s because God can see beyond the obvious, and has hope that people will change.

    So what are we to do? Are we to just reject God’s offers of help and let be what will be? I don’t think so. I think our role is twofold. First, we are asked, like Jacob, to change our lives. We can go chasing after these amazing experiences with God, just as Jacob did. And when we feel ourselves changed, we do our best to stay that way. But if we fail, we know that God is a safety net for us.

    The other thing that God is doing is calling us to be like God to the people around us. By that, I mean that if God is our safety net, we should be that safety net to others. It’s funny; there are a lot of things out there in Christian culture that will tell you how to act and how to be. But the truth is, very few of them ask you to emulate God as revealed to us in Jesus Christ. Be merciful; be steadfast; hold onto what is good; render no one evil for evil. Those are Christian virtues. We’re asked to present to the world the faith, hope and love that Jesus shows us. We do that by showing the same willingness that God shows to support those who cannot support themselves – financially, emotionally, however.

    We may not always succeed. But we don’t have to be like Jacob. And, in our weak moments, when we are like Jacob, we can know that God is always there, steadfastly standing by us even when we have turned away, waiting patiently to give us a second chance. Amen.

  • Come Join Us!

    Sunday Church Service: 9:30 am
    Adult Sunday School: 10:30am
    Wednesday Youth Service: 6:30 pm

    102 East 1st Street
    Marion, SD 57043
    Phone: (605) 648-3876
    Email: emmanuelpc@goldenwest.net
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