Surely God Is In This Place

CALL TO WORSHIP: This is our God! We trusted in Him, and He saved us! This is the LORD, in whom we trust. Let us rejoice in the salvation He brings!

Gracious God, when we go out to a feast, or invited to a big dinner, we are told to come hungry. You have spoken to our hearts, and we have come to feed upon Your word.

Make us hungry for all that You have to say, and keep us coming back to You for more, for we know that You are the only one who can make us truly satisfied. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

HYMN 88: PRAISE TO THE LORD -StF.

PRAYER OF ADORATION: Lord our God, we will honour and praise your name, For You do such wonderful things!

You always bring about the things that You plan. Strong nations will come to understand how glorious and powerful You are. You are a place of safety for the poor, and for those in distress.

You give comfort and protection in the storms of life. Nobody can be boastful in Your presence.

LORD our God, we will honour and praise Your name, For You do such wonderful things!

You want all people to know You and to realise that You are their God. To celebrate with You will be like coming to a feast in which You provide the best of everything.

Lord our God, we will honour and praise Your name, For You do such wonderful things!

One day, You will blow away all sadness from the earth like the wind blows away a cloud. When the time is right, You will even make an end of death and people won’t have to dread it any more, or be sad because their loved ones have gone. On that day the people will proclaim, that You are their God.

Lord our God, we will honour and praise Your name, For You do such wonderful things! Amen

TALK FOR ALL: A LADDER OF ANGELS (Genesis 28:10-19)

Dreams can be wonderful––so full of mystery and adventure. When you wake up and remember your dream it is fun to write down what you recall––sometimes you can compose a beautiful story or poem from the scenes in a dream.

In the Bible we learn about a very beautiful dream. This dream happened to a man named Jacob and the Bible tells us that Jacob “… dreamed. Behold, a stairway set upon the earth, and its top reached to heaven” and he saw “… the angels of God ascending and descending on it” (28:12).

Can you imagine how wonderful this dream must have been––that Jacob saw angels going up and down a ladder from the earth to heaven? Think of the stories, or poems, or songs you could write when you think of that scene.

This story goes on to tell us that the Lord stood beside Jacob while he slept and said,

“The land whereon you lie, to you will I give it, and to your seed (offspring)” (28:13).

And God also said to Jacob, “… I am with you, and will keep you, wherever you go…” (28:15).

Just think of how happy and blessed Jacob must have felt when he awakened. He had had the most remarkable and comforting type of dream.

In fact, when he woke up he said, “Surely Yahweh (the Lord) is in this place…”(28:16).

Think about Jacob’s dream and remember what the Lord said to Jacob, “… I am with you and will keep you wherever you go…” The same promise is offered to each one of us.

Let yourself be comforted by God’s words and pay attention to your own dreams. God gives us a remarkable brain and the ability to dream and be creative––remember that ladder of angels.

HYMN 77: I WILL ENTER HIS GATES WITH THANKSGIVING – StF

PRAYER OF CONFESSION AND THANKSGIVING:  Today, we will think about the story that Jesus told in order to help us with our prayer of confession.

Let us pray. In the story, a king had a feast, but those invited did not come. Lord, forgive us when we refuse Your invitation to know You better.

The servants went out with more invitations. Lord, forgive us when we give up serving You because we don’t see quick results.

The servants invited everyone they found. Lord, forgive us when we ignore Your call to invite everyone.

We know that Your generous love is for all. Forgive us when we don’t play our part in that work.

Since Jesus died for all, we can be forgiven. Thank You for the new start that we have because of what He did. Help us to show our thankfulness by telling others about Your love and generosity, so that all may have a chance to accept Your invitation. For Jesus’ sake. Amen

READINGS: GENESIS 28: 10-19

HYMN 470: LORD FOR THE YEARS YOUR LOVE HAS KEPT AND GUIDED – StF

SERMON: SURELY GOD IS IN THIS PLACE (GENESIS 28: 10-19)

When you think of Jacob, what comes to mind? Clearly, he was one of the most colourful people in the Bible! Sometimes we think he was a shady character, such as when he “bargained” with Esau for the birthright. I still think there’s a bit of humour in that incident; “Esau” means “red”, and Jacob was making a stew or some kind of dish out of something that looked, well, red! Esau traded his birthright for a meal, but he never got it back

God has a tendency to choose fairly surprising people to do the work of the kingdom. Frankly, many of the people we read about in Scripture are a bit of a mess. That is very much the case when it comes to Abraham’s family. They were a perfect demonstration of the same kind of infighting, periodic faithlessness, and personal weaknesses that we experience on a daily basis.

Last week we read about the attempted sacrifice of Isaac. Today we hear about Isaac’s kids, Esau and Jacob. Theirs was not a happy relationship. They were twins who had spent their entire lives struggling with each other. Even before they were born they had battled it out in their mother’s womb. This rivalry continued right up until the day of their father’s death.

Jacob was the younger of the twins. According to his culture, he should have had no claim on Isaac’s inheritance. Everything should have gone to his older brother Esau. Through a series of somewhat questionable actions, including some deceit by his mother, Jacob had managed to trick his father into giving his everything. Esau was understandably enraged and threatened to kill his brother. Jacob had to flee for his life.

As one of the youngest child in my family I am naturally sympathetic Esau. It seemed natural to me that younger siblings should automatically recognize their superior wisdom and experience. For some reason I never seemed to understand that fact and rivalry naturally ensued. While I would like to claim that I was always the innocent victim, the truth of the matter is that I was not. After everything that I put them through, I am somewhat amazed that they still speak to me.

Esau’s case, however, is somewhat different. He truly was the innocent victim here. Jacob was a trickster. His name itself meant “cheat”. Jacob was the younger brother who supplanted the eldest through treacherous means. Even as he flees for his life, it can be somewhat difficult to feel sorry for him in this story. After all, he did this to himself, with his mother’s help.

On the other hand, when we take an honest look at our own lives we see that we are capable of the same kind of things Jacob has done. We too give into the human temptation for striving. We exclude those who have a claim on God’s love. We allow rivalry, deceit, and sin to enter into our lives. We allow others to assist us in our treachery. We too destroy relationships and anger others by our behaviour. We are a lot more like the “cheat” than we would like to admit.

Jacob stated clearly, first, that he didn’t know, or hadn’t realized, that God was there. The concept of God being everywhere may not have been easy for these early believers to grasp but it’s true. I’ve seen a number of stickers which had the motto, “wherever you are, God is” and in one sense, that’s true. In another sense, that’s not entirely true, because God is everywhere even if we are not. In other words, we are limited to being in one place at a time but God, clearly, doesn’t have that limitation.

That is why the story of Jacob’s ladder is so important. While fleeing through a foreign land Jacob beds down on rocky ground. He is cut off from everything he knows because of his own actions. He has nowhere to turn. Things cannot possibly get any worse.

That is very point where God steps in. The voice of God is heard and Jacob awakes a changed man. He names the place Bethel, which means the “house of God.” What surprised Jacob the most is that God was in that place and he did not even know it.

Dear friends In-Christ, have you met God? There is no need to find a “Bethel” or any other place that some may state is sacred, special, or anything else. If you have never met God before, you can do so any place, any time, when God speaks to you. Do this today!

That is often the way that God meets us in our lives. When we are broken, lost, and alone we feel like there is nowhere else to turn. Jacob’s ladder reminds us that God is present with us in the wilderness. Jesus Christ himself spent time in the desert before beginning his ministry. He knows what we are going through. Even when we are sleeping on a rock because of our own actions, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and gives us a glimpse of what God is doing in the world. AMEN

HYMN 600: VICTIM DIVINE, THY GRACE WE CLAIM – StF

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION: Today, as we pray for ourselves and others we shall use some of the phrases from the twenty-third psalm. Let us pray

The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength.

Lord we pray for those who never seem to have time for peace or rest. We pray for people in jobs with great responsibilities, having many others depending on them for work or for other needs. Help them to find time for rest and refreshment.

We pray too for those whose strength is gone because of illness, or age. Help them to lean upon You. Lord, You are our shepherd You provide all that we need.

He guides me along right paths, bringing honour to his name.

Lord, we pray for those who have taken a wrong path, and are now in trouble; for those who are in prison or waiting to find out what their punishment will be; for those who have got into bad habits and do not know how to shake them off.

We pray too for families who are anxious about a loved one who has gone wrong. Help them to know that You love them whatever they may have done, and give them strength and courage to do what is right.

Lord, You are our shepherd You provide all that we need.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for You are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.

We pray for those who are going through dark and difficult times. We think of those who are sad because they have lost loved ones; those who are depressed; those who cannot think of any way out of their present situation. Help them to know that You are beside them and to remember that they do not walk alone.

Lord, You are our shepherd You provide all that we need.

You prepare a feast for me. We pray for those who are hungry today; for those without enough food to feed their families; for those living where harvests have failed; for those who dare not gather in their harvest because of danger.

We thank You for those groups who take food out to places where there is need. Keep them safe, and show us what we can do to help.

Lord, You are our shepherd You provide all that we need.

You honour me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.

Now we pray for ourselves. Sometimes, Lord, we forget how many blessings we enjoy. We thank You for them now, and especially for Your promises that You will always be with us. Help us to live in Your way, trusting in Your presence, and resting in Your love.

Lord, You are our shepherd You provide all that we need. Amen

HYMN 94: TO GO BE THE GLORY -StF

BLESSINGS: We thank You Lord for Your invitation to come and meet with You today. As we go, may we offer Your invitation to others so that they too may come to know You for themselves. And may the Blessing of God, Father Son and Holy Spirit continue to be upon us and remain with us always. Amen