16th Sunday after Pentecost – September 24, 2017 (Presbyterians Sharing Sunday)
Genesis 27:1-4, 15-23; 28:10-17 and John 1:50-51
The last two weeks we have been looking at the book of Genesis, the start of the Bible. On September 10 we saw how God is the provider of new beginnings, God creating something spectacular out of nothing. The next week we explored Isaac being brought by his father, Abraham as a sacrifice to God. But we learned there was no need to sacrifice Isaac, because the God we serve, provides what we need. Yes, even in our toughest situations God promises not to abandon us.
Today, as we look at the story of this same Isaac, a grown and certainly aging man now, he and Rebecca had twin sons. Of the two, Esau was born first, with Jacob grabbing Esau by the heel. Having the birth-right of being the first child was a significant deal in that culture. However his mother Rebecca and Jacob find a way of tricking his brother Esau out of this right. They go ahead and cause Isaac to bless Jacob despite him being the second-born of the twins.
In chapter 28 we see how things fall apart after that deception. Jacob had to flee for his life from his brother Esau who is outraged and feels cheated by his younger brother Jacob. Jacob only has a rock for a pillow as he flees from his brother. He is down and out and without hope. Jacob is at his wit’s end. He can’t see forward and has literally ended up in a calamity with broken relationships at home.
Dreaming about the ladder going up to heaven was impressive to Jacob and gave him hope. What really surprised him, however, was God standing by his side. He didn’t need to climb the ladder in order to get to God. God came down and stood with him.
Sometimes in life the ladders appear too steep, the obstacles too overwhelming and the distance too great. Our faith is weak and our hope almost non-existent. During these times, God may seem far away. Like Jacob, we are surprised to see God standing by our side, walking with us through life. Sometimes God sends us a friend, a colleague, or a family member to help us through tough times and give us perspective.
God sends us to help others in very serious calamities, ordinary human actions of love and compassion can be a true comfort in people’s lives:[image of soldier holding toddler girl…a few seconds]
God does this through God’s children across the world…from refugees coming from various parts of the world to Canada, or Hurricane victims being supported, the End Poverty initiative in Edmonton, Fort McMurray people going to help with fire-fighting in Kelowna, because of course, they were affected by wildfires themselves.
Right here at Dayspring, many of our mission and missional projects are examples of ways that God works through us to help provide hope:
Our Mexican mission trip of building houses for two extremely vulnerable families in the Baja peninsula of Mexico springs to mind. Our small efforts made a huge difference in those families’ lives. Filling a vehicle full of soccer balls and school supplies to be delivered to Cameroon. At Christmas we’ve filled our tree full of socks, mitts and toques for those less fortunate in Edmonton.
With our weekly Food Bank commitment and just recently our 3rd annual community carnival – trying to make some small difference right here in our immediate neighbourhood
In fact, here’s one of my favourite quotes:
“If you want to see the face of God, look into the eyes of your neighbour.” [slide with these words on:] We are all called by God to make a difference in the world God works through all of us, if we allow it.
Let’s have a look at a few photos: little children helping their neighbour, teenagers sitting assisting an older person with technology, youth mowing for a neighbour, block parties where neighbours are getting to know one another.
Looking at the bigger picture, as a church denomination, today we are asked to reflect on all the many projects that the Presbyterian Church in Canada does through Presbyterians Sharing around the world. The support that we provide certainly does provide hope amidst calamity. We tear down walls of inequality and injustices and our efforts at tearing down walls don’t stop in Canada. In a broken world desperate for God’s vision of grace and justice, our gifts to Presbyterians Sharing support international mission partners by sending mission staff and short term volunteers and providing grants. Our congregation gets to donate $20,000 over the span of a year to many of these causes within our denomination.
In closing, we certainly do not live only for ourselves, that is not God’s plan for us. The Lord God guides us and works through us to bring hope to others. In our examples today, we have seen this through our actions at Dayspring, locally in our city, provincially as we help other provinces in need, nationally and internationally.
We are all a blessed people with God guiding us along the way. Jacob in our reading was blessed regardless of the sense that he deserved nothing by being such a trickster. He caused his own calamity. Nevertheless, God still blessed him with the promise of endless hope and a wonderful future. Let us all find hope in
God’s promises and bring hope to others by God working through us.
Copyright 2017 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church
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