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The Lord Is In This Place

Genesis 28:10-19a; Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24; Romans 8:12-25;Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43


July 19, 2020 – 7th Sunday after Pentecost

“Life is what happens to you while you’re waiting for your ship to come in.” Uma Thurman, who plays Glory says that to Robert DeNiro, who plays Mad Dog Wayne Dobie in the 1993 Mad Dog and Glory.

Jacob might have said that when he woke up in our Hebrew Bible reading from Genesis today. Or he might say that life is what finally happens to you when you have nowhere else to turn.

He has purchased his older brother Esau’s birthright according to one side of the story. He stole it from their father, Isaac, by trickery, if you listen to the other side of the story.

So…Life is what happens to you while you’re waiting for your ship to come in…when you don’t have anywhere else to turn…..

We come to the story this morning after Esau has learned of Jacob’s treachery and Isaac refuses to take the blessing back and give it to his favored, older son.

Esau expresses his intention to kill Jacob and Jacob runs into the wilderness to save his life. He uses a large rock for a place to lay his head and he dreams.

He has a claim to his family’s favor. There are reasons to doubt he deserves it. Now he has it but the fact that he has it becomes a threat to his life.

Where is the truth in all of this? What is the truth? So he rests into the netherworld of sleep and in his dreams, a ladder comes down from heaven with angels going up and coming down.

Life is what happens to you when you don’t have anywhere else to turn…..

He finds a way to open himself to heaven…into the presence of God. He needs to know there is a way up and down…a way to turn.

He has opens himself to hear and understand what is being said to him. God reaffirms him, as the carrier of the mantle of the one true faith. Like Abraham, his complicated grandfather, he will blessed with land…descendants…and a knowing that all people are blessed through him.

Whether that is because of…or in spite of…what he has done we cannot know…but we do know it is to be done. Where is the justice in that? Why would God stand by anyone who has so sinned?

Who else is there? He is unworthy but he is to be God’s instrument in the world now. Isaac awakens to that blessing on him. Perhaps it is a heavy burden because the way he received it. There is no other.

He does not deserve it. But God cannot wait for a sinless human being to carry God’s own truth forward into an oral history.

Jacob is the one God can deal with now. Jacob is the one human being God can count on to get it done.

So…Life is what happens to you while you’re waiting for your ship to come in…when you don’t have anywhere else to turn…..

Jacob is not the best person…not the perfect expression of humanity in the history of the world. We will have to wait for Jesus to get there.

But Jacob is the one who can cast the truth forward. Maybe he is an even more convincing messenger because God does it anyway…and Jacob, in spite of the flaws he knows full well he has, says two very important words: Yes, Lord.

He awakens in the morning and realizes that his inner consciousness has enabled him to hear the one true voice.

He is in a holy and fearsome place… profane and prophetic…secular and sacred. The Lord is in this place.

He anoints his headstone with oil and moves forward into the part of his life that has been left to him… blessed…changed…to live and serve…and to be faithful.

Much will happen, but much has happened. Jacob knows that…and we do, too. A better die is cast forward.

This theme of the troubled soul finding themselves in a wilderness …as we find ourselves in a new wilderness…only to be confronted by God runs throughout the history of Israel… and our history, too.

Elijah flees from Nebuchadnezzar and Jezebel after defeating their sorcerers. An angel finds him and feeds him and God reveals the holy presence itself to him as a still, small voice…when he is lost and alone…as Jacob was.

Moses flees from his sin and is tending his father-in-law’s goats… on the midnight shift…when he sees a bush that is burning but is not consumed by the fire…and God speaks to him there.

Paul is blinded by the light on the road to Damascus and sees he must leave the people who have trusted him implicitly to become the great instrument of people who do not trust him at all…to become God’s servant in the world.

So…Life is what happens to you while you’re waiting for your ship to come in…and when you don’t have anywhere else to turn…..

Teddy Roosevelt had his mother and his wife die in his home on the same day. He was cast into a deep depression which brought him west to a ranch at Medora, North Dakota.

He got there just in time to be devastated by the Great Blizzard of the winter of 1886-87 that Charlie Russell memorialized with his painting “Last of the 5,000.”

He learned how to break wild horses and earned the respect of cowboys who had been skeptical of this dude that had just moved in.

He was a founding member of the Montana Cattlemen’s Association. He became the great champion of the cause to make Yellowstone the first National Park in the world.

So…maybe he also knew that life is what happens to you while you’re waiting for your ship to come in…when you don’t have anywhere else to turn…..

Elijah went on to awaken Israel to its destiny. Paul went on to live a life of faith and challenge and greatness. Teddy Roosevelt went on to awaken the United States to world prominence…to the fact that it was the New World…and destined to make a holy name of the name America.

Then there was his cousin Franklin who was laid low by polio. He was the Governor and a household name in his state when the virus struck him after a swim off the coast of New Brunswick, Canada.

His life was over. The best he could hope for was to survive for a while. But he went on to be elected President during the Great Depression, to restore Americans’ jaunty belief in democracy, then led the democratic governments of the world through World War II.

It could well be that the great health loss he suffered…and… survived… gave him a resilience that he could share with people he had never met.

In any event American history records that it took a man who was confined to a wheelchair to make people around the world believe in freedom once more.

Life is what happens to you while you’re waiting for your ship to come in…when you don’t have anywhere else to turn…..

A farmer sows good seed in a field only to have weeds pop up in the middle of it. “Should we cut it all down?” No, we are to let it grow.When the crop is ripe we are to harvest the good and burn off the weeds.

As the weeds Jacob sowed were burned…and the weeds Elijah sowed were burned…and the weeds Jacob sowed were burned.

Our calling is not to do what we think is right and safe…Our calling is to give not up…to get up from our sick bed …to work out our grief… to wait for what comes next.

Indeed, it is the desolation of these people…in the Bible and in American life…that makes their stories so inspiring.

They came from somewhere…then ended up nowhere…in order to prepare them for the great work that God had in store for them.

We came from somewhere…and have ended up in nowhere…as preparation for what comes next. What we do with that is up to us.

We can get down on our luck and ourselves when things don’t go the way we want…and they aren’t going the way anyone wants now.

So we work through our day of trials to arrive at a new day…when we will find a new way to succeed …by the grace of God.

Life is what happens to us while we are waiting for our ship to come in…when we don’t have anywhere else to turn…..

I found a great story about this from our time and our place on Page One of this week’s Hungry Horse News. If you have ears, listen.

A Kalispell woman in her 30s was running on the Huckleberry Lookout Trail…where I was yesterday…when she ran headlong into a bear.

The two tumbled off the trail. The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries to her head and arm.

No word on whether the bear was injured. It ran off into the woods.

Life is what happened to them while they were waiting for their ship to come in…when they didn’t have anywhere else to turn…..

Life has changed for both of them. Life has changed them. They both have life-changing stories. So do we.

What will they do next? What will we do next? How will the world be changed because of their encounter …and ours?

It is in their hands and ours, to be sure, but it is also in God’s hands because…the Lord is in this place…too.

O Lord, what is it that you want to do in the world through us… through me…this day? How is it that we need to be surprised… stripped of our expectations… so we can hear your answer to our questions…and answer your questions. Amen.