Christina Baxter on Jacob in Genesis 28 10-24

At Holy Communion this morning, we thought about Jacob and his dream. Christina Baxter (St John's College) preached and she did so eloquently and passionately.

This is what I took from the sermon as pertinent, so this is what I heard, not what she said, but this is what God revealed to me through her words:

And so Jacob has closed the door on his past or perhaps God has closed it for him. He leaves behind his struggles with the father-in-law. He has run from the brother with whom he has fought since they were in the womb. Jacob finds a place to rest on his arduous journey. He places a stone behind his head and he begins to dream. Perhaps we are to imagine the ladder in his dream as a rope ladder coming down from the skies, for this is not a ladder set up from the earth, but let down from above. There is two-way traffic, angels ascending and descending. Jacob sees the face of the Lord and he survives. God reveals himself to Jacob, meeting Jacob right where he is. Jacob comes from chaos and uncertainty but God has a plan for Jacob and will reveal to him the big picture in which Jacob will play a small but necessary part.

God reveals who he is. He is Jacob's God of the past and Jacob's God of the future: 'the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac' but also of 'your offspring' and they will be like 'the dust of the earth', they will be so numerous 'to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed'. This is the big picture, through Jacob's descendants we will receive our Lord. Jacob receives not just one but two promises: the other promise is that God will 'be with' Jacob and 'keep' Jacob wherever he goes. God will bring Jacob 'back to this land'.

When Jacob wakes, he says 'surely the Lord is in this place - and I did not know it!' He becomes both active and afraid in response. He feels a holy fear and he feels called to action. A door has closed behind him on his past. He had begun to walk through the door to his future, stepping out onto an uncertain road full of dark shadows and rocky resting places. There is now a door that has been opened above him and so there are three doors and from the one above, Jacob has glimpsed the face of his Lord who will be forever with him. And so to action: Jacob anoints the stone where he rested and uses it to mark the place of the vision. This is his testimony and similarly we should share our testimonies and mark the places where we feel that God has touched us, so as not to forget, and so that these occasions may be used to serve as an encouragement to others. Jacob then makes a vow to God but by it reveals the weakness of our shared humanity. God promised Jacob he would be with him and 'keep' him 'wherever' he went, but Jacob has further requests. 'If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothes to wear, so that I come again to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God.'

And so it is that God can reach us despite the conditions with which we come to his table or it is perhaps with God's grace that we proceed to move beyond a place where there are conditions.

Can we say 'yes' to you God and attach no conditions, trusting with faith in you that all will be well, as the promises you have shared with us take hold in our lives?

And so may I come to know that the door to my past is closed, that there is a door through which I can tread out the journey of my future but that I am not alone, for a rope ladder descends from the heavens and the angels of the lord are all around me and accompany me as I go. Thank you Lord. Amen.

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