Today’s readings share a common thread with a reminder of the strength and solace we find when we hold onto the knowledge that God remains faithful to us while we live with the challenges in our world and lives.
Have you ever had a dream that you’ll likely never forget? I had one probably 50 years ago where my sheets were spread all over the street, and as I watched them, they became white as snow. I’d been going through some trying times and that dream helped me understand that no matter what, God was letting me know I am loved, and that God was present in my life. All I needed to do was believe and respond. I love God dreams.
We just heard Jacob’s dream. Jacob was in the wilderness, unsure of what lay ahead. To put it mildly, he wasn’t the nicest person. He was Abraham’s grandson, yet he wasn’t living as though God was important in his life. Jacob must have known his family heritage, yet aided by his mother Rebecca, he was manipulative and went so far as to impersonate Esau and steal the blessing from his father Isaac meant for his elder brother. He was forced to flee from his home for fear of his life. His journey was a lonely one, and at night he used a rock as a pillow. I’m very fussy with my pillows, always looking for a more comfortable one so I can’t imagine using a rock. Jacob had a remarkable dream of a staircase to and from heaven that reassured him that God was with him and would always be with him. God would keep his oath to Abraham. This is good news for us. If God redeemed Jacob, so to God can redeem us. Jacob was opened to the reality of God’s love and God’s promises. Jacob took the rock, poured oil on it and sanctified it- making the ground holy.
Like Jacob, we find ourselves living with uncertainty and doubt in our own wilderness. Like Jacob we know that God is right there with us, and we can sleep easily on our comfortable pillows in that knowledge. And just as Jacob discovered God’s presence in the wilderness, we too can experience God’s unwavering love in our wilderness.
I wonder if Jacob knew Psalm 139. I find solace and hope in the words of Psalm 139. This is an intimate picture of ourselves and how God is wrapped around us no matter where we are or what we are doing. God is in our struggles. We can’t hide from our loving God no matter where we go. How reassuring these words are. I won’t read the entire psalm to you again; my suggestion is that you take the bulletin home or pull out your bible or prayer book and read it slowly a few times. Let it sink in and take comfort in it. It’s a remarkable way to see ourselves in God’s eye. The psalmist acknowledges that there is nowhere we can go to escape God’s presence. This understanding should bring us comfort knowing that God knows us better than we know ourselves. It invites us to examine our lives honestly before God knowing there is nothing we can hide. Let us embrace the intimate relationship we have with our God, who searches our hearts and knows us.
We live in a world of good and evil illustrated by wheat and weeds. We know that God is aware of the evil and suffering in this world and that God will bring justice in due time. Paul knew this isn’t the world God wants us to have. And even as we live ‘by the flesh’ as Paul called it, we are encouraged to live ‘by the spirit’. Paul speaks of our deep hunger to be in relationship with God.
We can be our own worst enemy. Each day we feel, see and hear anguish and turmoil in our lives and in our country and our world. We can become overwhelmed by what is happening. Gun violence, especially against children pierces my heart. I’m tired of vicious rhetoric from political adversaries. I want to remind people that we are meant to love one another. I’m saddened by the number of homeless people in the city and those who come to be with us on Thursdays. We see around 50 people each week with varied needs and living conditions. Governments and some churches do not want to give our LGBTQ+ siblings the right to live their lives in peace. We tolerate racism and ignore climate change. In many ways, these conditions and challenges are not much different from the issues Paul addressed in his letter to the Romans. Paul knew then, like now the world is full of injustice, war, poverty and suffering. And yet, Paul gives us hope that if we live by the Spirit, we will live joyful lives.
If we live according to the word of God, God will lead us in a way that often means going outside of our comfort zone and doing new things. If anyone had told me 12 years ago that I would be retired, a grandmother to two wonderful grandchildren, ordained, here, in this place and managing a Drop-In Center for the poor in the Springfield area I would have said they were crazy. Yet here I am. My life is full of joy and excitement which is enough to get me through the moments of fear.
We are called to live a life that is shaped by our relationship with God. Through that we discover what it means to experience ourselves as children of God.
I don’t believe there is anyone that is 100% bad/evil. Everyone is redeemable. If that were not the case evil could win and my faith tells me that evil will not win. God will prevail. We know to look beyond Jesus’ passion and look toward the Resurrection. We are Resurrection people. Part of that means we don’t get to judge others. We are all part weed and part wheat and we know that God will deal lovingly with each one of us as we deal lovingly with everyone around us. We are meant to provide comfort in small and large ways. We are meant to be always compassionate. As followers of Jesus, it isn’t up to us to determine wheat and weed in our neighbors.
Living out the vows of baptism and as we faithfully look at the end of the passion story – we discover that the power of the Resurrection proves the truth of the parable of the wheat and weeds. We can recommit ourselves to leaving the weeds to God. God alone knows the wheat and the weeds. It’s not our job! Hallelujah.
As Paul reminds the Christians in Rome, Christians are reminded now – we do not hope based on what we see. Christian hope is based on the confidence and assurance that the risen Christ is present in the world, bringing all things to what they are meant to be.
Just as Jacob discovered God’s presence in the wilderness, we too can experience His unwavering love. We can look to psalm 139 and know we are known. We can find comfort in the knowledge that God is aware of the evil and suffering in this world and that God will bring justice in God’s time. Let us embrace the intimate relationship we have with our God, who searches our hearts and leads us on the path of righteousness.