Jul 18, 2020

FOR PROPER 11A 07192020

Opening Words

Sing to God our praise and thanksgiving.
Sing to the Holy, Almighty, and Immortal God.
Sing the song that awaits in your heart of hearts.
Sing of your deepest desires.
Sing of the longing your soul holds this day.

Song     Be Thou My Vision

Be thou my vision, O God of my heart;
naught be all else to me, save that thou art--
thou my best thought by day or by night,
waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.

Be thou my wisdom, and thou my true word;
I ever with thee and thou with me, Lord;
thou my Redeemer, I thy redeemed;
thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.

Be thou my battle shield, sword for my fight;
be thou my dignity, thou my delight,
thou my soul's shelter, thou my high tow'r:
raise thou me heav'n-ward, O Pow'r of my pow'r.

Riches I heed not, nor some empty praise,
thou mine inheritance, now and always:
thou and thou only, first in my heart,
Sovereign of heaven, my treasure thou art.

Ruler most holy, my victory won,
may I reach heaven's joys, O bright heav'n's Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

Psalmody     Psalm 139.1-12, 23-24

YHWH, you’ve searched me,
and you know me. You know if I am standing or sitting,
you read my thoughts from far away. whether I walk or lie down, you are watching;
you are intimate with all of my ways. A word is not even on my tongue, YHWH,
before you know what it is: you hem me in, before and behind,
shielding me with your hand. such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
a height my mind cannot reach! where could I run from your spirit?
where could I flee from your presence? if I go up to the heavens, you’re there;
if I make my bed in Death, you’re already there. I could fly away with wings made of dawn,
or make my home on the far side of the sea, but even there your hand will guide me,
your mighty hand holding me fast. if I say, “The darkness will hide me,
and night will be my only light,” even darkness won’t be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day—
darkness and light are the same to you.
Examine me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts—see if there is misdeed within me,
and guide me in the way that is eternal.
Priests for Equality. The Inclusive Bible. Sheed & Ward.


Loving God,
open our ears to hear your word
and draw us closer to you,
that the whole world may be one with you
as you are one with us. Amen.

Scripture Reading    Genesis 28

Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. 
When he reached a certain place, he passed the night there. He took a rock and used it for a headrest and lay down to sleep there. 
During the night he had a dream: there was a ladder, standing on the ground with its top reaching to heaven; and messengers of God were going up and coming down the ladder. 
YHWH was there, standing over him, saying, “I am YHWH, the God of Sarah and Abraham, and the God of Rebecca and Isaac. 
Your descendants will be like the specks of dust on the ground; you will spread to the east and to the west, to the north and to the south, and all the tribes of the earth will bless themselves by you and your descendants. 
Know that I am with you. I will keep you safe wherever you go, and bring you back to this land; I will not desert you before I have done all that I have promised you.” 
Then Jacob woke and said, “Truly, YHWH is in this place, and I never knew it!” 
He was filled with trembling and said, “How awe-inspiring this place is! This is nothing less than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven!” 
Jacob rose early the next morning, and took the stone he had used as a headrest and set it up as a monument, and anointed it with oil.
Jacob named the place Bethel—“House of God”.
Priests for Equality. The Inclusive Bible. Sheed & Ward. Kindle Edition. 


O God of Jacob,
you speak in the light of day
and in the dark of night
when our sleeping is filled with dreams of heaven and earth.
May Jacob's vision
remind us to be open and watchful,
ready to discover your presence in our midst. Amen.

Mediatation     Jacob
The Book of Genesis makes no attempt to conceal the fact that Jacob was, among other things, a crook. What's more, you get the feeling that whoever wrote up his seamy adventures got a real kick out of them.

Twice he cheated his lame-brained brother, Esau, out of what was coming to him. At least once he took advantage of the blindness of his old father, Isaac, and played him for a sucker. He outdid his double-crossing father-in-law, Laban, by conning him out of most of his livestock and, later on, when Laban was looking the other way, by sneaking off with not only both the man's daughters, but just about everything else that wasn't nailed down including his household gods. Jacob was never satisfied. He wanted the moon, and if he'd ever managed to bilk heaven out of that, he would have been back the next morning for the stars to go with it. But then one day he learned a marvelous lesson in a marvelous and unexpected way.

It happened just after he'd ripped Esau off for the second time and was making his getaway into the hill country to the north. When sunset came and nobody seemed to be after him, he decided that it was safe to camp out for the night and, having left in too much of a hurry to take his bedroll with him, tucked a stone under his head for a pillow and prepared to go to sleep. You might think that what happened next was that he lay there all night bug-eyed as a result of his guilty conscience or, if he did finally manage to drop off, that he was tormented by conscience-stricken dreams, but neither of these was the case. Instead, he dropped off like a baby in a cradle and dreamed the kind of dreams you would have thought were reserved for the high saints.

He dreamed that there was a ladder reaching up to heaven and that there were angels moving up and down it with golden sandals and rainbow-colored wings and that standing somewhere above it was God himself. And the words God spoke in the dream were not the chewing-out you might have expected, but something altogether different. God told Jacob that the land he was lying on was to belong to him and his descendants and that someday his descendants would become a great nation and a great blessing to all the other nations on earth. And as if that wasn't enough, God then added a personal P.S. by saying, "Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go."

It wasn't holy hell that God gave him, in other words, but holy heaven, not to mention the marvelous lesson thrown in for good measure. The lesson was, needless to say, that even for a dyed-in-the-wool, double-barreled con artist like Jacob there are a few things in this world you can't get but can only be given, and one of these things is love in general, and another is the love of God in particular.

Jacob didn't have to climb his ladder to bilk heaven of the moon and the stars, even if that had been possible, because the moon and the stars looked like peanuts compared to what God and the angels were using the ladder to hand down to him for free.

Another part of the lesson was that, luckily for Jacob, God doesn't love people because of who they are, but because of who God is. "It's on the house" is one way of saying it and "It's by grace" is another, just as it was by grace that it was Jacob of all people who became not only the father of the twelve tribes of Israel, but the many-times great-grandfather of Jesus of Nazareth, and just as it was by grace that Jesus of Nazareth was born into this world at all.

(Originally published in Peculiar Treasures and later in Beyond Words.
Buechner has also depicted the life of Jacob in his novel Son of Laughter.)


Through dreams and visions, O God,
you broaden the horizon and hope of your people,
that they may discover the meaning of your covenant,
even in the midst of trial and exile.
Increase the number of those who believe in your word
so that all people may joyfully respond to your call
and share in your promises. Amen.

Song     Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer

Guide me, O my great Redeemer,

pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but you are mighty;
hold me with your powerful hand.
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven,
feed me now and evermore,
feed me now and evermore.

Open now the crystal fountain,
where the healing waters flow.
Let the fire and cloudy pillar
lead me all my journey through.
Strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer,
ever be my strength and shield,
ever be my strength and shield.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
bid my anxious fears subside.
Death of death, and hell's Destruction,
land me safe on Canaan's side.
Songs of praises, songs of praises
I will ever sing to you,
I will ever sing to you.

Closing Words

Blessed is God
and blessed is God's Kin-Dom

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