Genesis 28:10-16, Luke 13:20
tely to the heel of this brother, trying to keep Esau back so that he, Jacob, would be the first-born son. And God was there, in Jacob’s flight from his past to his future. After this dream, you might recall, Jacob goes on to a life filled with responsibility, love and family. His most beloved son, Joseph went onto the fame of starring in Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat and he saved a nation of people from starvation.
The story of Jacob’s dream, with angels ascending and descending from heaven and God appearing beside Jacob is referred to as Jacob’s ladder. There is a theological term for such revelations of God. The visible manifestation of God is called a the/off/any. This appearance to Jacob is one of the rare times that God is revealed to humanity. While the Hebrew people felt that God was quite active in their world, they did not actually see God very often. Jesus realized that, in his time, the people of God had stopped directly connecting with God. The Torah Laws and the use of priests, sacrifices and ritual cleansing inhibited people from seeing how God was moving in their lives. And so Jesus reminded them in his stories. He showed them that in their everyday actions—they did not have to wait for a ritual or wait to be cleansed—in the everyday, God was being revealed. He gave to his followers a way to recognize their the/off/anies, their own visible manifestations of God. For Jesus knew, only in the revelation of God to all people could the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of peace, the kingdom of God become known across all of Creation. And so, we notice God in the mustard tree, in the loaf of bread, in the quilt, in a welcome, in a kitchen full of witches baking the best cookies ever.
There have been times over the years in which we have had a bit extra come in, money that was not anticipated in our household budget. And when those times have come, we have a little ritual in our house. Before anything else is done with the money, I calculate what will be given away and I ask Christopher, where would you like to give it? To Stephen Lewis, to Child Haven, to the theatre? And each time I ask him this, he pauses for a moment and then he says, give it to the church. Each time he says this. I finally asked him—why SVUC and not the others? We know they do good work, why just the church? And this is what he said, “I want to give to the church because I see what good things are happening there. I see what impact our givings make on what the church is doing and what the church wants to do.” For Christopher, this is the living out of our offertory invite: remember that we do not give TO the church but we give THROUGH the church.
I think I would add, the reason why I want to give what we give each month to be used by this church is because I feel that God is in this place. Jacob says when he wakes from his dream, surely God is in this place and I did not know it. Surely God is in this place. The difference I think, for us in this community, is that we know God is in this place. We feel it. We experience it. In this place that we call holy ground, God is revealed each and every day. This community of faith has grown and shifted, it has moved homes and has evolved, this community of faith has a long history of following Jesus, it has been daring and strong, it has been careful and cautious, but always, always, God has been in this place. In this place, we are fed and we are loved so that we may travel the narrow path of Jesus, knowing we have companions in front of us and behind us, encouraging us to be the best we can be, to love the best that we can love, urging us to stand up for what is right and good, and comforting us when we fall down. For we know, the kingdom of God cannot happen without a community surrounding us, holding us, lifting us up and pushing us forward into growth, into healing, into transformations. That is why I give. Why do you?