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So are the days of our lives

As sand through an hour glass so are the days of our lives.
These words have become not only the start of a well-known TV soap but the iconic image of the ups and downs of family life.

There’s good news and there’s bad news;
the good news is that long, long ago once upon a time there was actually no television.
The bad news is that Days of our lives started well before the advent of TV.

The story today from Genesis about Jacob that low down rotten, scheming, snake in the grass and beep, beep and beep not to mention his mother reminds us that family life is never easy.
Today we hear about the good Jacob who is taking a rather uncomfortable nap on a rock for the night.
If anything would give you a restless sleep this would.

But what today’s reading doesn’t tell us is why Jacob is there in the first place.
Jacob as I have alluded to belongs to a rather dysfunctional family that God has sought to take on.
Because years before today’s events God had called Terah & Abraham, Jacob’s grandfathers to leave his family and the land he lived in to go to a place God would show him.
God also promised to give Abraham such a large family that they would become a nation and that through Abraham all the people would be blessed.

Now I’m not too sure just how much research God got his angles to do before choosing Abraham and Sarah but by the time the events of today’s reading took place I think God might have been wondering about the choice of this family.
You only have to look at the facts through our cultural understanding to work out why things were going a little haywire.
Abraham married to his half-sister Sarah are trouble having children and then turns around and has a fling with Sarah’s servant and they have a child.
When by some miracle Sarah actually has a child of her own, she Sarah see’s red and forces Abraham to ditch that other woman and her son in the desert.

About this time Abraham by all accounts starts to hear voices and decides that God is telling him to kill his son Isaac and only by some last-minute intervention on God’s part does Isaac survive.
Well the story doesn’t end there Isaac grows up and instead of allowing Isaac to choose his own wife Abraham sends off his servant to find a wife for Isaac and who else do they choose but his first cousin Rebekah.
Now by all accounts Rebekah was a bit of looker, for one of the stories of Isaac and Rebekah’s first meeting, tells how Isaac falls off his camel distracted by the very lovely Rebekah.
Unfortunately, Rebekah is also a devious, manipulative schemer and as time goes by helps Jacob to get not only the birth right of Esau but also the blessing of his father.
By this time Esau has had enough and threatens to kill Jacob and under the guise of finding a wife for himself back with his mother’s family he runs away and finds himself in this place called Luz later to be called Bethel.
Now that may well be the reader’s digest version of the events of family life with Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Esau.
You might well say also that it is somewhat sensationalised.


But you would have to agree that this family is not going all that well on their journey of faith or life as the great Patriarchs and Matriarchs we often portray them as.
At this point in the story of Jacob and the Hebrew people we might be forgiven for suggesting that Esau was a better choice.


But we can identify with these very human of people, as one of our family’s friends likes to remind us when we get together and we start to whinge about the goings on in our respective families that all families are dysfunctional is just a matter of degree.
We know all too well of family disputes, who gets on with whom, who’s done what to whom and those carefully hidden family skeletons in the closet have a nasty habit of becoming public knowledge.
That’s not to mention our church community, who’s not talking to whom this week or has for the last 20 years never forgiven someone for taking over “their” job and we are so good at putting down and categorising people who we disagree with theologically or don’t like the direction some group in the church wants to take us.


Life in family and community is often not what it may seem to the outside world and the struggle to find faith as Jacob was discovering is not easy.
But Jacob encounters God in his dream and God passes on to Jacob the blessing of land, nationhood and the blessing of all people.
God also reassures Jacob of the presence and watching over of God.


Jacob is completely blown away by his encounter with God and speaks from the heart when he says, “Surely God is in this place and I didn’t know it”
The story of Jacob goes on for some time and Jacob in many ways never changes his ways all that much.
He remains selfish and willing to manipulate the truth to his own ends.


He certainly doesn’t treat his wives or children very well yet he learns some things about faith and life and in many ways, he reminds us of ourselves.
Here at Tuggeranong we have our own story of ups and downs, of living with disappointments and journeying with our stories of faith and connecting our lives with spiritual meaning and purpose.
In all of this it is good to remind ourselves that the story of Jacob teaches us some important things.


It reminds us that God’s way of seeing is at times quite different than ours and we need to be careful in rushing to judge situations and people, that’s God’s work.
Jacob’s story tells us that God is present and constant in history and will be part of our ongoing future, whatever that future may be.
God blesses, giving us a place to belong, meaning and purpose for life and through us blessing others.
It also reminds us that God’s promises are unconditional and are much more about who and what God is than about us.
If Jacob can be part of the blessing of God then there is hope even for us.


Like the parable from Matthew’s gospel which talks of God’s kingdom in terms of a paddock of sown wheat we can see our lives both as individuals and as community as containing both wheat and weeds.
God’s kingdom has drawn near through Jesus and we have been offered a place in it like seeds sown in a paddock.
We may encounter other seeds that although look much like wheat plants are not wheat at all.
Those seeds may be part of our own lives or the lives of those within the world that choose other paths.
But like the farm workers ours isn’t to be about rooting up non-wheat plants or even spraying them with selective herbicide to make some mono culture of Christianity.
We can leave that to the farmers, ours is to be disciples, hearers and doers of the word.
Our call, having chosen to live in God’s kingdom come near in Jesus is radical discipleship.


Discipleship that is concerned not with the differences of faith, life, politics or theology but about enacting the kingdom come near.
This radical image of the kingdom can be frightening and challenging to us in the church who at times wish to control what, how, who and when people do things.
It challenges us over our institutional structures, how we give expression our sexuality, of how leadership is enacted and how we will be the church in the community into the future.
It challenges us because there are consequences for the choices we make that will affect people and communities for many years to come.


Despite those challenges communities of faith are called on to make life giving choices for the future. The journey of faith we have heard of today shows us that things do not remain the same.
We grow in our faith and understanding, circumstances change, disappointments come and faithful people like Jacob and us make new choices for the journey of faith in God from time to time.
The texts we have today tell us that like Jacob we too can encounter in the most ordinary of places the presence of God.


“Surely God is in this place and I didn’t know it” was the response from Jacob the most pig headed, self-centred and obstinate man you have had the misfortune to meet.
This can be our response to if like Jacob we stop from our running and frantic life and open ourselves to God’s dream and reassurance.
It is a dream that offers us a place to belong, a family to be part of, a community in which we can be supported and within which we can grow and learn of the love of God.
It is also a dream in which we can leave for God the ultimate unfolding of history and the judging of other’s actions.
It is a liberating dream of life lived by the grace of God shown to us by Jesus the Christ.
And it is a dream that calls us to live as disciples, with ears that listen and eyes that see that
“Surely God is in this place and I didn’t know it”
Amen.

Geoff is Presbytery Minister (Congregation Futures) in Canberra Region Presbytery, with a particular focus on faith formation and development among members of the Uniting Church congregations in our region.

Quote for today

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Wanniassa ACT 2903

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Erindale Centre ACT 2903 

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About Our Church

Our faith community began in 1975 as a small ecumenical gathering of people who settled in the new Canberra township of Tuggeranong. We have grown with the Tuggeranong Community, and our parish centre is the hub for our work, as a place of worship, of gathering and ministry.

We aim to help people have life to the full. We welcome people into a our Christian community where they can connect with God, with one another and with opportunities to make a difference in our changing world.

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