Scripture: Genesis 28:10-19a (NRSV)Jacob left Beer-sheba and went towards Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’ Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’ And he was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’
So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel;
Reflection:How is it that we encounter God in out-of-the-way places, but so often miss God on our own home turf? You travel to some holy site; touch the stone and hope your prayers will be carried to God’s ears by winged messengers on an invisible escalator. All the time, God is sitting at home in your kitchen, drumming Her fingers on the counter and wondering how you failed to notice Her on the way out the door this morning.
Maybe we need road trips to escape the email and dodge the laundry piles long enough to clear our vision. Maybe we have more God-sightings on road trips simply because that’s when we’re actually paying attention. We breathe the air and walk along paths that invite us to notice: the feel of the earth under our feet, the sound of wind in trees or water on rocks, the ring of laughter or joyful chatter in the marketplace, or the color of fabric flying in the breeze. At their best, vacations remind us how to keep our eyes peeled and our senses tuned – how to move through our every day at a pace that allows us to catch glimpses of the Sacred.
So visit the holy sites if you like; they may awaken you to God’s presence in a new way. But realize that God may be blessing some ordinary hiking trail in your home town, while you are pouring oil over stones in a distant land.
Realize, too, that in the end it’s God who finds us, and not the other way around.
So take note of the morning you wake up after a surprisingly peaceful sleep, awash in a sense of well-being. You grope for your glasses, head for the shower, or reach for that cup of coffee. As your head clears, it dawns on you: something sacred has occurred here. “Huh,” you think. “It seems God was in this place, and I did not know it.” You hurry back upstairs and anoint your pillow, the night stand and the bedspread for good measure. As for God? God has already moved on, ready to meet you somewhere else, wherever you – and the world around you – are in need of a blessing.
Prayer:Everywhere God: Open my eyes, my ears, my heart to signs of you, wherever I travel and in my own back yard. Amen.
Rev. Alison J. Buttrick Patton is Pastor of Saugatuck Congregational Church, UCC, in Westport.
July 19, 2017