Message – Surely the Lord is in This Place!
Scripture: Genesis 28:10-19
As a child I fell asleep to music and, without fail, it would be the Little Mermaid cassette tape or the Beauty and the Beast cassette tape. Looking through the lens I see my life through, I would have said those were probably my favorite movies when I was little. However, my mom views my life through a different lens and she remembers my favorite childhood movie a little differently. She remembers a much, much, much younger me about 4 years old probably that would reenact the scene from my favorite movie. I would grasp a dowel rod, we had plenty of those around the house, I would grasp it in my hand, climb up onto the couch, bring the dowel rod down on the cushion and fling my arms wide while boldly and loudly proclaiming, Behold the mighty hand of God. Because my favorite movie as a four year old was, Cecil B Demille’s The 10 Commandments starring Charlton Heston.
The Lord works in mysterious ways? I feel grateful my mom remembers that because I for sure do not. The lens through which we look at and experience life matters. That lens determines who, how, and what we notice and recognize. The lens through which we look at our life matters, and Jacob, after he wakes from his vision of God, encounters the world anew, with a new lens and awareness and cries out, surely the Lord is in this place!
In our scripture today, we find Jacob in the midst of a journey. Jacob is both traveling to find a wife and fleeing the anger of his brother. Jacob tricked their father into giving him the blessing due to his brother Esau. As Jacob travels night falls, as it does, and Jacob goes to sleep. During his slumber, Jacob encounters God in a dream and when Jacob awakes he is fearful and filled with awe. But above all else, Jacob recognizes that God had met him in that place and spoken life and hope. Jacob says, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” 17 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.” Jacob then marked that place, he took the stone he had slept on, turned it upright, poured oil on it, and called the place Bethel which means house of God. Jacob awoke from his slumber and saw the place around him anew, recognizing and realizing that God’s presence was there. And that realization wasn’t just for him, it is for us too. That realizations calls to us across millennia, inviting us to recognize how, Surely, the Lord is in this place! And now, you might be thinking, but pastor, the world is kind of a dumpster fire right now. True, and God is still on the move and God is in this place. It is a message, written throughout scripture from Genesis to Revelation. That message says God is in this place and that place is with us and beside us working to bring good, working to bring justice, working to make all things new. God is not on top of a ladder or somewhere impossibly out of reach. God is here. The psalms say, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me…You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me…Where can I go from your spirit?” In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The end of Revelation affirms, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them.” Christ’s own name, Emmanuel, means God with us. Surely, the Lord is in this place! Over and over again we see scripture reminding us, encouraging us, to recognize how God is in this place, how God is beside us, how God is loving us.
You know, pastoral transitions are hard. I know that. Change is never easy but something I love, I love about getting to know a new community, new people, and a new church is that I get to see and be a part of how God is moving and working. Surely the Lord is in this place and that statement is so true about y’all, about Hanscom Park. I have not been here for a full week at all yet but already I feel God’s movement and God’s presence. God is in the welcoming, natural, at home feeling I get every time I walk in the building. God is in your families and your stories that I cannot wait to hear more of. In a country and state seeing a rise of hostility and attacks towards the lgbtq+ community, the presence of the Lord is in this church’s commitment as reconciling church to welcome and name the sacred worth of people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions. Surely the Lord is in this place in our upcoming VBS next week, in our music ministry and worship. God is continually doing new things through Hanscom Park, including the vital All People’s Pantry and connections with the new American community in Omaha, your work supporting and advocating for refugees and immigrants, and partnerships with local schools and businesses.
The good news is that the house of God and the gate of heaven are not isolated or confined to ancient Israel or one location thousands of miles away. The house of God and the gate of heaven are right here, right now. Surely the Lord is in this church, in your families, and in our town. I feel honored and humbled to be your pastor. Together, let us experience and lean into how God is here now and discern the dreams and visions God has for the future. May we wake up every morning with Jacob’s insight. Recognize how the Lord is moving and working in our church, in our lives, in our town, and in our world. Surely, the Lord is in this place, this is none other the house of God, the gate of Heaven, thanks be to God. Amen.
Rev. Stefanie Hayes