Stone Pillows

Have your dreams become more disturbing during the pandemic? I was chatting with friends who remarked that this is happening to them. I, too, am experiencing dreams that are louder, more colorful, more intense, and frankly more exhausting than usual. Obviously the stress of what is happening is being played out in our subconscious the minute we release consciousness. I often wake up feeling unresolved and tired. I imagine this is to be expected, given the situation.

So I thought it would be good to study a dream this morning that actually brought some good news to the dreamer. This is the kind of dream we all wish for…one that brings a sense of awe and wonder with it. This dream was filled by the very presence of God:

Genesis 28 (New Revised Standard Version)

10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. 11 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. 12 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. 13 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; 14 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. 

And indeed, Jacob produced the twelve tribes of Israel, which spread all throughout Israel and dominated the land. But even better than that prophesy was the promise God made:

15 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.” 16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “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.”

Note that verse 15 sounds very reminiscent of a promise Jesus made in Matthew 28:

 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (New Revised Standard Version)

I am with you, always. I am with you and will keep you wherever you go.

As you go off to college, I am with you.

As you go into surgery, I am with you.

As you go into the COVID-19 ward, I am with you.

As you go into the unemployment center, I am with you.

As you go into divorce, foreclosure, the second grade classroom, the never-ending argument…..I am with you.

Are you with ME?

18 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. 19 He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first.

The word Bethel means “house of God.” Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the “house of Bread.” Appropriate, as he became the Bread of Life.

God invites us today to create a Bethel in our own hearts. When you establish your soul as a house of God, he is GUARANTEED to come and inhabit your life.

So make a place for him, and open wide your doors. We are all climbing Jacob’s ladder. God will be with you, always, even to the end of the pandemic age.

Every Rung Goes Higher by Jennifer Thompson

Commissioned

Have you ever heard the phrase, “That’s the tail wagging the dog?” You will hear that used in the context of an institution or group that is allowing a minor part of the system or body to set forward an agenda at the expense of the larger whole. Obviously a dog is supposed to wag its tail, not the other way around.

It happens when the vision is too micro-focused on one certain aspect of the overall mission. It happens when one person or group has too much power and uses it at the expense of the whole. It is painstakingly transplanting a single tree when the entire forest is on fire.

I walked with a clergy friend last week who had just finished a webinar on the mission of the church. Her take-away from it was wrapped up in one incredible thought: God’s church doesn’t have a mission; God’s mission has a church! But sometimes we get that wrong, and put our mission before God’s vision. We try to wag him with the power of our planning.

Let that roll around in your brain as we take a look at the great commission Jesus gave all his disciples, just in case we have lost sight of God’s mission for his followers:

Matthew 28

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

Let’s look at the trees for a moment before we get to the forest.

There were eleven disciples there, as this occurs after the crucifixion. It is the resurrected Jesus who is speaking, and all but Judas are present. And did you catch the part where “all worshiped, but some doubted.” Can you imagine being Jesus in that moment? Come on, guys! What does a savior have to do to gain respect, already?? If Jesus was a southern lady in that moment, he would have thought, “Well, bless your hearts.”

So he asserts God’s authority once again, and then gives them their life-long commission.

GO

MAKE

BAPTIZE

TEACH

Notice that there are things that churches sometimes do that are NOT listed in that commission. Things like judge, condemn, alienate, or rebuke. The forest-view of these four charges reminds us that God’s mission has a church. And the church is the thing he is counting on to forward his mission on the earth. It is only by his authority that we do this. And the best news of all? We don’t do it alone:

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Remember that without vision, the people perish. Jesus was very clear about his vision for his followers when he departed for the last time. Go to the people where they are; bring them into a discipled life; baptize them as part of their initiation into the Body of Christ; teach them everything you know about my kingdom and its commandments.

How are you living out the great commission in your life? Are you inviting others to a relationship with Christ? Are you telling your truth in a way that people can hear Jesus? You’re the only Jesus some will ever see. Will they see him in you? God calls everyone into his mission today and invites each one to join him in this great undertaking.

So go. Make. Initiate. Enlighten.
Be Jesus to someone today, and watch the forest grow.

Kitty Hawk Bay Tree by Michelle Robertson