God Comes Down

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There’s this famous ladder in the story today.  And sometimes we think we have to climb a ladder to get to God. To earn God’s love. To get God to love us or forgive us.  Sometimes people even think they can buy their way to heaven, one step at a time.  But it’s not true. It’s why we have these arrows today to remind us that God is here.  God comes down. Surely the Lord is in this place.

Jacob got a blessing.  He got a blessing from God after he’d stolen his older brother’s blessing and had to run for his life.  God shows up in a dream and, of all things, blesses him!  This lying liar. This cheating cheater.  He get’s a blessing. Its as if God isn’t paying attention at all. He awakens from this most awesome dream and says, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” And then, my favorite part, And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God,

Which sounds about right.  Because blessing from God comes into our lives and changes us, transforms us, and awes us.  It is a fearful thing to blessed by God, and I am glad it was not lost on Jacob.  Even he, running in fear, knew when God had changed things.

When have you had an experience that caused you to say, Surely the Lord is in this place.  When have you had an experience that would have called for a giant arrow to appear, to point out God to you?  That God’s blessing was at work.

You see, sometimes we open the Bible and we think, “what? he stole a blessing?  and then had a weird dream?  and then got a blessing?  how does this relate to me?”

My friend Naomi’s mom is called Pilla.  Her given name at birth is Pricscilla.  But she is so a Pilla.  Born with a sense of humor and adventure, her life has been anything but dull.  The last 10 years have been hard on her health. She has been near death so many times, I have lost count.  The last 2 years have been especially corrosive on her body and her relationships with her 4 children as she continues to try and go about her life as if she were completely healthy instead of quite vulnerable.  Her answer is always no to more care. No to plans outside of her own total control.  No to financial plans. No to housing plans. No, no, no.

Until she said yes.  Just a week or two ago.  Another care conference. Another meeting with the siblings.  And this time, yes.  Yes to help. Yes to giving up her home. Yes to life in a new way.  And then, instead of changing her mind, digging in her heals: tears.  Tears of sadness and grief. Tears that acknowledged this new reality.  Tears of relief.  As Naomi told me of this new yes, the air crackled with promise.  The silence between us was filled with new life, with something that had changed. That word “yes” served as a blessing.  That yes released potential. That yes signaled future.

Surely the Lord is in this place.

God comes down.

God comes down into our deepest pain, our most awful struggles, into our ugliest times. Meets us right in the hard stuff. In the grief. In our shame. In our stubbornness. and then works on us. And then, because of God’s work, God’s blessing comes out of our own mouths. Yes.

Surely the Lord is in this place.

I read this blog post earlier this week.  A woman was in the drive through at a Starbucks. She had her dog along with her and was a bit distracted and so when she looked up, she wasn’t sure if it was her turn to nose her way into the line or another person’s turn.  So she made that face you make when you try and communicate with another person in another vehicle.  “You? Me?  Huh.”  The woman in the other vehicle, however, had no question whose turn it was and gunned her vehicle to get in that line before this woman.  And as she gunned it and got into line, she leaned out her window and yelled a sentence of expletives I won’t repeat here.  Let’s just say they would raise the hair on your head.  A whole range of emotions went through this lady with the dog, but what won out was empathy. She suddenly was able to see herself in that same position 10 years before, young children, sleep deprived, hair pulled back, yelling on the phone.  She pulled up to order and said into the intercom, “I’ll pay for whatever that lady is ordering. And please tell her that I hope her day gets better.”  There was a delay. She could tell the Starbucks employee was talking to the woman.  The lady pulled away having paid.  As our friend with the dog got to the window, she said “no takers, huh? but did you tell her I hoped her day got better?”  The employee said, “She wouldn’t let you pay for her after all the horrible things she said to you.  And yes, she said her day was already better and to thank you.”

“Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!”

God comes down.

The arrows on the front of your bulletin today tell you that this kind of thing happens all the time.  That God comes down.  We don’t have to ask God to be there – God already is.  So God comes down and blesses us.  With words that give life, that interrupt our lives, That disrupt our lives. That transform our lives.

And that blessing is so disruptive because it doesn’t stop at us. It is not a self-contained blessing but one that simply cannot stay in one person or place but expands to impact countless others, into the lives of all kinds of people and places that God loves.

So there’s the arrow that points down. Then there’s the arrows that point to the side.  That’s the movement of blessing – what happens to you after a blessing from God.  Blessing from God that then is not stopped at you but God works through you, with you, around you, despite you even, to bless other people.

I mean, come on, despite Jacob’s shifty lifestyle, God worked through him to bring blessing to other people.

A woman who has spent the last 10 years saying no suddenly says yes.

A woman spewing hate and frustration is blessed by kindness and empathy.

And all the people around them are awash in the blessing too.

And so this is why we turn to the cross. These arrows show both God’s work through Jesus Christ in coming down to us.  And then our lives live in response to that blessing, going out to impact others.  A blessing of the word “yes” that only God could have worked out of Pilla’s heart.  A blessing of a woman not returning anger for anger but instead seeing herself, offering the smallest of gestures to the other, with ripple effects she’ll never know.  And this isn’t their grand idea. Their awesome inspiration. These little, huge moments are straight from God, coursing through our lives.

God comes down, taps us on the shoulder, and says, “hey, this is for you.”  We never deserve it.  We can’t wrench it away from God. It can only be given and is freely given to us over and over and over.

 

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