john davies
notes from a small curate

updated regularly
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Genesis 28 - Jacob's Luz becomes his Bethel

    Iona Abbey, 16 August 2007

    Genesis 28.10-19

    He was on a sort of pilgrimage, Jacob.

    Not the sort of pilgrimage some of us are on this week:
    a journey to a holy place, Destination Worship and Spiritual Renewal.

    More a sort of 'pilgrimage through life':
    a journey to an uncertain new home
    in the hope of finding work and - under pressure from his father Isaac, also finding a wife:

    -The sort of uncertain and vulnerable pilgrimage through life
    that most of us are on,
    most of the rest of the time.

    And he found himself in a very ordinary place, Jacob:
    A shelter for the night on a rock in a town called Luz:
    The sort of place you just pitch your tent, then pass on through
    without really giving it a second look.
    The sort of place where we all spend our lives
    most of the rest of the time.

    But ordinary places can become extraordinary
    If the eyes of our hearts are opened to see them that way.

    And ordinary journeys through life can be transformed wondrously, anywhere,
    by encounters with the Divine.

    So in the dark of a dreary night
    On a campsite in humdrum Luz
    The seeker Jacob met God in a dream
    and God promised him a certain future;
    a blessed future;
    a future full of promises which far exceeded any aims and intentions that young man had;
    a future which only his father Isaac might have imagined or hoped for his son.

    As Jacob woke up from this life-transforming dream
    The eyes of his heart were opened
    to see the place he was in, in a very new way:

    "Surely God is in this place - and I did not know it!" he said, amazed.

    "This is an awesome place," he said, astonished; "Surely it is the House of God, it's a gate that leads to heaven!"

    And he renamed Luz Bethel, which means 'House of God'.

    And Bethel has ever since been known as a holy place
    to many religious traditions
    and many hopeful travellers-through-life.

    We find ourselves together here tonight
    In a place which has, for longer than anyone can remember, been thought of as holy

    (though a place of hard work and honest toil - an everyday place - for those who have made this exposed slice of rock their home).

    And we have offered each other 'peace'
    for our onward journeys:
    Maybe journeys like Jacob's -
    pilgrimages through life
    in the vulnerable hopes and dreams of ordinary folk
    returning to ordinary places.

    So we celebrate tonight
    that our Luz can become our Bethel
    If we open the eyes of our hearts
    to the possibility
    of the Divine breaking into our everyday lives.

    And we can leave this holy place
    (whether tomorrow or on another day)
    in the firm faith
    that any place
    and every place to which we travel onward
    Can be a house we share with God
    Can be a gate which opens us to heaven.

    Sermon given at an agape service at the end of a week on Iona shared between two groups, an interfaith group and ours looking at the theme of God in the City.