Have you ever rolled a stone over?

Have you ever rolled a stone over? Sometimes there are worms; sometimes little rolly polly bugs; sometimes only grass or dirt. Whether surprises or not, moving a stone is an interesting experience. The daily Bible reading from Faith this morning was Genesis 29: 1 – 14, that describes the first meeting of Jacob, son of Isaac, with his future wife, Rachel. They met at a well where shepherds bring their sheep. They are an unlikely couple. I don’t think lookingforawife.com would have paired them up: • He is blessed. She is a lowly shepherd. • He is fleeing. She is following her daily routine. • He is a younger son. She is a younger daughter. • He is a dreamer. She is down to earth. • He is looking for his uncle. She is looking for the well. • He is a tither. She has nothing to give. • She needs the stone covering the well to be rolled away; Jacob rolls it away. The only thing they have in common is that Jacob is looking for water and so is Rachel. And, by the way, she also is his first cousin. Part of verse 8 says this: We can’t water the sheep “until…the stone has been rolled away from the mouth of the well. Then we will water the sheep.” Without waiting for the proper time, Jacob rolls the stone away, and the sheep are given fresh water. So they meet, water the sheep, fall in love and eventually marry. (But that is another story.) As I read this, I remembered the words from Matthew 2: “And suddenly...
God has a dream and a way for you.

God has a dream and a way for you.

Some people seem to live dream-like lives, don’t they? That was Esau, Jacob’s older brother. He was probably chosen first when their friends were picking teams for games. He was probably the teachers’ favorite. Esau got into the best colleges, joined a great fraternity, graduated with honors and got a high-paying job. His family was beautiful. Have you ever known people like that? Everything comes easily to them. They aren’t anxious about anything because they don’t need to be. It’s not that they don’t work, they just don’t work too hard, and they get – not what they deserve – they get more. For the rest of us, life is more of a challenge. So we understand Jacob. Jacob’s name means striver, hustler, supplanter. And that’s exactly what he needs to be to get on in his life. Some people have it made, and others of us have to make it happen. In Jacob’s story – may be our story – we discover that making our own dreams come true is a perfect way to go the wrong way in life. The best dreams come from God. The best dreams, the things we most deeply yearn for priceless gifts, things like being loved and respected, cherishing those who are close to you, having integrity, beholding beauty, discovering joy in your work, being able to make a positive difference in other people’s lives. Dreams like that are blessings from God. And blessings cannot be hustled. They can only be received. Rebecca, Jacob’s mother, had told her second child that God had promised that he would be blessed. God had even...
We see the sacrifice.  God provides possibilities.

We see the sacrifice. God provides possibilities.

In first-year Hebrew, we spent one semester learning the alphabet, vocabulary, and grammar.  The second semester, we started translating and this is the first passage we translated, this terrible passage about a man being asked by God to prepare for the sacrifice of his son. The passage makes sense as a “starter passage” because there are many repeated words and phrases:  “took, take”,  “went, went up”, “look, looked”,  “here, here, here I am.” But our ineptitude made our translation very slow so that the arduous journey of Abraham and Isaac seem endless.  Word by word, it felt like we were going with them step by step up that mountain on a dreadful journey.  It gave us plenty of time to wonder what God was asking of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac. Plenty of time to wonder why Abraham kept moving forward.  Plenty of time to whisper into Isaac’s ears, “Turn around.  Run home.” Plenty of time to wonder where they were going. The sacrifice that God appears to ask of the small family is awful. But the truth is we are often asked to make sacrifices that are awful. To let go of a relationship that mattered to us. To give up food or drink that we believe we cannot live without.  To walk out of safe situations and into dangerous ones.  To commit our money to something other than our comfort. Often the journey to that sacrifice is slow and tortuous and filled with questions.  We cannot believe that a loving God would call us to do what seems like death to us. But in this story, as in our stories, God’s...
We Come From a Good Place for a Good Reason

We Come From a Good Place for a Good Reason

Where are you from? When we were traveling in Greece during the sabbatical, people would ask us: Where are you from? We would start by saying we were from America. If they were with us so far, we would get more specific and name our state. We found out very quickly who were basketball fans. Greeks are very proud to have their own Giannis Antetokounmpo playing in the NBA. More often though, a look of befuddlement would come over their faces and we would have to add, “Indiana is a state in the middle of the United States.” Often Where are you from? was followed by Why are you here? That’s when I probably looked befuddled. Because it’s Greece! I wanted to cry. But one of the girls or I would say: Because there is so much to see here. Or We are hiking. Now and then, someone would push for a deeper answer.  But a minister’s sabbatical is a strange enough concept to most Americans. There were a lot of cultural differences to navigate in Greece since the reality of women ministers hasn’t arrived in the Greek Orthodox church. Where are you from? and Why are you here? Those are foundational questions about our origins and our purpose. Our answers tell us about our identity and our reasons for being. Our reading from Genesis is an origin story. Genesis is not history or science as we understand those disciplines today. The first chapter of Genesis is poetry, hymn, doxology, myth. It doesn’t deny science or history. It tells a deep truth those disciplines cannot contain. The Genesis story...
3b Class for 55 and older

3b Class for 55 and older

3B Brain Body & Belief   Exercise is really for the brain, not the body. It affects mood, vitality, alertness and feelings of well-being.  – John J. Ratey, MD, Harvard Medical School Joins us on Wednesday mornings at 10:00 AM in the Narthex at...