What a promise God makes to Jacob in Genesis.
On Tuesday, at the first of our advent reflections, a group of us started to ponder the issue of distance.
Jacob in the story was in a very fragile place - family upset and sibling breakdown, an unknown future, journeying through unfamiliar territory - and yet in the very mess of Jacob’s reality God showed up. Before his journey to Harran his father Isaac had prayed that the favour of the Lord would be with his son, as with their forefather Abraham. Our Bible study highlighted how praying prayers of blessing over one another and our communities is really life giving.
In the space of an hour’s discussion we unpacked the beautiful imagery of a ladder stretching from earth up to heaven and we saw in the heavenly angels ascending and descending a sacred yet ordinary place of communication with God. Jacob was in awe that in his confusion he was in fact standing at the gate of heaven and that God was standing right alongside him.
As they communicated God made Jacob a wonderful promise to guide him and protect him on his onward journey and fulfil all his promises to him. Jacob woke from his dream and upturned his stone pillow and made of it a pillar, which he then consecrated with oil. We considered how Jacob deemed that place as holy - a time of communing with God. Can we similarly look back at markers of encounter with God in our lives?
This led us to discuss how prayer affirms us, and even if our requests seem unanswered the truth that God hears us and promises to always be with us offers us strength and hope.
Of course the notion of distance has become so prevalent in our current experience. As we talked we recognised that the pandemic has caused many of us to struggle with fears of abandonment and being forgotten, isolated in our homes. We distance one from another even when we meet - keeping 2 metres distance and forgoing the physical touch of a hug or a reassuring hand on our shoulder. Even as we do our best to meet virtually, we can feel removed from what we know and love, particularly services in church.
We were encouraged to express our hearts desires and to be very honest with God as we talk to him in prayer. We touched on groaning prayers and wordless prayers that connect our very selves with the love of God for us. This conversation touched on some deeper points, but a lot of fun too!
Finally we turned our thoughts to how we might reflect God’s light in the darkness of the pandemic. We were challenged to think of who in our communities may be isolated and how we might reach out to them.
In our distance, in our confusion, in our places of breakdown and unfamiliarity let us hold fast to the truth God loves us and God promises to be with us. We remember that in Christ God’s promises are yes and amen.