How Awesome is this Place – sermon preached for Dedication Sunday 2019


How awesome is this place!

In the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

How awesome is this place – it is none other than the house of God and this is the gate of heaven.

Now Jacob was on the move. He wasn’t at home when he had that dream about Jacob’s ladder.

The truth is, his father Isaac seems to have become fed up of him moping around on his own in the Promised Land and had decided that the only thing that could be done with him was to tell him to pack his bags and head off out of the Promised Land and go back to where the family had come from.

In the verses just before the story of the dream about the ladder things are very clear.

Isaac basically tells him to go off on a quest and not come back until he’s got a wife to come back with.

Isaac had met his wife as she drew water from a well and he more or less orders Jacob to go off and do likewise. Go back to the homeland. Hang around the wateringholes and don’t come back until you’ve found a wife just like your mother.

I don’t know whether anyone here has ever been put in a similar situation. I do know that such an order would have been unlikely to work on me, for a number of reasons, but Jacob wasn’t me.

Yes father he says. And off he trots to the old country.

We know what his dream was at night, but what were his daydreams as he travelled.

Did he dream of finding the perfect spouse?

Or did he just dream of shutting up his old man?

Did he dream, as young men sometimes do, of riches and wealth and possessing many camels?

Or was his the journey of someone satisfied by the simple life?

Did he dream of winning the equivalent of the lottery of his day by coming home in possession of a wife or two, who would bring land and livestock into the family business?

Or did he never intend to go back at all?

Did he dream of becoming a patriarch himself? Or did he dream of smashing the patriarchy and establishing equity and peace once and for all and an end to fathers projecting their own impossible dreams onto the lives of their sons.

We don’t know. But we do know that somewhere, somewhere in the middle of nowhere, he had to rest and fell asleep and had a dream that has captured the imagination of countless people through the ages. A ladder. With angels. And the angels moved up and down. And heaven and earth were connected. And God was there.

I don’t know what your dreams are as you make your way through life. I might guess I suppose – there will be people here who do dream of the lottery win and riches and wealth being theirs. There will be others who dream of academic success. Or to climb another step up their workplace ladder. Or for a child. Or for a spouse with lovely eyes.

When two or three are gathered together there are many dreams amongst them.

And some may have loftier dreams that are not just about themselves. A dream of a calmer and more rational politics to re-emerge from our current chaos. A dream of safety for those who are beloved but in danger, far, far away. A dream of a world that can recover from our climate vandalism and be a nourishing and safe place for all of God’s children.

Such is the stuff that dreams are made on.

But not Jacob.

His dream is one of those that seems to come from outside himself.

In the turmoil of his journey to satisfy his father’s desire for grandweans, he stops and rests and to his considerable surprise, God is there.

I don’t know exactly what the dreams of those who laid the foundation stone of this place were.

They were surely seeking a place to worship safely. They were surely seeking a place to worship magnificently. They were surely seeking a place to know God and from which they could make God known.

Their exact dreams I cannot quite know. But I know that God was already there.

As it happens, I also do not know exactly where the foundation stone is that was laid to mark the beginnings of this place.

We know it was laid with some ceremony but try as we might, we can’t find it.

(One theory is that this pulpit may have been built in front of it and if so I may be standing more or less on top of it).

But surely those who laid it brought all their dreams and turned them into prayers that day.

I don’t know what they dreamed of. But I know that God was with them.

I don’t know what those who come after us will dream. But I know that God will be with them.

And I don’t know all of your dreams and hopes and desires. But I know that God is with you today.

Today on this dedication Sunday, we celebrate this place, giving thanks for all who built it for those who have kept it and for those who have loved it through time.

This is a place that has been the place of so many thousands of people coming and going through life. Some for a fleeting moment. Some for a lifetime.

But finding in this place that Jacob’s dream is kept alive and is shared by a living, loving, open, inclusive and welcoming community at this point in time who believe that God is here, right here and ready to share love and blessing with those who scarcely dare suspect that might ever be true.

Jacob’s dream of the ladder is sometimes criticised these days. It seems to suggest a universe in which heaven is up there and the earth down here and a separation of all that is earthly from all that is holy.

And that notion of having to climb up the ladder to heaven rung by rung – that seems to suggest superhuman effort needed to find God.

But no. Read it again.

The point of the dream is that one little line that gets so overlooked. In the middle of the dream Jacob sees a ladder stretching from earth to heaven but finds that God is standing beside him.

It isn’t that we have to push the angels out of the way and haul ourselves up to heaven.

It is that God has come down that ladder. God is already here. And we are already loved.

How awesome is this place said Jacob.

How awesome is this place, say I, as I look around me today.

This is none other than the house of God. This is the gate of heaven.

Amen.

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