“Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it.” — Genesis 28:16
from Pastor Dave
In the book Old Testament book of Genesis, Jacob, having tricked his older brother Esau out of his birthright, flees before him to the distant household of his grandfather. Stopping to rest for the night, he makes a stone his pillow. As he lies there, he has a dream of a staircase reaching between earth and heaven with angels ascending and descending upon it. Then suddenly, he hears the voice of the Lord extending the same promise of blessing, of security and a future, which God had first made to his grandfather Abraham. Waking the next morning, clearing his eyes and looking around at the ground, the stones, shrubs, soaring birds and surrounding hillsides, he declares “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it.” Jacob then rises and, including his stone pillow, erects an altar to the Lord naming it “Bethel” meaning “The Entrance to the House of God”.
In her book A Geography of Faith: An Altar in the World, author Barbara Brown Taylor writes of the meaningful ways in which we can discover the sacred in the small things we say and do and in the simple practices of walking, working, and getting lost. The word sacred has been used by the Church to describe everything that is somehow connected to God, making it worthy of respect and devotion, even awe inspiring. Unfortunately, Taylor point out in her book, we have often limited our idea of the sacred to practices and sacraments within the church on Sunday mornings. We have unfortunately separated the sacred from the mundane and in the process feel our lives disconnected from God during the week.
In my own spiritual journey, it has been authors like Barbara Brown Taylor, Eugene Peterson, Wendell Berry and my study of other world religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism, which have helped me to begin to see all of life as sacred. The way this works for me is in being mindful of all the ways my life is connected to God and the world around me and then being intentional about celebrating those connections. This morning, stopping to pick up coffee and breakfast at Wawa, I had left my things on the check-out counter to go back to pick up packets of ketchup. Returning, the cashier joked that she thought I had left her breakfast. At first embarrassed, I said I hadn’t, but that I would remember her idea in the future. I then searched out her name tag as she was taking my money. Her name was spelled “J-a-c-e-l-j-y-n”. “Oh well,” I thought to myself and took a flying leap thanking her by name. Fortunately, I got the pronunciation right and, noticing the apprehension in my voice, we both laughed.
Was my exchange with Jaceljyn at the check-out counter of little note or was it something sacred? Was it an altar, Bethel,… “The Entrance to the House of God?”
The problem so many of us face in the 21st century are our feelings of alienation from others and God. Unfortunately, unaware, we go around far too often during our busy weeks not recognizing that “God is in this place and we did not know it.” We need to be more mindful of and intentional about looking for and celebrating the connections between God and our ordinary daily existence.
So, let me encourage you in the coming days to look for the sacred in all things: in the gracious eye contact you make with passing strangers and in your kind words, in the work of your hands that the Lord gives you to do, in your gazing out of your car window at the beautiful array of fall leaves, in your preparation of dinner as you slice ripe tomatoes and cucumbers to make a salad, in the laughter you share with others around a breakfast or dinner table, in thanking your cashier by name. These moments can all be an altar, our Bethel, our entrance into The House of God, moments worthy of respect and devotion, even awe inspiring… leaving us feeling love, whole.