8 Pentecost, July 23
Where shall we find the rock that is God, our only hope and our salvation? We may, by the largesse of omnipresent being, discover God anywhere, and sometimes in strange and arid places, sometimes through the instrument of visions and shadowy dreams.
“[Jacob] came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring, and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you’” (Gen. 28:11-15).
Jacob’s vision recapitulates the promise to Abraham, but it does more than that. It reaffirms the promise in a particular place and circumstance — where Jacob is and while he sleeps. This sense of divine nearness is what startles the patriarch. “Surely the Lord is in this place — and I did not know it!” “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (Gen. 28:16-17). The revelation of God “in this place” ought to startle us as well. “Do you not know,” St. Paul asks, “that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?” (1 Cor. 6:19). Jesus says, “The kingdom of God is among you” (Luke 17:21). God is always “in this place,” every location being a portal to the heavens.
Wherever we are, there is a ladder connecting heaven and earth. Upon that ladder, the Son of Man ascends and descends. He comes down to us as if a gardener, sowing the good seed in his field — our lives and the world. The seed grows, but so do weeds sown by an enemy. Good and bad grow together until the harvest, at which time the weeds are gathered and burned, while the wheat is gathered into a barn. Until the end of time, the seed of the Word and the weeds of the enemy exist together, and so humanity and all creation exist in tension and conflict, awaiting a completion known as yet only by hope. “We know,” St. Paul says, “that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for the adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved” (Rom. 8:22-24).
We shall not always groan. The weeds of the enemy, that is, “all causes of evil,” every cause of sorrow, every occasion of lamentation, will be thrown into a furnace of fire. Like “silver refined from ore and purified seven times in the fire,” we shall, through a fortunate and necessary purgation, ascend finally with the Son of Man (Ps. 12:6, BCP).
Look It Up: Genesis 28:16-17
Think About It: You are the house of God.