Commissioning Sermon- Bishop Lawson Bryan

(Please note this is from a preaching manuscript that Bishop Bryan prepared for the evening–and is more outline and not an a transcription)

THE GREAT DISCOVERY

GENESIS 28:10-18

10JACOB LEFT BEER-SHEBA AND WENT TOWARD HARAN. 11HE 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. 12AND 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. 13AND 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; 14AND 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. 15KNOW 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.”

16THEN JACOB WOKE FROM HIS SLEEP AND SAID, “SURELY THE LORD IS IN THIS PLACE—AND I DID NOT KNOW IT!” 17AND HE WAS AFRAID, AND SAID, “HOW AWESOME IS THIS PLACE! THIS IS NONE OTHER THAN THE HOUSE OF GOD, AND THIS IS THE GATE OF HEAVEN.” 18SO JACOB ROSE EARLY IN THE MORNING, AND HE TOOK THE STONE THAT HE HAD PUT UNDER HIS HEAD AND SET IT UP FOR A PILLAR AND POURED OIL ON THE TOP OF IT.  HE CALLED THAT PLACE BETH-EL; THOUGH THE CITY USED TO BE CALLED LUZ.

 

DIETRICH BONHOEFFER SAID, “WE PONDER THE CHOSEN TEXT ON THE STRENGTH OF THE PROMISE THAT IT HAS SOMETHING UTTERLY PERSONAL TO SAY TO US TODAY.”

AND FOR THOSE OF US GATHERED HERE THAT UTTERLY PERSONAL WORD IS FOUND IN VERSE 16 WHEN JACOB SAYS,

“SURELY THE LORD IS IN THIS PLACE AND I DID NOT KNOW IT.”

It’s REMARKABLE BECAUSE UP TO THIS POINT, JACOB HAS BEEN THE ONE WHO SEEMED TO KNOW IT ALL.

HE OUTSMARTED HIS BROTHER AND GOT ESAU’S BIRTHRIGHT.

HE DECEIVED HIS ailing FATHER  AND HE STOLE ESAU’S BLESSING.

AND WHEN ESAU SAYS, I AM GOING TO KILL YOU — NO PROBLEM, JACOB LEAVES ON A LONG TRIP TO THE ANCESTRAL HOMELAND.

JACOB ALWAYS KNOWS WHAT IS GOING ON AND HE ALWAYS SEEMS TO BE IN CONTROL OF EVERY SITUATION.

UNTIL HE FINDS HIMSELF IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE AND THE SUN IS GOING DOWN. JACOB SLEEPS UNDER THE STARS – WITH A STONE FOR HIS PILLOW.

AND THEN, SOMETHING HE CAN’T CONTROL — THE VISION WE CALL JACOB’S LADDER – THE ANGELS ASCENDING AND DESCENDING — THE VOICE OF GOD –

“I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM AND THE GOD OF ISAAC –THE LAND ON WHICH YOU LIE I WILL GIVE YOU TO YOU AND TO YOUR OFFSPRING.

ALL FAMILIES OF EARTH WILL BE BLESSED THROUGH YOU.”

 

IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE — RUNNING FROM HIS PAST, RUNNING FROM HIS DECEIT OF OTHERS,  JACOB IS NOT SEARCHING FOR GOD – BUT GOD IS SEARCHING FOR JACOB.

SURELY THE LORD IS IN THE PLACE AND I DID NOT KNOW IT.

THOSE WORDS EXPRESS THE TRUTH FOR MANY OF US HAVE EXPERIENCED IN OUR OWN LIVES.

I REMEMBER THE DORM ROOM – AWAKENING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT – NIGHT AFTER NIGHT — QUESTOINING MY DIRECTION – DID NOT KNOW THAT GOD CALLS US BY DISTURBING US IN THE WAY WE ARE GOING.

SURELY THE LORD WAS IN THAT DORM ROOM – AND I DID NOT KNOW IT

AND EACH OF YOU – THOSE  BEING COMMISSIONED — ARE HERE BECAUSE AT SOME POINT AND IN SOME SPECIFIC WAY YOU MADE THE GREAT DISCOVERY:  SURELY THE LORD IS IN MY LIFE – AND I DID NOT KNOW IT.

 

THIS IS VERY PERSONAL BUT NOT PRIVATE — GOD MAKES CLEAR TO JACOB – THE PROMISE GIVEN TO ABRAHAM SARAH WAS RENEWED WITH ISAAC AND REBECCA – AND NOW THE COVENANT HAS COME TO YOU.

THIS IS A COVENANT RENEWAL STORY.

 

YOU COMMISSIONEES REMIND US THAT OUR LOCAL CHURCHES MATTER;  AND OUR CAMPUS MINISTRIES MATTER; FOR THEY PRODUCE YOU —

THIS IS WHAT WE DO — WE HELP PEOPLE MAKE THE GREAT DISCOVERY

THAT GOD IS IN THIS PLACE AND WE DO NOT EVEN KNOW IT.

 

THE IMPACT OF ALL THIS IS TO MAKE US CURIOUS — TO CAUSE US TO WONDER WHAT GOD UP TO?  WHERE IS GOD?

AND FROM OUR OWN EXPERIENCE WE KNOW THE ANSWER:  SURELY THE LORD IS IN ALL THE PLACES WE WRITE OFF —  THE SITUATIONS IN WHICH WE EXPECT NOTHING MUCH CAN HAPPEN.  IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE WE CAN MAKE THE GREAT DISCOVERY:  SURELY THE LORD IS IN THIS PLACE AND I DID NOT KNOW IT.

YOU ARE COMMISSIONED TO BE CURIOUS — TO SUSPECT THAT GOD IS UP TO SOMETHING IN EVERY PERSON’S LIFE,  IN EVERY LOCAL CHURCH,  IN EVERY EXTENSION MINISTRY, AND IN EVERY COMMUNITY.

YOUR MISSION IS TO HELP OTHERS MAKE THE GREAT DISCOVERY.

MARTIN BUBER LEARNED THAT IN A DISTURBING WAY.  THE GREAT THEOLOGIAN WAS ADDRESSING A GROUP OF GERMAN FACTORY WORKERS.  DURING THE QUESTION TIME ONE OF THE WORKERS SAID TO BUBER, “I DO NOT BELIEVE IN THIS GOD THAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT.”  MARTIN BUBER TOOK THAT AS A CHALLENGE AND RESPONDED:  FIRST HE HIT HIM WITH THE ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD;  THEN HE HIT HIM WITH THE COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD;  AND HE WRAPPED UP WITH THE TELEOLOGICAL ARGUMENT FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD.  FINALLY THE WORKER SAID, “OKAY, I BELIVE IN GOD.”

MARTIN BUBER WENT HOME AND HIS WIFE ASKED HIM HOW IT WENT.  HE TOLD HER WHAT HAD HAPPENED AND THEN ADDED:  “I FEEL TERRIBLE.  THAT MAN DOES NOT BELIEVE IN GOD ANY MORE THAN WHEN HE CAME IN TONIGHT.  I JUST BEAT HIM UP WITH WORDS AND ARGUMENTS.”  BUBER THAN SAID THAT IF HE WANTED THE MAN TO BELIEVE IN GOD HE WOULD NEED TO GO LIVE WITH HIM FOR THREE WEEKS AND HELP HIM DISCOVER WHERE GOD IS PRESENT.

MARTIN BUBER CAME TO THE REALIZATION THAT THE MAN DID NOT NEED MORE ARGUMEMTS BUT RATHER HE NEEDED SOMEONE TO WALK ALONGSIDE HIM AND TEACH HIM TO BE CURIOUS ABOUT GOD’S PRESENCE—UNTIL HE MADE THE GREAT DISCOVERY AND COULD SAY FOR HIMSELF:  “SURELY THE LORD IS IN THIS PLACE AND I DID NOT KNOW IT.”

 

OF COURSE, THAT IS EXACTLY HOW JESUS DID MINISTRY.  HE  MOVED TOWARD PEOPLE – ALL TYPES OF PEOPLE IN ALL KINDS OF SITUATIONS.  HE WALKED WITH THEM, REJOICED WITH THEM, WEPT WITH THEM.  AND ALWAYS WITH THE MISSION OF ENABLING PEOPLE TO MAKE FOR THEMSELVES THE GREAT DISCOVERY:  SURELY THE LORD IS IN THIS PLACE AND I DID NOT KNOW IT.

WHAT MARTIN BUBER SAID HE NEEDED TO DO FOR THAT MAN — AND WHAT JESUS DID FOR ALL WHOM HE MET —- IS ALSO WHAT WE  ARE COMMISSIONING YOU TO DO TONIGHT:   TO LIVE WITH PEOPLE IN OUR CHURCHES AND IN OUR COMMUNITIES — AND LIVE WITH WHO WONDER WHAT GOD IS UP TO – AND HELP OTHERS SEE IT.

YOU ARE COMMISSIONED TO BE CURIOUS —- TO LIVE WITH PEOPLE AT THE LOCAL LEVEL AND WONDER ABOUT GOD – AND TO HELP OTHERS MAKE THE GREAT DISCOVERY.

THE KENTUCKY AUTHOR, WENDELL BERRY, HAS WRITTEN ANOTHER VERSION OF THIS STORY IN HIS BOOK, JAYBER CROW.  “JAYBER” IS HIS NICKNAME BUT NO ONE CAN REMEMBER ANY OTHER NAME FOR HIM.

THE STORY IS SET NEAR THE BEGINNING OF THE 20TH CENTURY.  HE IS A BARBER LOOKING FOR A PLACE TO WORK.  HE LANDS IN LITTLE PORT WILLIAM, KENTUCKY.  A TOWN SO SMALL IT HAS A ONE-CHAIR BARBER SHOP — PLANS TO STAY THERE LONG ENOUGH TO MAKE SOME MONEY – BUY A CAR AND THEN LEAVE

NOT ENOUGH HAIR TO CUT — BECOMES CUSTODIAN AT THE METHODIST CHURCH — POLISHING PEWS HE IMAGINES HE HEARS THE SINGING

STARTS COMING TO CHURCH – STAYS IN NARTHEX — THE CHURCH DOES NOT HAVE A FULL TIME PREACHER – THE SEMINARY DOWN THE ROAD SENDS A STUDENT PREACHER EACH WEEK – THE SEEM TO SPECIALIZE IN TEACHING THEM TO SAY THINGS THAT HAVE ALREADY BEEN SAID TOO MANY TIMES BEFORE

PEOPLE COMPLAIN ABOUT THE BORING SERMONS — THOSE BORING SERMONS NEVER BOTHERED ME – THEY HAD THE GREAT VALUE OF CAUSING MY MIND TO WANDER – WHY SOME OF THE BEST THINGS I EVER THOUGH OF I THOUGH OF DURING BAD SERMONS.

OVER TIME, JAYBER CROW’S  BARBER SHOP BECOMES A GATHERING PLACE FOR MEN LIKE BURLEY COULTER, BIG ELLIS, MILO SETTLE, AND RIVER BILL THACKER.  ONE DAY BIG ELLIS COMES HOBBLING INTO THE BARBERSHOP AND THE MEN ASK HIM WHAT IS WRONG.  “MY KNEES”, HE SAYES, “MY KNEES ARE GIVING ME TROUBLE.”  THE OTHER MEN START TALKING ABOUT THEIR OWN AILMENTS.  THEN ONE OF THEM SAYS, “AGE!  AGE HAS DONE MORE FOR MY MORALS THAN METHODISM EVER DID.

SLOWLY BUT SURELY ALL THESE EXPERIENCES GROW ON JAYBER CROW UNTIL HE BEGINS TO REALIZE HE DOES NOT NEED TO LEAVE.  THIS IS NO LONGER VIEWED AS THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE.

HE COMES TO REALIZE THAT THIS IS THE HOUSE OF GOD AND THIS IS THE GATE OF HEAVEN.

HE SELLS THE CAR.  THIS IS NOW HIS PLACE AND THESE ARE HIS PEOPLE.

IT WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA TO LIVE YOUR LIFE IN A STRAIGHT LINE.  TO BE BORN AND THEN TO GET BETTER AND BETTER ALL THE TIME.  BUT THAT IS NOT HOW I HAVE LIVED MY LIFE.  I HAVE WANDERED IN THE WILDERNESS MANY TIMES.  SOMETIMES WHEN I THOUGHT I WAS GOING FORWARD I WAS ACTUALLY GOING BACKWARD.  BUT FOR A LONG TIME NOW,  LOOKING BACK, I CANNOT SHAKE THE FEELING THAT I HAVE BEEN LED.

YOU COMMISSIONEES ALSO HAVE BEEN LED.  YOU HAVE BEEN LED TO RECOGNIZE THE GOD WHO WAS PRESENT LONG BEFORE YOU KNEW GOD WAS PRESENT.

YOU HAVE BEEN LED TO THE RECOGNITION:  SURELY THE LORD IS IN THE PLACE, AND I DID NOT KNOW IT.

AND FROM THIS COMMISSIONING SERVICE YOU WILL BE LED FORWARD TO HELP OTHERS MAKE THE GREAT DISCOVERY:  SURELY THE LORD IS IN MY LIFE AND I DID NOT KNOW IT.

IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON, AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.  AMEN.

 

TONY CAMPOLOS WIFE.

I HOPE YOU WILL HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY SAY AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN – SURELY THE LORD IS IN THE PLACE AND I DID NOT KNOW IT

This is not only the personal story of Jacob and his encounter with God — -but it is important to us all for it raises the question:  can God be counted on to reveal God’s presence to us?

Is what we read in scripture only a matter of the past — the God of Abraham and Sarah;  the God of Isaac and Rebekah — yes, but what about today, what about now — is this also the God of Jacob —

Yes – the big answer comes — the big story in the Bible is God — the connecting link of all the books is God

But Jacob discovers this for himself — but it is a great discovery for us as well

Jacob set up a stone and poured oil on it and gave that place a new name

So we take your experience of God’s call with utter seriousness —- it starts with the local church then moves to the district supt and the candidacy program and then the district committee on ministry and the conference board of ministry —

And now here — we take it seriously — for we are responding to God’s revelation in your life — and that means in our life together

Jacob did not know all that was coming – but he knew this was real

It is not expected of you that you know the future — but what you can know is that God has acted and is acting in your life — and your annual conference recognizes that.

Not as if it were a private experience for you – but as an example of God’s continuing presence with us all — you are exhibit A – God is still at work – you are the modern day manifestation of the ancient story of Jacob’s ladder

END WITH MICHAEL DEBAKEY – AND GIVE YOUR HEART TO GOD????

HOW DO WE DO THAT?

STUDY HABITS

DEVOTIONAL PRACTICES

THE GENERAL RULES

ATTEND UPON ALL THE ORDINANCES OF GOD — SPELL OUT

FIRST, DO NO HARM

SECOND, DO ALL THE GOOD YOU CAN

THIRDY, ATTEND UPON ALL THE ORDINANCES OF GOD

HE PLOWED TO THE END OF THE ROW AND KEPT ON GOING

KNOW YOUR OWN STORY AND LEAD WITH IT —-

THIS GOD OF ABRAHAM AND ISAAC – IS ALSO THE GOD OF JACOB

THIS IS WHEN WE DISCOVER THAT — WHEN JACOB DISCOVERS THAT — DISCOVERS THAT MUCH MORE IS GOING ON THAN JACOB EVER REALIZED.

JACOB THE CHEATER – THE HEEL GRABBER — JACOB WHO IS RUNNING AWAY FROM HIS BROTHER

THIS JACOB — THINKING THAT WHAT HE NEEDS IS BACK HOME IN THE HARAN – THE HOMELAND — SOME PLACE FAMILIAR

AND DISCOVERING IT IS RIGHT HERE – IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE

FRANCIS COLLINS MADE THE GREAT DISCOVERY — HIS PATIENTS HELPED HIM

 

ANTHONY NEWTON FLEW MADE THE GREAT DISCOVERY — DNA AND COSMIC BACKGROUND RADIATION – HELPED HIM

MARTIN BUBER — ECLIPSE OF GOD — ARGUED WITH GERMAN FACTORY WORKER – ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT;  COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT;  TELEOLOGICAL ARGUMENT

NEED TO GO LIVE WITH HIM FOR THREE WEEKS AND WALK WITH HIM DAILY

JAYBER CROW

JESUS

BEWARE THE CAREERIST MINDSET

COMMISSIONED TO CREATE ENVIRONMENTS WHERE PEOPLE OF ALL KINDS CAN MAKE THE GREAT DISCOVERY FOR THEMSELVES.

NEW IB:

GOD TRANSMITS TO JACOB THE ANCESTRAL PROMISES

THIS IS THE FIRST TIME JACOB APPEARS BY HIMSELF

A NEW BEGINNING FOR THE LARGER STORY — AND FOR US TODAY

JACOB IS FLEEING THE HATRED OF HIS BROTHER

REAPING THE CONSEQUENCE OF HIS OWN DECEPTION

THE FUTURE DOES NOT SEEM BRIGHT

AT PRECISELY THIS DEEPLY VULNERABLE MOMENT IN HIS LIFE, GOD APPEARS, NOT IN JUDGMENT BUT TO CONFIRM HIM AS THE ONE CHOSEN TO CARRY ON THE PROMISE.

JACOB IS EN ROUTE — MOST OF US WERE TOO

SPENDS THE NIGHT OUT IN THE OPEN

AN ORDINARY PLACE

AN ORDINARY STONE

 

GOD TRANSFORMS AN ORDINARY STONE AND AN ORDINARY PLACE.

A REMARKABLE DREAM.

ASCENDING AND DESCENDING DIVINE BEINGS

BUT GOD STANDS BESIDE JACOB AND SPEAKS DIRECTLY TO HIM

JACOB HEARS DIRECTLY FROM GOD.

THE PROMISES ARE CONFIRMED TO JACOB

JACOB EXPRESSES AWE THAT IN THIS ORDINARY PLACE HE HAS BEEN CONFRONTED BY THE GOD OF WHOM HIS FATHER SPOKE

HE NAMES THE PLACE

HOUSE OF GOD = BETH =EL

GATE OF HEAVEN

SETS UP THE STONE THAT HAS BEEN HIS PILLOW

WHAT WAS QUITE ORDINARY NOW BECOMES A SACRED SYMBOL FOR HIS EXPERIENCE

THE STONE HAS NOW BECOME RECOGNIZABLE FOR USE BY OTHERS WHO MAY PASS THIS WAY.

THE ANOINTING WITH OIL CONSECRATES OR SETS THE STONE APART FROM OTHERS

THE STONE BECOMES A PUBLIC WITNESS TO JACOB’S OWN EXPERIENCE

A NEW SENSE OF VOCATION

BUT JACOB DOES NOT KNOW IMMEDIATELY WHAT THIS EXPERIENCE MEANS FOR HIS LIFE.

DIVINE CONTINUITY ACROSS THE GENERATIONS

THE DREAM — NOT A PSYCHOLOGICAL STATE BUT DIVINE COMMUNICATION

GOD IS PRESENT IN MY DREAM —– BUT, IN THIS PLACE.

THE DREAM = THE DIVINE INITIATIVE  — JACOB WAS ASLEEP =- NOT IN CONTROL OF WHAT WAS HAPPENDING

GOD USES SUCH MOMENTS TO GET THROUGH TO US TODAY

GOD PARTICULARIZES THE PROMISE FOR JACOB AS AN INDIVIDUAL

RESPONSE:  AWESOMENESS

THE IMPORTANCE OF WORSHIP

SPECIFIC PLACES NEEDED — FUMC BAINBRIDGE

PAY ATTENTION TO THE SPECIFIC

THE PEOPLE OF YOUR OWN CHURCH

THE COMMUNITY IN WHICH YOU SERVE

GOD CAN CONNECT WITH A DECEIVER LIKE JACOB —

JACOB MAKES A VOW — HIS RESPONSE – JUST AS YOU DO TODAY

THIS REVELATION COMES IN THE MIDST OF A BROKEN WORLD —- BROKEN RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS BROTHER —

AND LATER HE WILL FIND THAT HIS BROTHER ESAU HAS CHANGED.