Daily Devotion 15 January 2021

Create a peaceful space to pause, and allow yourself to feel God’s presence alongside you, as near to you as your own breath. In following the reflection below, as a church we will draw closer to God and to one another as we grow in faith and deepen our sense of belonging to God.

Genesis 28: 18-22 ‘A Real Bargain’

17 This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’ 18 So 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. 19 He called that place Bethel; 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, 21 so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, 22 and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house; and of all that you give me I will surely give one-tenth to you.’

January is the time when many churches hold a service in which the people renew their covenant with God. The passage above is also about a covenant – though a rather unusual one! I never get tired of reading this witty, beautiful account of how God uses a slippery character, which is exactly what Jacob was. There are two things that strike me, however, that really do apply to each one of us today.

First, the covenant starts with God – not with Jacob! In this part of Genesis, we don’t read about God rebuking Jacob for deceiving his brother and father, nor for his other sins, for that matter. So why does God deal with him so graciously? The answer is simply that he loves and accepts us just as we are. This is the essence of God’s dealing with us. Our faith begins with God’s love for us first – or as Paul would put it 1500 years later: ‘God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8).

The second thing about this little passage from Genesis should give us all further reassurance. If you look at verses 20-22, Jacob’s response to God is conditional, grudging and (apart from the promise of the tithe right at the end) limited, to say the least. But Jacob was offering what he could at that moment. It was the best he could manage. There was no magic, instantaneous transformation and, if you read the rest of his journey, you’ll find that he does indeed grow in honesty, humility and in faith. Very gradually, sometimes painfully, but he gets there in the end!

It seems to me that that’s not a bad basis on which you and I can build: a process of allowing ourselves to be transformed in becoming more Christ-like, however slow that process may be – provided we offer ourselves, just as we are, to be the raw material out of which God can build his kingdom.

from a covenant hymn by Barbara Honeyball Young

I am no longer mine but yours,
Your will, not mine, be done in all,
When I succeed or when I fail
Help me to listen to your call.

When there is work, or when there’s none,
When I am troubled or at peace,
When I am valued or ignored,
I’ll serve you as and where you please.

Whether fulfilled, or lacking goals,
When I am sad, or spirit soars,
I offer you all that I have,
For you are mine and I am yours.

Reflection © 2021 Barrie Tabraham.
Image freely available online.
Hymn Words © 2017 Barbara Honeyball Young, from www.singingthefaithplus.com, a website of the Methodist Church of Great Britain.

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All material within this order of worship is reproduced by permission under CCL 1226356