In the Lectionary

Sunday, July 17, 2011: Genesis 28:10-19a

You, Jacob—the one fleeing from that seriously peeved and smelly galoot of a brother (whose face will eventually resemble God's face). You rushed toward that as-yet-unmet sweet cousin of your mother. Your birthright was bought and paid for, your blessing slyly played for. Make no mistake. The Trickster will be tricked, for every round goes higher, higher. But you have to stop when the sun goes down—anyplace where you can camp, anyplace where you can find a big stone to place at your head and sleep like the dead.

The dream that you dreamed there has become our dream. Lying alongside you in that dark, nameless place, we see the steps of the ramp firmly set on the ground, with its top touching the sky. We see the uncanny messengers climbing the stairs, we see holy ones returning. Together we enter the REM-cycle theophany: Up on the ramp in the dream there's this God—saying THE NAME and making promises about soil and seed and security, blessing your family so that your family can bless all the families of the earth. It sounds like an opportunity; it also sounds like a terrible burden.

You wake with a start, filled with dread and the cloying reverberations of something like Rudolf Otto's mysterium tremendum et fascinans. Surely the Lord is in this place, you stammer. We recognize your use of surely here. It is a common rhetorical device, uttered when no other explanation can be imagined, when we encounter the unexpected and risk spiraling into the maelstrom of it-can't-be but it-must-be. Surely does not make it so. There may be another explanation. But as your head clears and you return to your senses, you're still stuck in this place. Rationalizations fade and you are left with the overwhelming conviction that "the Lord is in this place—and I didn't know it."