Growing in Grace Part 2: Gratitude and Genesis 27:1-4, 15-23; 28:10-17

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We’re in a 4-part series of what it means to be growing in God’s grace.  Last week we talked about how grace is God’s love for us and all creation—regardless of whether we deserve it or not.  There’s nothing we need to sacrifice or give to earn God’s favor.  God’s essence is love, and it’s God’s nature to love us.  It’s a whole different way to see the world. 

This week, we’re focusing on gratitude.  To live gratefully is to recognize that all comes from God and belongs to God. We cannot really own it or keep it. We are not possessors while we spend our years on earth.  Gratitude is at the heart of what it means to be a disciple, and it’s a radical way to see the world. 

We are invited to live fully as we live gratefully. To live as a possessor is to be captive to the things we own. If we measure our worth, our value, by the things we own, we are always living in fear that we will lose them. If we attempt to find security in what we own, we will never have enough. To really be at peace in life is to recognize that our real value comes as a gift from God. Our security rests in God’s promises and our future is a gift given by God in Jesus Christ.

As we keep journeying through this story of Genesis, we see how God chose to work through one family—Abraham’s family--and bless them to be a blessing.  We also see how dysfunctional this family was, and how hard it is to live gratefully. 

This week we have Abraham’s son Isaac and his two sons—Esau and Jacob. 

Isaac and his wife Rebekah ended up having twins, and these two started before they were even born.  They struggled as they came into the world.  Esau came out first with Jacob grabbing onto Esau’s heel, and Jacob just kept on grasping after his brother. 

Back in Bible days, the oldest got all the perks—the inheritance, the father’s blessing, all the wealth and advantages.  Now, I’m willing to say this system was unfair and left the younger siblings with little or nothing.  And this system probably set up younger siblings to be jealous and want to act out in some way.  But Jacob took things to the limits. 

Jacob preyed upon his brother’s and father’s weaknesses.  When Esau was starving after a long, hard day of work, Jacob offered him a bowl of stew in exchange for Esau’s birth right.  Esau was a good, hard worker but he lacked a little foresight.  He took Jacob up on that offer of the stew, and regretted it as soon as he was done eating. 

But all the inheritance wasn’t enough for Jacob.  He kept grabbing for more.  With his mom’s help, Jacob preyed upon his father’s aging eyes, and tricked Isaac into giving him Esau’s blessing too. 

Jacob had everything… and Esau. Was. furious. 

Furious enough to kill his conniving brother. 

 

So, Rebekah continued to protect her favorite son, and convinced Isaac to send Jacob away to Rebekah’s family to find a suitable wife.  So off Jacob went. 

Jacob had everything, and yet, it was as though he had nothing.  In his zeal to get everything he could, Jacob lost the things that are most important in life.  In our reading today, we find Jacob utterly alone.  No home.  No family.  No one to enjoy all his riches with.  In fact, he had to leave in such a hurry, he didn’t even seem to take any of his stuff with him.  All his striving after possessions cost him terribly.  And he had to live with a constant fear of his brother seeking revenge for most the rest of his life.  What kind of life is that?  And really, how is God supposed to bring about any good through this mess? 

At a time when the rest of us would have given up on this family, God continued to persist with God’s grace. 

God has a way of coming to us in our vulnerable times.  Or maybe, we have a way of seeing God more clearly in our vulnerable times.  In either case, God came to Jacob at this low point.  Exhausted and with nothing but a rock for a pillow, Jacob stops in the wilderness to rest for the night. 

Jacob had a dream about God that night.  Back in Jacob’s day, people would build tall temples to their gods, and priests would climb to the top of them in attempts to get as close to their gods as possible and intercede for people.  Jacob’s dream was a lot like that, with angels climbing up and down stairs to heaven. 

 

But, when Jacob woke up, God wasn’t at the top of the stairs of some temple.  God was right down there with Jacob. 

It turned out Jacob had it all wrong about God and about life.  God wasn’t some inaccessible being way off in the sky somewhere.  Jacob didn’t need angels or priests to be some sort of go between him and God.  God was right there with him—in spite of all he had messed up. 

And life wasn’t about grasping for more and more stuff, or titles, or money.  All that greed and deceit wasn’t life-giving.  It was life-draining. 

In that moment, in God’s grace-filled presence, Jacob was truly grateful for the first time.  And if we continue reading on in the chapter, Jacob’s grateful response was to worship God.  Jacob took that stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it, and he called that place Bethel—which means home of God.  And then he made a vow that if God would stay with him and provide for him and bring him back safely again to his father’s house, he would surely give 1/10 of all he had received back to God. 

Jacob recognized that God would provide for his life, that he didn’t need to try to take possession of everything he could see.  Life, and everything in it is a gift from God.  When we realize this, we praise God out of our gratitude and offer up what God has given to us. 

 

We are called to live a life radically different than what our culture tells us to.  Our worth doesn’t come from our bank accounts or how much we own or how important we are in any given room of people.  Our worth comes from God and God’s love for us. 

Commercials tell us that we need more stuff to be happy, but really all more stuff can do is make us want more stuff.  We feel most fulfilled when we realize the gift of having enough. 

The world tells us that we need to grab and hold onto everything we can, but living gratefully shows us that there is meaning and purpose in giving. 

God invites us to live more fully by living gratefully.  Gratitude is at the core of being a disciple. 

It sounds so simple, but simple doesn’t always mean easy.  Gratitude can take practice.  I want us to take a couple minutes right now to practice gratitude. 

 

I invite you pause, and reflect on your week.  What did you do?  What were some of your highs and lows?  And as you remember the past few days, I want you to think of one thing that stands out that you are grateful for.  Maybe it was a good conversation.  Maybe it was how you spent time with someone you care about.  Maybe it was simply someone being kind in traffic.  Think of one specific thing that you were grateful for.  And once you’ve thought of it, I want you to tell someone next to you about what you are grateful for.  ….