July 27, 2017
Rev. Marie Buffaloe
Parish Associate Pastor
Surely the Lord is in this place and I didn’t know it.
I heard these words at the same time I saw the digital sign predicting a 30-minute delay on the South Bridge on my morning commute to Derry. Aaagh! I did not have time for this today!! I joined the agonizing, slow creep of vehicles and took a deep breath.
I’ve been listening to a daily audio devotion on my commute and this morning it was a challenge to believe it. That verse from Genesis was spoken by Jacob, on the run from his irate brother, Esau. He has just stolen Esau’s family inheritance/birthright. Jacob stops at nightfall to rest with only a stone for a pillow. Then he dreams of a ladder from earth to heaven with angels going up and down with messages from God. And the word that comes from God is one of comfort and blessing.
When Jacob woke up that morning, no wonder he was afraid and filled with awe and wonder: in that unlikely place, God was present with him! Instead of judgment and condemnation, God comes down to us and offers a hopeful promise. Surely the Lord is in this place and I didn’t know it.
Are there other unlikely places where God meets us and surprises us -- even in a traffic jam on a hot summer day?! How we limit God if we only expect holy places to be in cathedrals and sanctuaries on Sunday mornings. Jacob discovered that especially in times of crises and anxiety, God finds us and speaks to us to remind us that he will never leave us. Years later, Jacob will meet and wrestle with God on the banks of a river when he finally prepares to reconcile with his brother.
Jacob proclaims from this stony campground, “This is none other than the house of God and this is the gate of heaven.” (Genesis 28:17) Where are you today as you read this message? Are you traveling on vacation, maybe stuck in traffic somewhere, or napping underneath a beach umbrella? Are you sad at home, or sitting by a hospital bed overwhelmed with worry? Perhaps you are outside surrounded by the signs of God’s creative beauty. Could you be at the gate of heaven? Look around: is the Lord in this place? Watch and listen … there may be angels descending with messages just for you.
Jacob took that stone pillow, set it upright and named that campground Beth-el, which means the house of God. I hope you find the Beth-el wherever you are this day and give thanks.
Editor’s Note: Marie has been enjoying an app that can be downloaded free from pray-as-you-go.org, a website produced by the Jesuit community that uses an ancient Ignatian prayer model of reflection and Biblical passages. It makes her Camp Hill-to-Hershey commute go a little faster, even during summer construction.