I usually enjoy dreaming. I have some really great dreams, interesting dreams. I dream just about every night. I know people who say they do not dream but I have dreams every time I go to sleep. It may be the decongestant I take nightly before I go to sleep that helps me dream more since it helps me sleep more soundly but I rarely have "bad dreams". Most of my dreams are really great ones and usually involve me solving a problem for myself or for others in my dreams.
Dr. Carl Jung studied dreams for many years. He was a psychologist and was very interested in dreams and what they meant. He wrote several books on dreams and dream interpretation. I have tried to read some of his books and have referred to one in which he tries to interpret the meaning of objects in dreams we have. I remember that he said that whatever you dream is about you and even people in your dreams say something about you, not about them. Usually my dreams are very involved and full of many things and people and if all those things are about me then I would have a lot of interpreting to do if I were to try to figure out what they mean.
This Sunday we will read and reflect upon the ancient story from Genesis about Jacob having his dream in the wilderness. I am sure you remember the story of how Jacob had to run away from his home because his brother Esau had threatened to kill him. Jacob tricked their father Isaac into giving the blessing to him that was intended for the older brother (according to their tradition) so Jacob received the blessing of land and children and prosperity that was intended for Esau to receive. When Esau asked their father for the blessing, Isaac realized what had happened and told Esau there was nothing left for him to receive. Esau was enraged and said he would kill his brother if he saw him again so Rebekah told Jacob to run away to their relatives who lived about 500 miles away. Jacob began his long, lonely walk, looking back over his shoulder constantly to check to see if Esau was following him.
When he was about 50 miles from home, and it was getting dark, Jacob stopped to rest for the night and lay down in a clearing, using a large stone for his pillow. He went to sleep and had a fantastic dream about angels going up and down a ladder that stretched from earth to heaven. God spoke to him in the dream and promised that he would bless him and all the nations of the earth through him and that the promise given to his grandfather, Abraham, would be fulfilled through him. Jacob awoke and was very moved by the dream and promised God that if God would lead him and protect him and eventually bring him home safely in peace, then God would be Jacob's God and he would give 10 percent of all he had to God in thanks. Jacob took a vial of oil and anointed the stone that was his pillow and said the place was called Beth-El, or the House of God because it was a holy place. Then, he continued his journey.
Jacob's dream of a ladder reaching to heaven is part of our culture and nomenclature today. We sing a children's song about climbing Jacob's ladder and we use the term in our speech now and then. There is a art site in the northeast US called "Jacob's Pillow" where creative dance is taught and performed. The dream Jacob had was not just about a ladder but it was about heavenly beings going up and down the ladder between heaven and earth. The rabbis debated what the scripture meant and many felt like the meaning had to do with the lives humans live and how good deeds cause one to go up the ladder but bad deeds sent one down the ladder again. So, our lives are constantly in motion, up and down the ladder of our deeds. That is not a bad way of looking at it.
This story, though, says far more than just about a heavenly ladder being in place. The story is also about redemption for a fugitive on the run. Jacob was not a good man. He was a trickster, a deceiver, a scam artist. Jacob used his exceptionally wisdom and cunning to trick his brother and father into giving up something that was very valuable in their day, the blessing that only a father could give to an older son. The younger son got nothing from the father and the mother knew that and she helped him to trick his father into giving him the blessing which could not be taken back once it was given. That put Jacob at odds with his hot tempered brother and off he went to be a fugitive for the rest of his life. What a price to pay for receiving something that was not his to enjoy.
Jacob was loved by God, though, and even his deception did not cause God to love him less. God could use this man with the skills that got him his reward to bring about the promise that God had made to Abraham many years before. God changed Jacob into Israel and Jacob became the father to the 12 sons who were the heads of the 12 Tribes of Israel. Their names are the biblical names attached to the tribes and Israel is their father's name attached to the people whom God called to belong to God.
How often we think that God cannot use us or love us because we are less than perfect? We may even be a bit like Jacob and deceive others or trick others into doing what we want them to do. God loves and uses all of us who are willing to be used by God regardless of how flawed we think we may be. God wants willing people to serve God, not perfect people. If God needed perfect people, there would be an extreme shortage of workers because no one could apply for the job.
Join us this Sunday when we will reflect more on this story. Have a great week.