Living In the Wake of a Witness
Living In the Wake of a Witness
Living In the Wake of a Witness
Intro - recap Jacob’s story
Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”
Have you ever noticed how it can be hard to live a life for Christ in this world?... ...It can be! If you don’t believe me, or have forgotten, as our young people.
[elaborate on that…with examples…Peer pressure increased from social media…exposure to new ideas that seem logical…]
Perhaps the biggest, though, is the fact that they are growing up in an increasingly secular society. You know between 2007 and 2015, there was an 8 percent drop in the amount of people just identifying as Christian…Identifying, not necessarily practicing, but it includes both. At the same time, there was an increase in those who identified as Atheist to the tune of 7 percent.
It’s huge because life is so much easier to live if you have people around you pulling for you.
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
Life is so much harder when you try to rely on only yourself. But that idea, there in Ecclesiastes, it is so bigger even than those moments when we fall down and have troubles.
…but it is bigger even than those moments when we fall down and have troubles.
I think about it this way. Have you ever drafted someone? Maybe in a car. Maybe running, or swimming [hug the lanes]. But probably the best example to me is bicycling.
[pic of tour de france drafting]
Professional athletes do it all the time...
[talk about tour…guys in peleton not pedaling…drafting on hills…rules against drafting cars or during time trials…IT HELPS THAT MUCH!]
No matter the activity, it is so much easier to swim or run or bike or drive when someone is in front of you, breaking the wind, or getting the waters moving in your direction. It becomes a shell, sort of like armor even. And before you know it, you start living in that wake.
…move toward drafting (while swimming seems appropriate)…how much easier to swim or run or bike or drive when someone is in front of you…living in their wake…]
Believe it or not, that applies even more to our spiritual lives! Again ask our young people, or even better, be honest with yourself!
[friends…outline the two types. Unkind first then kind. Just describe them...”just think for a second about your friends. I am sure that you have…”]
At the same time, we have some very kind friends too, right? Those that think about others first, and sacrifice opinion or time for others. Now I want you to imagine, just for a second, living every single day, in the midst of those people who put down others, or even put you down. Just think about what your life would look like. Always thinking bad thoughts. You are living in the wake of hate and bitterness. And there is no way to get out.
Now I want you to imagine living in the wake of the influence of those unkind people. What would you life look like?
Now imagine living in the wake of kindness, and thoughtfulness. What a life that would be, right?
I say all that, church, because whether we know it or not, we are all living in the wake of those around us. And not just them! We are living in the wake of those who came before us - those who knit themselves into the fabric of our lives!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The author of Hebrews calls it “a great cloud of witnesses.” That is what we have celebrated here today earlier in this service. Those lives that have touched ours and left a wake in which we must follow.
But what has that have to do with our text?
Well I’ll tell you. It has everything to do with it.
You see, Jacob doesn’t come to that field there in Bethel as a man living in the wake of goodness and Godliness! No, this is a man who had stolen his brother’s birthright! This is a man who, along with his mother, had crafted this whole elaborate scheme just to be more blessed than someone else! This is a selfish person - and dare I say, a spiteful person. At least in those moments before our text. And not only that, this is a man on the run! He comes to that place fleeing from his brother who is honor-bound to kill Him!
He was surrounded by a mother who practiced deceit, and no doubt friends that took his side and didn’t speak truth into his life. He was living in the wake of worldly ideas and worldly people.
[pic of jacob’s ladder/stair]
And then it happened. The moment I pray we all have. In the middle of the fears and the doubts. In the middle of his running and in the middle of a life being lived for self, he sees the truth.
“He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.”
Now I am no dream interpreter, but it is pretty clear what is happening here. He sees those things we never see. The “angels” that surround us. Whether truly angelic in creation, or just angels as metaphor for those gone before him, he sees them not just hanging out in heaven - no - he sees them coming and going! He sees them walking around, in and amongst us!
What a lesson that would be. To know that you aren’t alone.
But the text goes even further! Jacob doesn’t just see the Angels and know he isn’t alone, but there, at the top of the stairs is God Himself!
And what does God do? God blesses Him! This man living in the wrong way. This person on the run from their mistakes. God blesses him saying “ALL people on earth will be blessed through you.” All people, you and me included.
Church, your mistakes in the past only limit God if you keep on doing them. If you live in them, if you surround yourself with people who live that way or think that way; if you keep doing what you shouldn’t, that will limit God’s reach in your life. But this text reminds us, that God has a promise for us, a world to be blessed through us, if we only move on from those bad moments and move into God’s wake; if we just start drafting Him.
That is what I imagine when I read God tell Jacob, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go…I will not leave you.” I see God, protecting, shielding me from the wind. Going before me so that my way might be easier! Creating a wake that pulls me along when I am not strong enough to pull myself!
That’s what I see. And how does God do that?
With those witnesses that have knit themselves into our lives.
Those people who tossed aside this world, and chose to follow Christ! They followed Him, church, by following those who came before them, and those by following the people who came before them, and on and on, up the line until you get to the person in front! The one who started the wake!
THE ONE WHO GOES BEFORE US ALL! THE ONE WHO BLAZED THE TRAIL THROUGH THIS LIFE, A TRAIL THROUGH THE SAME HARDSHIPS THAT WE FACE. A TRAIL BLAZED THROUGH PAIN AND LOSS - EVEN ALL THE WAY THROUGH DEATH! JESUS CHRIST, THE AUTHOR AND PERFECTER OF OUR FAITH!
HE STARTED THE WAKE FOR US, JUST AS HE DID WITH JACOB! AND ALL THOSE WHO CAME AFTER HIM, THEY LIVED IN THAT WAKE, AND AS THEY MOVED IN THAT WAKE, IT GOT BIGGER! AND IT SUCKED MORE PEOPLE IN! AND CHURCH, AS WE LIVE IN THAT WAKE - AS WE ALLOW GOD TO OVERTAKE OUR LIVES AND COAST IN THE WAKE OF HIS LOVE AND SACRIFICE, WE ARE CHANGED BY IT AND THEN WE ADD TO IT!
AND THE GOOD NEWS, CHURCH, IS THAT NO MATTER WHERE YOU ARE IN LIFE IN THIS MOMENT, GOD HAS PUT PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE, PEOPLE WHO ARE LIVING IN THE WAKE OF A WITNESS - PEOPLE WHO ARE TRYING TO PULL YOU IN SO THAT YOU CAN EXPERIENCE LIFE WITH CHRIST! SO THAT YOU CAN LIVE IN THE WAKE OF CHRIST AND GOD WILLING, BE A WITNESS WHO EXTENDS THAT WAKE TO OTHERS WHO DESPERATELY NEED HIM!
AND IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE ME LOOK AROUND YOU!...
[pic of bike rider struggling outside of peloton]
How tough it is to live outside of His wake.
That kind of life is so fearful, and challenging. Sure you might feel like you are blessed, or have things going your way. But just like Jacob, you will find that getting what you want, sometimes will cost you everything you have been given; even your life.
[story about TDF riders falling off the back…]
…if you can just hang on, sometimes, that’s good enough. You can’t win every battle. You can’t answer every hard question about faith. You can’t always be the best example of Christian living. But you can hang on. You can make that choice. And you must make it, because life outside of His wake isn’t going to cut it. You can’t make it.
But if you change, and surround yourself with those who are looking to knit themselves into your life - those who follow in the wake of Christ - you will find even the hardest parts of life get easier.
And perhaps just as important, you will find what you need to complete your witness in the lives of others.
Jacob found that eventually. Even after this moment, Jacob’s life wasn’t all sunshine and roses. He had bad days. There was all that stuff with Laban. Being cheated out of a wife, and then having to work for what he had already worked for. There were no doubt moments where he followed God closely, and some where he fell short.
But still He struggled to make sure he lived in God’s wake, and followed where God led him.
And while he was living in the wake of God,
Eventually, if you don’t know the story, God led him right back to the place where he messed up. To the moment when Jacob got out of God’s wake and into the patterns of the world. Sometimes God does that for us too.
God led him back to his brother Esau. And there, in the midst of all that fear; fear of death, fear of destruction of his entire family, Jacob followed God’s wake from that fear, straight into the arms of his brother.
But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.
No matter where you are in life, God is always calling you home. To follow Him. To live in His wake.
That is where you will find the most peace. Even if life seems unfair. Even if it is hard. Even if you feel like you are losing. If you just stay in His wake,and follow Him - if you just live in the wake of the witnesses He has given you, you will find your way home to Him.
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”
The Lord is there in the wake of a witness. And those witnesses have woven their lives into yours whether you know it or not. You are surrounded by their legacy as they walk to and from heaven. They have gone before you to show you the way of God, to remind you where you belong.
To cry out to you, “the Lord is in this place,” even if you aren’t aware of it.
Today is the day to start following those who went before us. Today is the day to live in that wake, and become a blessing to this world.
SERMON SHOULD MIRROR OUR LIVES. JACOB WAS BLESSED, EVEN IN HIS SIN…AFTER ALL HIS FUTURE LOOKS PRETTY BLEAK!!! HE IS ON THE RUN FROM HIS BROTHER. HE IS AFRAID…HE IS JUST LIKE US…BUT HIS WALK WAS COLORED BY THIS MOMENT. HE SAW THE WITNESSES. WE ARE SURROUNDED BY THEM. THEY HAVE COME BEFORE US, AND WILL GO AFTER US. THEIR LIVES, THOSE WHO HAVE PASSED, SERVES US AS A GUIDE, A LADDER OR STAIRWAY, A BRIDGE IF YOU WILL, TO ETERNITY! AND THEIR ABILITY TO WALK IN THAT WAY, IS A WITNESS TO GOD’S PROVISION AND IS BUOYS OUR FAITH AS WE WITNESS TO OTHERS.
There are always people, angels in the story here, that move in and out of our lives that leave a wake - they leave a mark. And we, consciously or unconsciously choose to follow in their footsteps.