Monday, July 10, 2017

Sermon: Who Is In Your Path?

"Who Is in Your Path?"
Genesis 24: 34-38, 42-49, 58-67; Song of Solomon 2: 8-13
by Rev. Carson Overstreet
Van Wyck Presbyterian Church
July 9, 2017

So [Abraham's chief servant] said [to Rebekah's household], ‘I am Abraham’s servant. The Lord has greatly blessed my master, and he has become wealthy; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, camels and donkeys. And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and he has given him all that he has. My master made me swear, saying, “You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live; but you shall go to my father’s house, to my kindred, and get a wife for my son.” I said to my master, “Perhaps the woman will not follow me.” But he said to me, “The Lord, before whom I walk, will send his angel with you and make your way successful. You shall get a wife for my son from my kindred, from my father’s house.

‘I came today to the spring, and said, “O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going! I am standing here by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, ‘Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,’ and who will say to me, ‘Drink, and I will draw for your camels also’—let her be the woman whom the Lord has appointed for my master’s son.”

‘Before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah coming out with her water-jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, “Please let me drink.” She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder, and said, “Drink, and I will also water your camels.” So I drank, and she also watered the camels. Then I asked her, “Whose daughter are you?” She said, “The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.” So I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her arms. Then I bowed my head and worshipped the Lord, and blessed the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to obtain the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son. Now then, if you will deal loyally and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so that I may turn either to the right hand or to the left.’ And they called Rebekah, and said to her, ‘Will you go with this man?’ She said, ‘I will.’ So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,
‘May you, our sister, become
thousands of myriads;
may your offspring gain possession
of the gates of their foes.’
Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way.

Now Isaac had come from Beer-lahai-roi, and was settled in the Negeb. Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming. And Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel, and said to the servant, ‘Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?’ The servant said, ‘It is my master.’ So she took her veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.
- Genesis 24: 34-40, 42-49, 58-67

The voice of my beloved!
Look, he comes,
leaping upon the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Look, there he stands
behind our wall,
gazing in at the windows,
looking through the lattice.
My beloved speaks and says to me:
‘Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;
for now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtle-dove
is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away.
- Song of Solomon 2: 8-13

He was focusing his eyes on the path ahead.
The chief steward had taken Abraham’s words to heart, “The Lord, before whom I walk, will send his angel with you and make your way successful” (Genesis 24:40).

With every step of his journey, the chief steward was praying for God to not only show him the way ahead, but to place in his path the woman God desired for Isaac. I can even hear the chief steward singing as he walked along, ‘Every move I make, I make in you – you are my way, Jesus!”

When God placed Rebekah in the chief steward’s presence at the well, the chief was quick to study the situation. He was paying attention to Rebekah’s interactions to discern if God’s hand was involved. The chief took notice of Rebekah’s gracefulness, her strength, and her decisiveness.

Rebekah was graceful to extend hospitality to the chief by giving him a drink of water (Genesis 24:18, 46). She was strong to draw water for ten camels and patient as she waited for them to be refreshed (Genesis 24:19-20, 46). And she was decisive in her own discernment to remain connected to Abraham’s lineage. Rebekah was the granddaughter of Nahor, Abraham’s brother. She was given the choice and made the decision to go with the chief steward to be Isaac’s wife (Genesis 24:58).

God’s hand was certainly at work in this encounter. God encouraged the faith of the chief steward. He was moved to put words around his experience to share with Rebekah’s family what God had done to answer the chief’s prayer. God was at work in Rebekah’s household for they recognized this situation could only come from God. And they responded by offering a blessing over Rebekah. God was at work in Rebekah’s life. God was calling her to be the matriarch of the next generation of Abraham’s promised lineage. And God continued to be at work in Abraham’s son Isaac. When Isaac met Rebekah he loved her and she comforted Isaac as he grieved his mother’s death.

When God’s hand touches the paths that we travel upon, God’s steadfast love creates a ripple effect in our lives. God places particular people in our paths not for our own prosperity, but to bring us together in the unity of God’s love. Jesus Christ joins our hands together one person at a time to see glimpses of God’s grace on this path of faith. The connections God makes through us ultimately serve to glorify God and bring about God’s purposes of changing the world.

One of our members shared with me this week that God places you and me in the paths of others to be God’s gift. God works through each of us to be an instrument of God’s grace. Our spouses are God’s gifts to each other. Our best friends are God’s gifts to one another. In the workplace God will intersect you and me with co-workers and colleagues to share our God-given talents to work for the common goal and the common good. In our daily interactions everyone who intersects our path is a gift of God in some way. God can even work through the most unlikely people and even that difficult personality to refine our faith in humbling ways.

The more we intentionally trust that God goes ahead of us on the path, the more we train our hearts and minds to read and discern our encounters through the lens of faith.

God chose to be revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ. And God still chooses to be revealed through our sisters and brothers on this journey. Through the eyes of another we see that the Lord does not give us a spirit of fear but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). The path is where our eyes are lifted to see past the barren winter seasons of our hearts and to behold the promise of new life budding around us (Song of Solomon 2: 10-12). Our shared journeys empower the footing of our faith, for God is helping us to be strong and courageous knowing that the Lord our God will be with us wherever we go (Joshua 1:9).

This week our senior high youth will be going to Montreat Youth Conference. Savannah, Devon, and Ashley – you will encounter other youth from all across the country. Together we will worship in creative ways; learn through key note speakers; grow in faith and relationships in small groups; explore God’s beautiful creation; and serve in mission as the body of Christ.

Savannah, Devon, and Ashley - I want for you to pay attention to who God puts in your path. You just may encounter another youth in your small group or at a recreation event who will be a gift from God – someone who has a unique way of offering encouragement and understanding in this particular season of your life. They may even become a forever friend in faith.

And do not forget that God will work through YOU as an instrument of grace. God will intentionally place YOU in another youth’s path to be a faith support to them. What a humbling thought. Montreat is a very thin space that knits our faith formation in powerful ways.

We are all fellow sojourners of faith and we all need the gift of God’s grace to sustain us with every step we take. For God is leading us one step at a time into the coming kingdom!

As we leave God’s house today to step back out into this beautiful yet broken world, may we take the time for prayerful reflection to ask, “Lord, who are you putting in my path this week?”

In the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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