Sermon

Genesis 28:10-19

Does Your Elevator Go to the Top?

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Genesis 28:10-19

Does Your Elevator Go to the Top?

Dr. Keith Wagner

Since I visit hospitals I frequently have occasion to use elevators. I use stairs whenever possible because I don’t like to wait. Elevators can be very frustrating, especially when you are in a hurry. By the way, the slowest elevators in Southwest Ohio are in Good Samaritan Hospital in Dayton. The elevator with the slowest opening door is right here in St. Paul’s Church. For whatever its worth, the fastest elevators in the world are on cruise ships.

My elevator experience has given me the opportunity to make observations about the way people interact with other people. Almost no one speaks to other people during their ride on an elevator. It’s almost as if everyone is terrified of the other passengers. Occasionally, someone will speak, which really breaks the ice. My greatest pet peeve is when the door opens and there are people waiting to get on who immediately bolt through the door before those already on the elevator have a chance to get off. It’s as if people think the elevator is for their personal use only. Some actually seem offended that others are traveling in the opposite direction.

If you’ve ever been stuck on an elevator it can be very scary. But except for the lack of food and water, one is generally in no danger. One time I was stuck on an elevator for about 45 minutes. In the process I met some very interesting people. Amazing, the bonding that takes place when you are in a confined space.

It has been said that when a person is not quite all there that “their elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top.” Imagine how frustrating it would be to go to Wilson Hospital (here in Sidney) and have an elevator that didn’t go to the top floor. People would revolt since the building would be only partially accessible.

What about you. Does your elevator go to the top?

Jacob’s elevator went all the way to the top. It appeared to him in a dream. What he saw was not really a ladder but a ziggurat, a large stairway extending into the heavens. For Jacob the stairway symbolized several things: (1) the presence of God, (2) hope for the future, and (3) that life would be a slow, hard, climb.

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Jacob was a man on the run. He had been expelled from his homeland and was about to be killed. His brother Essau, whose birthright and blessing he had stolen, was out to get him. Here we find Jacob on the road, in the middle of nowhere, very tired and alone.

The stairway to heaven in his dream reminded him that God was with him. God even spoke to him, promising him a home, wife, family and blessings. Jacob realizes that God is with him and responds by saying, “Surely the Lord is in the place; and I did not know it.”

Do we know that God is with us? How often do we feel alone, forgetting that God is with us? Sometimes we have to be at the end of our ropes before we realize that God is with us. Jacob has no where to go but up. He is a man without a country, without a family and an uncertain future.

The stairway to heaven also symbolizes that Jacob has a future. There is more to come. His life’s journey will continue, not just in this life, but beyond. All may seem hopeless but with God there is hope. His only task is to rise the next morning and continue his journey.

At Columbia University, John Erskine was considered one of their greatest teachers ever. He was an author of sixty books, an accomplished concert pianist, head of the Julliard School of Music, and a popular lecturer. Students flocked to his courses, not because of his fame or accomplishments, but because his excitement for learning was contagious.

Over and over Erskine would remind his students that the best books are still yet to be written. The best paintings have not been painted. The best governments have not been formed. “The best is yet to be done…by you!” he said. Hundreds of Erskine’s students have gone into the world as leaders, teachers, performers and composers. Others have become writers, painters, and political leaders. Many attribute their achievements and dreams to the fact that Erskine gave them hope.

Hope, according to Erich Fromm, means “To be ready at every moment for that which is not yet born.” By reminding our children of this, and by living in hope ourselves, we do our part to assure their future greatness. (from God’s Little Lessons On Life for Dad, by Honor Books, Tulsa, Oklahoma)

The stairway symbolized hope for Jacob. His future would be filled with promises as God would be with him, just as God is with us. The way, however will not be easy. Life for Jacob would will be a long, slow, uphill battle. He would eventually find Rachel who become his wife. But, that would involve years of service to Laban, her father.

It has been said that the greatest things in life are those we wait for. This was certainly true for Jacob. He has come a long way from stealing his brother’s birthright. Instead of taking the low road, Jacob now takes the high road. Every step will be a challenge as he climbs higher and higher. In the process, however Jacob is blessed and lives with the assurance that God is with him.

The long journey produces many blessings as Jacob fathers twelve sons. Thus, the twelve tribes of Israel are born. The number 12 in Hebrew means “completeness” or “wholeness.” Jacob’s life has gone from a state of nothingness to ultimate fulfillment. His elevator has now gone all the way to the top.

Our elevator goes to the top too, when like Jacob, we can say, “Surely God is in this place.” With God we have hope. Although our lives may sometimes seem like a never ending stairway, we too can expect many blessings.

––Copyright, 2002, Dr. Keith Wagner. Used by permission.