Find Us
Css Menu List by Vista-Buttons.com v5.7
20121 Santa Maria Ave
Castro Valley, CA 94546



Sunday Message for February 11, 2024

The Season of Lent

Next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent. Lent is 40 days (forty-six, including the Sundays) which end with Easter, the day of resurrection and transformation. These forty days are a time to reflect, to shed the old, to open ourselves to the new and to prepare for transformation. And we have the Lenten Books from Unity in the bookstore. The theme for 2024 is to Let Go, and Let God.

As we journey through Lent, the shadow of the cross falls upon our path. All too often the church has viewed the cross of Jesus as the only location of God's saving activity. A belief that our salvation depends solely upon Jesus' death ignores God's saving activity in Jesus' birth, life, teaching, and healing.

It also risks the glorification of suffering, leading us to believe that suffering in itself brings us closer to Christ. Such a belief can make us complacent in the face of suffering, encouraging us to focus on its seeming benefits rather than healing its origins.

During Lent, Wisdom beckons us to remember the root meaning of sacrifice, which is to make holy, to make whole. Wisdom knows that the only true sacrifice is the one given freely.

The story of Jacob in the bible is one of unlikely transformation. Jacob and Esau were twins who started their sibling rivalry in the womb. (Genesis 25:22) The children struggled together within her, and she said, "If it is to be this way, why do I live?"a

From the moment of birth, the differences between the boys were echoed in their relationship with their parents. Yes, even back then - especially back then, there were dysfunctional family systems.

Esau, the older twin, was considered to be his father's son. He was an active, uncomplicated individual and a skilled hunter. He was a man's man.

Jacob, became his mother's favorite. He was a quiet man, preferred to stay at home and pursued the life of a shepherd. So right off the bat Jacob is at a disadvantage. He is not the heir to his father's wealth and his father likes his brother more than him. Jacob is the child that feels he is not good enough and is always seeking his father's approval.

But one day Esau comes home from a failed hunt, famished and tired. Jacob has a thick red lentil stew boiling on the fire. Esau is so hungry that he trades his birthright to his brother for a bowl of stew.

Then when their father is dying Jacob, again, tricks his brother and his father and receives the deathbed blessing which makes him the clan leader and heir to all that the father has.

When Esau comes back from the hunt and finds out what his brother has done, he threatens to kill his brother as soon as their father dies. So, Jacob leaves for Haran, quickly.

He leaves his home and family behind and sets out on his own. And for a lot of us, we don't truly grow or grow up until we leave home and start to rely on ourselves

Jacob's transformation started while he was on his way to Haran. He experienced an astonishing heavenly vision. As he sank down in exhaustion one night in the wilderness, resting his head on a rock, he dreamed that he saw angels ascending and descending a ladder suspended between heaven and earth. At the top rung, God himself stood and directly affirmed the promise made to Jacob's grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac:

(Genesis 28:13-15) The Lord stood beside him and said, "I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."b

Jacob awoke from this experience awestruck. He anointed his stone pillow and named the place Bethel, meaning "the house of God."

Jacob is gone from home for about 20 years; he builds a family of several wives and children. In fact, he fathers the twelve sons who create the twelve tribes of Israel. He also builds his fortune and his herds of sheep, goats, cattle and camels. And then comes the time to go back home. And if he is like the rest of us, this brings up all the old schtuff.

Not knowing what to expect, Jacob sent a conciliatory message to Esau. But when a messenger returned with the news that his older brother was coming to greet him along with a company of 400 men, Jacob panicked.

First, he packed off a huge present to Esau, including hundreds of sheep and goats and scores of cattle and camels. Next, he hustled his household and remaining goods back across the Jabbok River.

Later that night, alone on the south bank of the Jabbok in the midst of this apparently grave crisis, Jacob proved his mettle in one of the most enigmatic episodes in the Bible. (Genesis 32:24-30) Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, "Let me go, for the day is breaking." But Jacob said, "I will not let you go, unless you bless me." So he said to him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Jacob." Then the man said, "You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed." Then Jacob asked him, "Please tell me your name." But he said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved."c

Jacob also enjoyed a wonderful victory in the physical world, for his fears of Esau were unfounded. When they met, his open-hearted older brother ran joyously to him and kissed him.

Phyllis Trible, in her book Texts of Terror, writes, "To tell and hear tales of terror is to wrestle demons in the night... We struggle mightily, only to be wounded. But yet we hold on, seeking a blessing; the healing of wounds and the restoration of health. If the blessing comes - and we dare not claim assurance - it does not come on our terms. Indeed, as we leave the land of terror, we limp."d

Jacob and Esau represent the mental and the animal consciousness within each of us. Esau, the hairy man, typifies the animal, which comes first into expression. Most of the human family let him rule in consciousness; but in the line of human unfoldment this man of nature, Esau, must be replaced by a higher type, called Jacob, the supplanter, the mentality or understanding.

When this story is read in the light of spiritual understanding or considered as part of the history of the unfoldment of the individual soul, the incident loses its aspect of duplicity and we find that it is a description of the subtle working of the soul in spiritual evolution, under the guidance of Divine Mind. The soul is progressive. We must go forward. The soul must meet and overcome its limitations.

So Jacob left his home. Jacob (the mental) went toward Haran (high place): the mind enters a higher state of consciousness.

At "a certain place" in consciousness the understanding is unillumined. "One of the stones of the place" that Jacob put "under his head" represents the contact of understanding with material conditions.

The "ladder" represents step-by-step realizations of Truth. These pure thoughts (angels of God) ascend and descend in consciousness. "Jehovah," the I AM, occupies the highest place in consciousness. The spiritualized thoughts of the mind become the seed and bless all the earth (body consciousness).

The Lord is constantly in our midst, and we must eventually come into divine consciousness. The mind is startled when it discovers God to be an omnipresent principle. There is the realization that the body (house) is the temple of God and that the mind is the gate to heaven (harmony).

In the light of understanding, "the morning," the things that have been our stepping-stones become holy and we anoint them with oil (love, joy, and gladness).

And Jacob named the place Bethel. That which seemed separate and apart is brought into unity, and the name is then Beth-el.

In the individual, Beth-el refers to a certain center near the heart, which is called the house of God. It seems material, at first sight. Jacob thought that it was material, when he lay down there with a stone for a pillow; but he found there a ladder reaching to heaven, and he exclaimed: (Gen. 28:16-22) "Surely Jehovah is in this place; and I knew it not"e. So Beth-el really symbolizes a consciousness of God, or conscious unity with God.

And then we read of the reunion of Jacob and Esau. Jacob (the mental) prepares to unite with Esau (physical expression). Mind and body must be joined before the divine law can be fulfilled.

The mind must be unified with the body in all the seven natural faculties. When the union between mind and body takes place a humility born of surrender of the self comes into expression.

The women and the children here represent the accumulations of the mind. The mind is willing to share its accumulations, but the body (Esau) cannot receive the gift until it has been uplifted. After mind and body are reconciled and adjusted, they share alike the gifts of Spirit.

Jacob, the mind, should go before and direct the body (Esau). The children, and the young animals in the flocks and herds, symbolize new ideas' being established in consciousness.

There is not necessarily enmity between the mind and body of man, but only a difference in states of consciousness. The body becomes an obedient servant of the mind when the two are unified in Divine Mind.

Jacob's name was changed to Israel after he had wrestled with "a man" all night at "the ford of the Jabbok," and had succeeded in obtaining a blessing. (Gen. 32:28-29) "Then the man said, "You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed." ... And there he blessed him."f

There is a lot of meaning in the changing of Jacob's name to Israel. The mind controls the body through the nerves, and a great nerve, the sciatic, runs down the leg through the hollow of the thigh. The will acts directly through this nerve and when the individual, through his mentality or understanding (Jacob), exercises his I AM power upon the natural man in an attempt to make unity between Spirit and the divine-natural, there is a letting go of human will (Jacob's thigh is out of joint).

A great light of understanding breaks in the struggling soul when it discovers that there is a divine-natural body, and it clings to that inner life and strength and eventually brings it to the surface in perpetual vigor. This is the significance of the blessing and the new name, Israel (one who has power with God and man, spiritual and material).

If you are like Jacob (supplanter, one who is journeying from place to place to find satisfaction) counting the past and looking to the future, change your attitude to that symbolized by Israel, and find peace in the Lord's reality.

"Israel" (a prince with God) is the real of man, that consciousness which is founded in God. It requires the story of Israel from Abraham to Jesus Christ to picture the growth and spiritualization of the whole man. The unfoldment and lifting into full spiritual consciousness includes the body of man, which must be unified with soul and spirit in Christ, that it may take on and manifest the true spiritual substance and character idealized of God in the beginning for man. In spirit, soul, and body each of us must come into the perfect expression of Godlikeness.

The uplifting and redeeming of the entire man is not complete until man is born of Spirit and Jesus Christ comes to perfection in and through him. The spiritual body, which is the perfect-idea body in each of us, enters into the very cells of the seemingly physical body until the physical man manifests the real spiritual substance, intelligence, and life that underlie every form.

It is through Spirit within us, the Christ or real self, that the intellect is quickened and Truth is established in consciousness. Jesus Christ was of the house of David (love) and He brought the law of love to perfect fruition. He also quickened all His faculties and powers. This process is typified by the calling of the twelve disciples, who, individually, represent different spiritual qualities. The twelve sons of Jacob are the first or natural bringing forth of the faculties, which culminate in a higher expression in the twelve disciples of Jesus.

So take off on your own journey this Lenten Season. Stop in the bookstore and pick up your copy of the Lenten booklet and spend the next 40 days in daily prayer and meditation. And like Jacob, you will be named anew.

aGenesis 25:22
bGenesis 25:22
cGenesis 32:24-30
dPhyllis Trible Texts of Terror
eGen. 28:16-22
fGen. 32:28-29

Top of      page