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Discovering God – Seeing Who God Is through the Patriarchs

In my grandparents’ house, there’s a hallway of pictures. I remember being especially drawn to a family reunion picture from before my time and asking my grandma, many times, to go over the family’s tree from the picture. Then she’d share different stories about the different family members, their families, and how they connect to me.

In some ways, reading the Bible – and especially Genesis – is a bit like that. One way of understanding the Bible is to read it as a collection across time of a people’s reflections of who they’ve experienced God, all inspired by God for future generations. So, in the middle portion of Genesis, we find the people’s memories of who their ancestors experienced God to be. In sharing and then writing these ancestral narratives (traditionally ascribed to Moses), they discovered again and again who God revealed Godself to be.

For the month of July, we’ll be discovering who God is through the patriarchs with them. To fill in the gaps between weeks, I invite you to begin reading at Genesis 12 (we’ll skip most of the Abraham and Sarah narrative this time). The series concludes with Genesis 32 (just before Jacob reunites with his brother Esau). Specific sermon texts and a little more information about each sermon is below.

If you’d like more study resources on Genesis, please check in the church Library. Further, there are multiple video lessons available on, to which the church has access to (contact Pastor Matt of Jeanine Spangler).

I am looking forward to the ways in which the Spirit continues to inspire our reading and pondering of scripture, our listening to God through scripture, so that we can grow as individuals and church into God’s beloved community, as Pastor Sarah Marsh preached in June.

July 2 – Discovering God, who Sees & Provides (Genesis 22:1-14)

This sermon questions, “What is God like, who would ask such a thing of Abraham?” And we see that God is more complex, and following God more challenging, than we might have first thought.

Jewish, Christian, and non-theist readers of Genesis all struggle with the story of the binding or near-sacrifice of Isaac. Turn the story around this way and that, and we find different solutions and different problems. It’s not neat or tidy, and it may leave more questions than answers. Yet, at least a few things stand out: our faithfulness to God is challenging, God’s faithfulness to see us in our struggles is unwavering, and assured of God’s presence, we can bear God’s presence to others.

July 9 – Discovering God, who Guides (Genesis 24:34-38, 42-50, 57-61)

This sermon questions, “How, or does, God guide or lead us?” In this, we discover a God who, indeed, does lead Abraham’s trusted servant, and some practices through which God may just lead us in our decision-making.

The family of God is in crisis again: the patriarch, this time Isaac, doesn’t have any children, and if he has no children, then we have to wonder how God will possibly keep God’s promise that Abraham will be the father of nations. But, Isaac’s not even married, so Abraham sends his servant to find a suitable wife for Isaac. The challenge for the servant is essentially, “How will I know the right one? How will I discern God’s will for Isaac’s wife?” Journeying with him, we’ll see helpful tools we can use as we’re seeking to know God’s will and ways for us.

July 16 – Discovering God, who is Trustworthy (Genesis 28:10-19a)

This sermon questions, “Can God be trusted?” Sometimes, we may feel like we’ve outrun the headlights of God’s grace. However, we see God continuing to renew and restate God’s promises and reassure us of God’s presence, even when we’d least expected it.

The stories of the patriarchs are more than family stories about Abraham, Sarah, and their descendants. Ultimately, they’re stories about a people’s growing experiences of God across generations, through which God continues to reveal Godself more and more fully as time and relationships go on. When Jacob is at an especially low point, Jacob learns something important about God: God can be trusted.

July 23 – Discovering God in our Messes (Genesis 29:15-28)

This sermon questions, “Are we beyond God’s help?” Sometimes, we get ourselves so wrapped up in things that we can’t see a way out. We might even feel like God’s given up on us too, and yet, we see the long arc of God’s presence and promise.

In some ways, we might read this section of the family story as a minor development in plot: Jacob gets married. Yet, there’s more to see. Looking at each person in the story, we may see ways in which our own families function (even dysfunction is functioning, until it’s not). And, in seeing the (dys)functioning, one wonders if we’re beginning to read the same story over again. What might God be trying to show us through these families?

July 30 – Discovering God, who Holds On (Genesis 32:22-31)

This sermon questions, “When we’re ashamed, what does God do?” Jacob was still scheming; sending everyone over ahead of himself, then sending the flocks in stages. And yet, God holds onto him, seeking to help him see himself as more than his past.

We’re familiar with Jacob’s wrestling story, perhaps. There’s something to see for our own faith journeys there. Yet, holding it within the family story, we’ll see the ways in which God continues holding on to a people who in many and various ways, run both toward and away from God.

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