We are currently in the Epiphany season; the time between Christmas and Lent. Epiphany celebrates the long awaited manifestation of Christ; no longer as a baby in a manger but as the Saviour of the World.
CALL TO WORSHIP
God, come to my assistance.
Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen
For the choir director: A psalm of David, to be accompanied by stringed instruments.
Listen to my prayer, O God.
Do not ignore my cry for help!
Please listen and answer me,
for I am overwhelmed by my troubles.
My enemies shout at me,
making loud and wicked threats.
They bring trouble on me
and angrily hunt me down.
My heart pounds in my chest.
The terror of death assaults me.
Fear and trembling overwhelm me,
and I can’t stop shaking.
Oh, that I had wings like a dove;
then I would fly away and rest!
I would fly far away
to the quiet of the wilderness. Interlude
How quickly I would escape—
far from this wild storm of hatred.
Confuse them, Lord, and frustrate their plans,
for I see violence and conflict in the city.
Its walls are patrolled day and night against invaders,
but the real danger is wickedness within the city.
Everything is falling apart;
threats and cheating are rampant in the streets.
It is not an enemy who taunts me—
I could bear that.
It is not my foes who so arrogantly insult me—
I could have hidden from them.
Instead, it is you—my equal,
my companion and close friend.
What good fellowship we once enjoyed
as we walked together to the house of God.
Let death stalk my enemies;
let the grave swallow them alive,
for evil makes its home within them.
But I will call on God,
and the Lord will rescue me.
Morning, noon, and night
I cry out in my distress,
and the Lord hears my voice.
He ransoms me and keeps me safe
from the battle waged against me,
though many still oppose me.
God, who has ruled forever,
will hear me and humble them. Interlude
For my enemies refuse to change their ways;
they do not fear God.
As for my companion, he betrayed his friends;
he broke his promises.
His words are as smooth as butter,
but in his heart is war.
His words are as soothing as lotion,
but underneath are daggers!
Give your burdens to the Lord,
and he will take care of you.
He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.
But you, O God, will send the wicked
down to the pit of destruction.
Murderers and liars will die young,
but I am trusting you to save me.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen
(A short time of worship and thanksgiving, led or spontaneous. Alternatively a devotional song may be played and listened to.)
OLD TESTAMENT READING
Three days later Laban learned that Jacob had run away, so he gathered his relatives and began to chase him. After seven days Laban found him in the mountains of Gilead. That night God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream and said, “Be careful! Do not say anything to Jacob, good or bad.”
The Search for the Stolen Idols
So Laban caught up with Jacob. Now Jacob had made his camp in the mountains, so Laban and his relatives set up their camp in the mountains of Gilead. Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done? You cheated me and took my daughters as if you had captured them in a war. Why did you run away secretly and trick me? Why didn’t you tell me? Then I could have sent you away with joy and singing and with the music of tambourines and harps. You did not even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters good-bye. You were very foolish to do this! I have the power to harm you, but last night the God of your father spoke to me and warned me not to say anything to you, good or bad. I know you want to go back to your home, but why did you steal my idols?”
Jacob answered Laban, “I left without telling you, because I was afraid you would take your daughters away from me. If you find anyone here who has taken your idols, that person will be killed! Your relatives will be my witnesses. You may look for anything that belongs to you and take anything that is yours.” (Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen Laban’s idols.)
So Laban looked in Jacob’s tent, in Leah’s tent, and in the tent where the two slave women stayed, but he did not find his idols. When he left Leah’s tent, he went into Rachel’s tent. Rachel had hidden the idols inside her camel’s saddle and was sitting on them. Although Laban looked through the whole tent, he did not find them.
Rachel said to her father, “Father, don’t be angry with me. I am not able to stand up before you because I am having my monthly period.” So Laban looked through the camp, but he did not find his idols.
Then Jacob became very angry and said, “What wrong have I done? What law have I broken to cause you to chase me? You have looked through everything I own, but you have found nothing that belongs to you. If you have found anything, show it to everyone. Put it in front of your relatives and my relatives, and let them decide which one of us is right. I have worked for you now for twenty years. During all that time none of the lambs and kids died during birth, and I have not eaten any of the male sheep from your flocks. Any time an animal was killed by wild beasts, I did not bring it to you, but made up for the loss myself. You made me pay for any animal that was stolen during the day or night. In the daytime the sun took away my strength, and at night I was cold and could not sleep. I worked like a slave for you for twenty years—the first fourteen to get your two daughters and the last six to earn your flocks. During that time you changed my pay ten times. But the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac, was with me. Otherwise, you would have sent me away with nothing. But he saw the trouble I had and the hard work I did, and last night he corrected you.”
Jacob and Laban’s Agreement
Laban said to Jacob, “These girls are my daughters. Their children belong to me, and these flocks are mine. Everything you see here belongs to me, but I can do nothing to keep my daughters and their children. Let us make an agreement, and let us set up a pile of stones to remind us of it.”
So Jacob took a large rock and set it up on its end. He told his relatives to gather rocks, so they took the rocks and piled them up; then they ate beside the pile. Laban named that place in his language A Pile to Remind Us, and Jacob gave the place the same name in Hebrew.
Laban said to Jacob, “This pile of rocks will remind us of the agreement between us.” That is why the place was called A Pile to Remind Us. It was also called Mizpah, because Laban said, “Let the Lord watch over us while we are separated from each other. Remember that God is our witness even if no one else is around us. He will know if you harm my daughters or marry other women. Here is the pile of rocks that I have put between us and here is the rock I set up on end. This pile of rocks and this rock set on end will remind us of our agreement. I will never go past this pile to hurt you, and you must never come to my side of them to hurt me. Let the God of Abraham, who is the God of Nahor and the God of their ancestors, punish either of us if we break this agreement.”
So Jacob made a promise in the name of the God whom his father Isaac worshiped. Then Jacob killed an animal and offered it as a sacrifice on the mountain, and he invited his relatives to share in the meal. After they finished eating, they spent the night on the mountain. Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them, and then he left to return home.
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
Pause for Reflection……
(Take a moment to bring to God any issues that have arisen during the morning. You may like to end with the following prayer…)
Mighty God, as we come to the end of our week,
Grant your blessings over all we love and your increase upon all we do,
We ask this in Jesus name. Amen
Lord God, we thank you for your gift to us of this food;
Produce of earth, sky, many living beings, and much hard work.
May we eat with prayerfulness, gratitude and moderation;
With renewed minds and spirit-controlled appetites.
May we eat with compassion for those who hunger today,
And in such a way that reduces the suffering of all creatures;
Healing and preserving our precious planet.
Use this food to strengthen our bodies, revive our spirits,
Nurture our family and nourish our resolve;
That we may continue to serve all that lives with all our life. Amen
Psalms in Bold – Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved
All other Psalms – Scripture quotations are taken from The Living Bible copyright © 1971. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
All other Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.