Genesis 35:1-29

Let me invite you to open your Bibles with me.  We’re going to be back in Genesis, Genesis 35.  And today is a special Sunday in the life of our church as New Member Workshop taking place today right after this.  And if you’re a college student gathering with us today, I just want you to remember that on this particular Sunday in the Fall, we don’t have our normal One80 gathering.  We invite you to come and join our New Member Workshop.  Whether you’re ready to take that step towards membership or not, this is your best way to get a sense for who we are and what we’re about as a church.  We’re going to feed you lunch.  We’re going to give you a sense of that and so I just want to invite y’all after the worship service to join me through these doors in our Grand Room.  And if you’ve been a part of our church for a season and you’re ready to take a step towards membership in our faith family, it’s not too late for you to enjoy us for that important opportunity.

Now, this book that we’ve been working through is called Genesis which in the original language means beginnings.  And there’s an irony in that name because this book of beginnings, of new life, is also filled with death.  As a matter of fact, the word, died, it occurs over  times in Genesis.  Most often in the genealogies we see, but this passage in Genesis 35 brings us face to face with more examples and instances of people dying than any other chapter in the book.  We’re going to see three people who pass away in this passage.  And I don’t know if you’ve ever realized this in your own life like I have in mine.  Oftentimes, when we come face to face with death, it causes us to reevaluate our life.  We look at life in a different way.  We’re confronted by life-changing questions that we can’t escape,  And the hope this morning is that as we work through these deaths in Genesis 35 it will bring us face to face with what it looks like to live like we’re dying.  We’re going to pick this up starting in Genesis 35 in verse 1.  Here’s what Moses writes to us today,

            1God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there.  Make an altar there, altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.”  2So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments.  3Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”  4So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. and Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem.  5And as they journeyed, a terror fell from God upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.  6And Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him, 7and there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother.  8And Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried under an oak below Bethel.  So he called its name Allon-bacuth.

So, you find in our culture right now that death seems to be at the forefront, and we don’t need to look any further than the news we see every day coming out of the Middle East and all of the atrocities happening in Israel.  It’s a constant reminder to us of the way that the Bible calls us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem even as we see these gruesome stories coming from there.  Or we we had an active shoot situation in Maine.  Or or there’s always a regular and steady stream of celebrities in our culture who pass away.  This week for example, it was the long-time basketball coach Bobby Knight or maybe you grew up watching Friends and Chandler Bing passed away, Matthew Perry.  And sometimes when celebrities pass away, I find myself wanting to go and read about their lives.  Understand how they saw life, what they made sense of death.  And I was looking through stories about Bobby Knight and realize much everything he says is not clean enough for a pastor to mention from a pulpit.  But I did find some interesting things in the story of Matthew Perry.  See, he wrote a memoir that came out not long ago in which he reflected on life in light of death.  And there’s a few things that just arrested me about what he said.  For example, he said, “It’s very odd to live in a world where if you died, it would shock people but surprise no one.”  So, they’re shocked that you died but they’re not surprised that someone died.  He gets what Genesis 35 is pointing at here.  That we live in a broken, fallen world under the curse where death is a part of reality.  But get what Perry said elsewhere in the book.  He said, “Now, all these years later, I’m certain that I got famous so that I would not waste my entire life trying to get famous.  You have to get famous to know that it’s not the answer.  And nobody who is not famous will ever truly believe that.”  So, here’s this man.  He spends his whole life chasing idols of success and significance, trying to make himself great in the eyes of the culture around him but he gets to the end and he realizes it’s all vanity.  That there’s nothing there that what he chased all his life will never satisfy him.  And whether you find yourself in his situation or yours, we all need to come face to face with that exact reality.  That we spend our lives chasing things outside God’s design, hoping that they will bring us the kind of satisfaction and success and significance that we long for but they can never satisfy and death reminds us of that reality.  That closing of the chapter in someone’s life brings us face to face with life-changing lessons.  Now, this part of Genesis is full of death.  You remember last time we were in Genesis 34 and the men of Shechem had violated Jacob’s daughter, Dinah.  And so, the the sons of Jacob had launched a mission of deceptive retribution and there was this revenge killing where they slaughtered all the people of the land.  And Jacob told his sons, he now lived in fear because he was worried that the other tribes around them would come and destroy him and his family.  And so you feel as if Genesis 35 is a moment where he ought to be entering the witness protection program.  Going into hiding.  And instead, we find him doing something else.  He’s responding to God’s command to finish what he started.  A return to the city of Bethel where so much of his life had been shaped by God before.  And here’s what we’re going to find in Genesis 35.  Is that when we come face to face with death, here’s what happens.  We come face to face with two life-changing questions.  And how we answer them will reveal whether or not we are truly walking with God.

Okay, so what’s the first question that we see emerging from the text?  It’s right here in verses 1 through 8 in the part of the passage that we’ve already read.  The first question is about the heart.  The question is, where is your heart focused?  Where’s your heart focused?  You know, it’s surprising that Genesis never records the story of the death of Jacob’s mom, Rebekah.  And yet right in verse 8, we see it recording the story of the death of her nurse, Deborah, who’s buried in this place called Allon-bacuth, which means in the original language, the oak of weeping.  There is deep sorrow and in the midst of that sorrow, here is Jacob, returning back to Bethel and coming face to face with the question we all must encounter.  A question of the heart.  Where is our heart focused while we still have life?  There is nothing that causes us to think about the heart and how we live than coming up and close to death.  And when he experiences her death, it reveals to us why it is and how it is that we should focus our heart not on the things of this world but on the things above.  So, notice what happens here when this passage speaks to the nature of our hearts.  We see to begin with that we must purify our hearts by abandoning our idols.  That’s what shows up in verses 1 through 4.  We purify by abandoning our idols.  So, we saw the first idols showing up in Genesis 31 when Jacob and his family were fleeing, Laban, his his wife, Rachel, took some of the household gods from her father.  She hid them from them.  She stole them and put them in the tent and hid those idols from him.  And now just a few chapters later, we see that the idols that she hid in the home of that tent are now hidden in the home of the heart of this family.  She stole those idols.  Now, they have stolen their hearts.  And Jacob says, if we’re going to go back to the place where we encountered God at Bethel, the first thing we need to do is to purify our hearts.  To make ourselves ready.  To abandon the idols that may lead us astray.  So, what does he tell them to do at the end of verse 2?  Notice what it says.  He tells his family to put away the foreign Gods that are among you and purify yourselves.  Why?  Because Jacob knows that you can’t faithfully follow God’s calling on your life while keeping those idols in the home of your heart.  They’re at war with each other.  He says, you’ve gotta abandon them.  Put them away.  And so, if we were all the way through Genesis 35, there are three deaths in this chapter but there’s actually four burials.  And the other burial you see is right there at the end of verse 4 when it tells us, Jacob hid them.  That is the idols under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem.  They put them there in the ground.  They hide them.  They leave them behind so that they may seek after God.  Jacob is showing us we can’t truly follow God with a divided heart.  If we want to go forward in God’s calling in our lives, we need to leave the idols behind us.  We can’t do it apart from purifying our hearts.  But there’s something more that’s going on in the text beginning down in verse 5 through verse 8.  There’s a second piece of recentering our hearts on God when it shows us we must focus our hearts by worshiping God.  We focus by worshiping.  And so what we notice here is that we find Jacob in a moment of deep fear.  He is running from the tribes around him fearing for his life.  Afraid that he might die.  If you’re to put it in the words of the play, Hamilton, he’s outgunned, he’s outmanned.  Outnumbered, out-planned.  He’s prepared to make a stand.  And yet in that moment, we find in verse 5 that God provides him the protection that he could not find on his own.  Notice what it says there, that what God did, it says,

            5And as they journeyed, a terror fell from God upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.

Now, we don’t know what this terror was or how it worked.  But the one who was filled with fear because the power of the tribes is protected and now the power of those tribes is is thwarted by a fear of the God of Jacob.  God makes a way for him where there is no way so that he might return to the place where he’s encountered God before.  This place called Bethel.  This place he describes here is El-bethel, meaning the God of Bethel.  And why does Jacob give this place that name?  Notice what it says in the second half of verse 7.  It says,

            because there God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother.

So, notice what happens.  Jacob doesn’t just purify his heart by abandoning his idols.  He remembers what God has done and refocuses his heart in worship.  And that’s showing us a pattern that when we come face to face with death, when we’re seeking to live in a way that pleases God, it all comes down to the matter of the heart.  So, how’s the focus of your heart this morning?  Where do you find your heart focused?  One of the things I love about our church is we’ve got incredible deacons who serve our church with humility, who pour themselves out.  And this past Sunday, this past week in our deacons meeting one of our wisest deacons, Larry Whitlock, just said, I’ve got a word I want to share to challenge and encourage all of you.  And it hit me so hard in there, I want you to hear it in here.  And what he said to us then was that God doesn’t just want what you can do for Him.  God wants your heart.  He doesn’t just want what you can do for Him.  God wants your heart.  And that’s what Genesis 35 is showing us today.  It’s reminding us that God is after our hearts.  And if we’re going to focus our hearts not on the things of the world but on the things above, the way it happens is by removing idols and remembering moments.  So, what idols are hiding in the home of your heart today?  You know, it may not be the household gods like they had in Jacob’s family back then.  But you think about the way you’re chasing success in work, the way that you’re chasing the American dream in your studies at Texas A&M.  The way that you’re chasing significance through how many likes you get on social media or the way that your kids affirm you, the way that you’re longing for satisfaction by hiding your addiction to alcohol or pornography or every other thing.  What we need to recognize here is that God is calling us to lay them down, that there is something better than anything this world has to offer.  He says, remove the idols of your heart but then also to remember the moments of God’s faithfulness.  How has He showed up in your life in the past?  See, Jacob points to the past in a way that help us helps him to refocus his heart in the present.  He remembers what God has done in a way that pushes him forward even now.  And that is the path for you and me.  Our hearts are prone to wonder.  We feel it.  We’re prone to leave the God we love.  But if we can remember how He showed up in the most difficult moments of our life, then it helps us to center our hearts on Him today.  Think about that trial, that suffering, that that thing that nobody knows about but your closest friends.  Remember how God was there for you then?  The same God is still here for you now.  And so why is it that we should focus our hearts not on our idols or our fears but on the living God.  Which for the same reason that Jacob did it here and if you look back in verse three, you’ll see it.  You see, we follow the same God as Jacob and how does he describe that God in the second half of verse three?  Just like this.

            the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”

That’s the kind of God we follow.  That’s the kind of God who our heart should be focused on.  The one who answers me in my distress.  He doesn’t look the other way.  He’s not too busy with the other things going on in this world He’s created.  He’s not too distracted by 8 billion other people.  He sees you in your distress and He answers.  And He answers not just with His provision but His protection.  Jacob says, He’s the God who is with us wherever we go.  In the highest of highs, the lowest of lows.  In the most mundane parts of everyday life, God is with you.  And that has everything to do with your heart.  We can find ourselves so distracted by worry.  So, overwhelmed by fear that it can take our focus off of King Jesus.  What you need to understand this morning is every one of us is in a daily battle to answer one question.  Who is the king of your heart today?  Is the king of your heart, your fears. your worries, your idols, your desires?  All of those things waging guerrilla warfare on your heart, seeking to reclaim the throne of your life.  And this passage is calling us to the reality that we should strip all of those away so that one King can remain high and lifted up in our hearts.  See, what happens for Jacob is as he makes this transition, he moves from fear to faith.  He moves from worry to worship.  And the way that that happens is by focusing his heart not on his fears, not on his idols, but on his Heavenly Father.  But let’s see now.  Starting down in verse 9, there’s a one other question I want us to notice this morning.  Our first question was a question of the heart.  This one is a question of identity.  The question of identity.  And the question of identity that this passage brings forward for us is the question, where do you find your identity?  So, let’s read on starting down in verse 9 where it says,

            9God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him.  10And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.”  So he called his name Israel.  11And God said to him, “I am God Almighty:  be fruitful and multiply.  A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.  12The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.”  13Then God went up from him in that place where he had spoken with him.  14And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he had spoken with him, a pillar of stone.  He poured out a drink offering on it and poured oil on it.  15So Jacob called the name of the place where God had spoken with him Bethel.  16Then they journeyed from Bethel.  When they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel went into labor, and she had hard labor.  17And when her labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her, “Do not fear, for you have another son.”  18And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni;  but his father called him Benjamin.  19So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem), 20and Jacob set up a pillar over her tomb.  It is the pillar of Rachel’s tomb, which is there to this day.  21Israel journeyed on and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder.

And so here we come face to face with the second death in this chapter and this one hits even closer to home for Jacob when his favorite wife, Rachel, dies.  You remember?  When he was seeking her as a wife, it says, he worked for seven years and they felt but a few days.  Now, I can only imagine that as she dies, those few days surrounding her death probably felt like seven years.  His heart is crushed.  His love is lost.  You remember when Rachel was barren in Genesis 30, she she yelled at Jacob in that moment.  Give me children, lest I die.  And now it is through the coming of one of those children that she does die.  And here in the agony of this loss of a spouse, this loss of a loved one, it’s bringing us face to face with another life-changing question.  That question of identity, that question of where will we find our identity.  And what we see in this passage is that our identity will either be determined by the way the world sees us or the way God sees us.  And if we’re going to find our identity in the way that God sees us then what this passage reveals is exactly what that should look like.  So, notice back in verses 9 through 12.  It begins by showing us that our identity is found in God’s purpose for our life.  You see, purpose at the heart of this portion of the passage.  Because once again, after Jacob worships God, God now reaffirms his covenant promise and blessing to him.  And we’ve talked over and over again when we’ve seen this show up in Genesis that the pattern of the covenantal blessing is God’s people and God’s place, living out God’s purpose.  And you’ll notice all three of those show up there.  So, look at the end of verse 11 where it says, be fruitful and multiply.  That’s a reference to God’s people.  Or down in verse 12 where it says, the land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac, I will give to you.  That’s God’s place.  Or look at the very end of verse 11 when it says, a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.  That’s God’s purpose.  And even here, don’t miss it.  When it says, one day that kings will come from the line of Jacob, it’s pointing ahead to a coming King of Kings.  The true and better Jacob, Jesus himself, who will fulfill that purpose and bring about God’s kingdom.  And when God confirms His purpose for Jacob, it totally reshapes his identity.  He gives him a new name.  You are no longer Jacob, you are Israel.  God is beginning to be the one that truly defines his life.  When we find ourselves embracing God’s purpose, it reshapes our identity.

But there’s something else that’s going on here down in verse 13.  We also find that our identity is found in God’s presence in our life.  So, God has showed up in an unbelievable way in this passage.  And it’s one thing to believe with your head that God is present with you, but it is another thing entirely to be in a moment just like he is here where God has come down and he is in His presence.  And here’s what happens.  When we see God, it changes the way we see ourselves.  It reshapes our identity.  And that’s what this text is driving at here.  Verse 13 tells us that God has been with Jacob but he went back up to heaven.  He’s ascended.  Jacob is now left on his own and yet he’s left changed.  His identity has been redefined and refashioned because of his encounter with the presence of God.  And what does he do in response to that?  Well, verse 14 tells us that he takes a pillar of stones and he pour, pours oil upon them as a drink offering.  And then look down in verse 15.  Something else happens.  It tells us in verse 15.

            15So Jacob called the name of the place where God had spoken with him Bethel.

And in the original language, Bethel means house of God.  This is the place where God dwelled.  He had come down in his presence and manifested Himself to Jacob.  And now, he gives that place a new name reflecting the new identity that has been redefined by the new experience of God’s presence in his life.  And even in this moment, we get a preview of what God is going to do in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Think about the way that the Bible talks about Jesus.  It talks about Him as a stone.  As a matter of fact, the stone the builders rejected, the chief cornerstone.  It speaks about Him as the Messiah which means the anointed one.  So, He’s the stone and the anointed one.  And the anointed one is the one who is covered in oil.  He is that stone who is covered in oil chosen and anointed by God.  And where does this take place?  It takes place in a town known as Bethel.  The house of God and when Jesus comes, the son of God, He takes on flesh so that He now is the house of God in our presence.  He is the place where the fullness of God lived on this Earth.  And just as Jacob experienced the presence of God in this moment, in an even greater way you and I have a gift given to us we put our faith in Jesus that God sends His Holy Spirit to live inside us so that the presence of God is with us and for us no matter what we experience.  God changes Jacob’s identity when he encounters His presence and He’s still doing that exact same thing today.

There’s one more thing I want you to notice in these last few verses that we’ve read about our identity.  One more place that it’s found and it’s this.  Our identity is found in God’s perspective of our life.  It’s found in God’s perspective of our life.  I remember years ago when we were living in Louisville, Kentucky, it was Thanksgiving time just like it will be in a few weeks.  And Cami and I were heading home to see family.  And this trip was a little bit different because she was about almost eight months pregnant.  It’s probably the last time we were going to be able to travel.  We were flying down through the Dallas/Fort Worth airport and it was one of those days where everything was out of sorts.  There was bad weather, there was plane delays.  There were gate changes.  And I just remember tight windows of connection and having to move our way through and I’m trying to carry all our luggage and she is seven and a half months pregnant trying to shuffle her way across the airport.  Now, imagine for a season, in a moment there, she thought, I’m not sure I want to have any more of this guy’s kids if I’ve got experience this again.  But there’s something about going home.  There’s something about reconnecting with your family in these major moments that would drive you to do things you wouldn’t otherwise do yourself.  And in this situation, we find Jacob and his family in a similar moment.  Where what we have here is they are traveling to this place.  Rachel is nearly ready to give birth and something tragic happens.  On the journey, she goes into labor.  This is not any sort of labor.  The text tells us there it was a hard labor.  And she’s able to give birth to this new life but she loses her own in the process.  You can just imagine all the mix of emotions that this would develop.  And if you look back in verse 18 as she’s in this hard labor and she is in the process of dying, this new son is given two new names showing two different perspectives of the moment.  So, notice the name that she gives him.  In verse eighteen, it says,

            18And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni;

And in the original language, Ben-oni means son of sorrow, or son of suffering and struggle.  There’s this picture where she is looking at it from her earthly perspective as she’s heading towards death.  And through her eyes, she sees struggle.  She sees sorrow.  That’s her perspective.  And yet right after that, we see Jacob comes along and he says, “No, no, no, no, no.  His name will not be Ben-oni.”  He gives him a name from a different perspective.  He gives him a name from God’s perspective.  And what is that name?  We’ll look back at the end of verse 18.  That name is Benjamin, which means son of the right hand.  And as we know in that culture, in that time period, the place of the right hand was a place of favor and honor and strength, and power.  And when Jacob looks at the birth of his final son, he doesn’t see it through a perspective focused on the darkness, on the pain, on the sorrows, and the struggles.  It’s not to say they aren’t there.  He feels it.  He’s losing his wife right now.  But even in the midst of one of the hardest moments of his life, he sees it not from an earthly perspective but a heavenly one.  That God has given him a gift, a son of his right hand, one that is not looking back in sorrow but looking forward in hope.  Looking forward to what God is going to do in our lives.  And that redefines how we see our identity.  When we find our identity based on our perspective, based on how the world sees us, based on how we measure up to what other people think should be true or even worse, our own high standards for our life that we can never meet.  We will always see it in the same way that she does.  Darkness, struggle, sorrow.  But here, Jacob gives us a different perspective.  He shows us another view.  The way that God looks at even the hardest moments of our life, not without hope, but with a promise, with a future, with strength in the middle of weakness.  And one of the things I know is it seems like the Christmas shopping season starts earlier and earlier every year, doesn’t it?  So, I was in a store this weekend and they were already playing the Christmas music.  I’ve noticed the advertisements on TV, advertising something like early bird Black Friday shopping.  I’m like, Black Friday is a day, it’s not a season.  And yet, here we are.  But right here in this passage in Genesis 35, we see one of the earliest signs of Christmas in the entire Scripture.  Why do I say that?  It’s because we don’t need to just notice what happens but where it happens.  Do you see the location where Rachel dies?  Verse 19 tells us in a place called Ephrath, also known as Bethlehem.  Does that ring any bells to you as you start thinking through the New Testament?  Because this place where the last son of Jacob was born is the exact same location that a future son of Jacob, Jesus, would be born.  And so listen to the words from the prophet Micah.  In chapter 5 in verse 2.  He brings this location back up and speaks to its future significance.  When he says there,

            2But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

So, centuries later, just as Jacob’s son, Benjamin, was born in Bethlehem, a greater son of Jacob will be born in Bethlehem.  And just as Benjamin’s mother wanted to name him Ben-oni, signaling son of my sorrow, son of my struggling.  Here comes a greater son of Jacob who struggles with the demonic forces, who is a man acquainted with suffering and sorrows, acquainted with grief.  And here this man comes fulfilling the promise embedded in the name Benjamin, son of my right hand.  Because what the Bible tells us is that when Jesus comes, and the God man takes on flesh, the Son of God comes and lives in this world.  He lives a perfect life.  He dies the death that we deserve.  He’s raised from the grave.  The Bible tells us that after that, He ascends back to the heaven and where is He seated?  At the right hand of the Father bringing about the victory that you and I can never find.  Bringing about the freedom that you and I could never find.  Bringing about the hope that you and I could never find.  He changes our identity.  He reshapes our heart.  See, one of the amazing things about Genesis 35 is that God pours out all this favor and all this blessing to Jacob who doesn’t deserve it.  He’s a scoundrel.  He walks in his own ways.  He’s constantly deceiving.  He’s living in fear over and over again.  And we’ve talked repeatedly in Genesis about why God shows His blessing to people like Jacob.  And let me mind you the reason is because who Jesus came from reminds us of who He came for.  Maybe you walked in here this morning, you’ve never met Jesus before.  Maybe this might be even be the first time you’ve ever been in church.  What the Bible teaches is that there is one God, that He is alive and that He loves the world so much that He sent His Son to be born right here in this place, Bethlehem.  To become the Son of the right hand.  So that you could stop trying to make yourself right with God.  So that you could stop trying to hide the bitterness and the shame and the guilt and the pain that has wrecked your life so that you can stop trying to earn your way to God.  And the free gift of the Gospel that God offers us this morning is that everything we ever wanted but couldn’t get on our own, He is now given to us in His Son if we quit believing in ourselves and in our own strength and instead, put our trust in Him.  And He invites you to do that today if you’ve never taken that step.

And for those of you that have followed Jesus, this passage sets us up for exactly what we’re about to do now in the Lord’s supper.  We gather together once a month.  We take this family meal.  It’s for those of you that know Jesus and are walking with Him faithfully as baptized believers.  And the reason we do it is to reflect the exact reality we see right here in Genesis 35.  Remember, Jacob took these stones and a marker.  He covered them with a drink offering.  And in that moment, it was also pointing ahead to what we’re about to celebrate now.  We take this bread as another marker.  We take this cup as another drink offering.  And in the same way that helped Jacob to look back and remember what God had done, it also gave him hope to look forward to what was God was going to do in the future.  So, in just a moment, I’m going to pray for us and we’re going to ready our hearts to make our ways to the table and to respond with God in that time.  Will you pray with me now?

Father, You alone are worthy of our worship.  You alone are worthy of our praise, God, and I know that our hearts so often can get out of focus.  Our hearts can be turned towards the things of this world when we take our eyes off of Jesus.  And so, if there are people in this room who need to refocus their lives on King Jesus, I pray today would be that day.  Lord, and so often we find ourselves searching for our identity, searching for our significance in other ways.  And yet, God, Your word is calling us to embrace You with our lives, to find our identity and who we are, not in what other think of us.  Not in what that voice inside us tells us we are.  But instead, in how You see us through the blood of Jesus that washes away all our sins.  And even now, God, as we turn our hearts to respond in singing and we turn our hearts to the table.  We pray that You have your way among us.  We ask these things in Jesus name.  Amen.

In just a minute, we’re going to stand and sing.  We’re going to have ministers here at the front that would love to talk you through any next steps that you want to take including starting the membership process before our New Member Workshop.  But also make your way to these tables, receive these elements, and let’s ready our hearts for what God is going to do through the taking of the Lord’s Supper.  Let’s stand now and respond as God leads us.