Jacob left for Beersheba, and set out for Haran. He came upon a place and stopped there for the night, for the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of that place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. He had a dream: Behold, a SULAM [ladder/stairway/ziggurat] set on the ground and its top reached to the sky. Behold, angels (messengers) of God were going up and down on it. And ADONAI was standing there and said, “I am ADONAI, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac…”(Genesis 28:10-13a).
Inspired by Josh (the bar mitzvah boy) and his family, tonight I offer not a sermon but a guided meditation. So get comfortable, if you aren’t already: Sit in a relaxed but intentional way. I invite you to close your eyes…
Picture yourself in an ordinary place. Somewhere nondescript, normal, routine. Maybe it’s your office, your kitchen, a restaurant; your car, your yard, a section of sidewalk. It’s a place you don’t notice much. Not good or bad, but overlooked. Imagine yourself there, doing whatever boring routine things you normally do there.
Now there’s a flash of light — you look up — and a doorway opens in the ceiling, or the sky, depending on where you are.
A ladder drops down from the doorway. Beings start climbing down. I hesitate to say “angels” because then you’ll picture goofy folks with halos in white robes playing miniature harps. I invite you to picture these beings, these angels or messengers, any way you want except for white-robed harpists.
They climb down, then back up, a steady flow… You wonder why, what are they up to, then you look closely. You see that the ones climbing down carry light in their hands. You’re not sure how, but they’re holding pure, glowing light, without any container. When they get to the bottom of the ladder, they take their handful of light and hide it in something ordinary. A rock, a picture frame, a notebook, a set of keys. Whatever objects there are in the place you chose. One by one, the angels approach each object around you with their hands full of light, they lay their hands on it, and the light moves from their hands into the thing. It glows for a brief, brilliant moment. And then it fades.
You wonder what it would be like to see this light all the time, to notice this light that hides in the ordinary. It fades so quickly. You want it to stay.
The steady flow of angels — however you picture them — stops. The last one reaches the bottom of the ladder. This one looks around the place, as if completing a mental checklist, and then looks at you. With glowing eyes, this one approaches you and lifts two hands full of light toward you. You lift your hands as if to receive a gift, palms up. The light moves into your hands, makes them shine. The light spreads up your arms, into your chest, your heart, up your neck into your face; then down through your legs into your feet. You are glowing, radiant. The light envelopes you, becomes you. You are a being of light…
Then you open your eyes.
Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely ADONAI is present in this place, and I did not know it!” Awestruck, he said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the abode of God, and that is the gateway of the heavens” (Genesis 28:16-17).
As we continue in prayer, we open ourselves to the possibility that prayer is a way of searching for that hidden light, of learning how to see.