In our reading this morning, Jacob has a dream at Bethel (Genesis 28:10-22). In it, the covenant is re-iterated to him. He recognizes the personal nature of God’s presence of God in his vision as he sees a stairway that reaches from heaven to earth with angels ascending and descending. Jesus surely had Jacob’s dream in mind as he speaks to Nathanael of the presence of God in Himself in John 1. The promise that Jacob had surely heard from his father becomes real to him. In commemoration of this moment, Jacob uses the stone he used as a pillow for a memorial.
The Summer after I finished Junior High School, my parents took us on a family vacation to England. I had a moment where the reality of all the things I have heard about in my newfound faith solidified from almost mythical stories into historical realities. One of my most vivid memories of the trip was wandering around a quiet, almost empty Westminster Abbey. Among all the amazing pieces of history in the Abbey and its grounds was the throne of England - the actual chair upon which the monarchs have been crowned for hundreds of years, including both Elizabeths.
At that time, many years ago, it sat in an accessible spot in cathedral. I went up to it and stared at it for awhile. I remember being shocked by how unimpressive it was - just an old, wood, high-back chair in a very old, medieval style. And, under the seat there was a strange stone that I could reach out and touch. When I read about the stone is when the reality of the history of all this struck me.
You must remember, I grew up going regularly to Disneyland. It was fun. But I was very aware that none of that which was depicted was real. Whether it represented a real place or a fantasy - it wasn’t real in itself. Everything in California was new and reached back little over a generation - but most had come from my own lifetime.
The stone has a history. It is the “Stone Of Scone” or “the Stone of Destiny” or, in England, “The Coronation Stone”. There are legends surrounding the stone. This Wikipedia Article about the stone says:
“Various theories and legends exist about the stone's history prior to its placement in Scone:
- One story concerns Fergus, son of Erc, the first King of the Scots in Scotland, whose transport of the Stone from Ireland to Argyll, where he was crowned in it, was recorded.
- Legends place the origins of the Stone in Biblical times and consider the Stone to be the Stone of Jacob, taken by Jacob while in Haran. (Genesis 28:10–22).[unreliable source?]
It was that last part that struck me. Even knowing this was likely a legend, I still knew it was a legend that went back hundreds of years and had significance in the throne of an empire. It somehow linked the Scottish and then British throne to the promise given to Jacob in his dream. And the stone was real. And, to this day, when I read this story of a patriarch almost 4000 years ago, I have a picture in my head and a feeling in my fingers of what it looks and feels like.
Check out the Wikipedia article. It’s a fascinating story. Because of some shenanigans, the stone is no longer kept in Westminster, but has gone back to the Scots. Still, it will find its way back to the chair the next time a Coronation comes along. After all, it’s full of meaning.
The ultimate meaning of the passage and the stone is the most meaningful meaning of all - God is with us (cf. Genesis 28:16). He really is.