Jacob is fleeing from his brother. Far from home, in strange terrain, he stops for the night at a place that appears quite ordinary. He falls sleep, dreams of a ladder with angels ascending and descending and then he encounters God. He awakens a changed man and reappraises his surroundings, declaring the location "awesome". Understanding that he has stumbled on the House of God, he erects a marker. The commentators argue at length about the geographical location and other historical events at this site. Yet I'm not sure that the physical location is as important as his spiritual transition.
We've all been there - one of the numerous places on this planet that can take our breath away. Sitting at the top of a mountain range, walking behind a waterfall, passing through an ancient forest with a neck-craning emerald canopy, it is easy to be stuck by the overwhelming profundity of creation. There are also those wonderful surprise gasps and sighs when we meander along a quite ordinary path and stumble across an unexpected vista.
Some places may appear quite ordinary, yet they can become sacred. Just think of a spot where you have interacted with others or had a life-changing experience. Sometimes, for a place to rise from the mundane to the exceptional, we need to see it with fresh eyes. A wonderful example of this could be found in the popular wall calendar that depicted an array of nature scenes on the banks of the dreary M25 motorway. So when we encounter one of these places, when we stumble on unexpected beauty, when we gasp and sigh, let's mark the moment by reciting the blessing for natural wonders: "Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Ruler of the Universe, Author of creation."