Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sermon from March 20, 2011; Genesis 12:1-5

Rev. George Miller
Genesis 12:1-5
“Today...At Any Age”
March 20, 2011

Here we are: Genesis 12. What you’ve just heard has been called the most important part of Genesis, if not the entire Bible.

It is at this point of Scripture in which God’s plan of salvation for all enters into the story.

In the previous chapters things did not look so good. There was the banishment from Eden, the Flood and the Tower of Babel.

But if there’s any doubt that the God has a plan to bless humanity, this story dissolves it.

This is the story of a family. A family that had been uprooted once before, a family in which a brother dies, a wife in unable to have children and a nephew becomes an orphan.

But this is also the story of how God chooses this family; this broken, barren family and how God gives them a command to go and to do, and how they obey and how they will never be the same again.

It is also a story how about God will never be the same either, for in making a promise to bless this family, God is now committed to their future...

...I have had an affair with Abraham and Sarah for quite some time now. I can’t tell you exactly when it started, but I do recall a day about 15 years ago when I was in Minneapolis working with abused and neglected children.

Out of nowhere I heard one of the kids say “I’ve seen Abraham.” I had no idea who they were talking about, but immediately I had this vision of the Biblical Abraham wandering across the wilderness, dust falling from his feet.

Since then his story has fascinated me. Years later, a Search and Call committee asked me who would be the one person I’d most want to meet, and what question would I ask them.

The answer came quick- Abraham; and I would want to ask “How?” “How did you find the courage to leave everything behind and just go?”

The irony is that it was only about two years ago when I realized why I wanted to ask Abraham that question. It’s the very same thing I’ve been facing for nearly half of my life, having lived in 5 different states, leaving behind family, friends and the places I’ve come to know.

Of course I would want to meet Abraham because in a narcissistic way my subconscious had made him an extension of myself that I was not yet strong enough to come to terms with.

But there is so much more about this story.

This brief passage speaks about the ways of God: the ways in which God can be surprising; the ways in which God can be intrusive; the ways in which God asks us to leave behind...

...God speaks to Abraham and tells him to leave behind three things: the land that he has grown accustomed to, the family that he knows, and any claim he can make to an inheritance.

In a culture in which land and family meant everything, these were big things to forsake. But Abraham and Sarah step out on faith, and they embark on a journey.

And even though it is a journey instigated and watched over by God, it’s not an easy one. There will be turmoil.

Not soon after they leave there is a famine in the land. There is strife between the livestock herders. Lot is the kidnaped and rescued.

There is uncertainty of the promise being fulfilled. 25 years pass before Sarah gives birth to a son, and both she and Abraham die without seeing the birth of their grandbabies.

And, of course, neither one of them do a very good job at always acting faithfully or morally.

There’s the bit in which a very scared Abraham tries to pass his wife off as his sister and he pimps her out to the local king, not once but twice.

There’s the whole debacle in which Sarah gets impatient and tries to force God’s promise along by convincing her husband to sleep with her slave girl.

And of course there is the undeserved abuse that both Abraham and Sarah inflict upon that slave girl and the son she has with Abraham.

And yet, and yet God does not desert them, or go back on the promise or have a change of mind.

Although Abraham and Sarah are left wandering and waiting for 25 years for God’s promise to come true, even though they face dangerous situations, even though they make some major, major mistakes...

....there are also the wonderful moments that enter into their journey; the places they will go, the people they will meet.

For example, the time in which a local King stops by with some bread and wine to visit Abraham and gives him a blessing.

Or the night in which God invites Abraham to go stargazing and God says “I know you’re afraid, but look-up at the heavens. Count the stars- I will give you that many descendants and I will give you land...kings will come from your family and I will be their God.”

Or that one time during the heat of the day when under the oaks of Mamre God pays Abraham and Sarah a visit and after a meal, God reminds them that there is nothing too wonderful for the Lord.

Then of course there is the day in which Isaac is born, and Sarah, with laughter in her soul, invites everyone else to laugh along with her.

Yes, God intruded into the lives of Abraham and Sarah and asked them to leave it all behind.

Was it an easy journey? No.

Did they make lots of mistakes along the way? Heck yes.

Were there moments of wonder and awe?...

...So why is this all important? Why should we care what happened to this one-time broken and barren family?

Because they are our spiritual ancestors. We are who we are because of them.

We were represented by the stars in that night sky oh so long ago.

Because of this, it is their faith that runs through our soul.

Their strength is our strength. Their flaws are our flaws.

Their journeys are our journeys because their God is our God too.

We are Abraham; we are Sarah.

We are called, and we are promised.

Like them, at some point, or at many points in our lives, we are told by God to make some kind of move from one thing towards something else.

For some people that call to will be geographical. For others it will be professional. For others it may be spiritual or emotional.

God intrudes into our life and God calls us to move:

-From disbelief to belief

-From sickness to wellness

-From brokeness to wholeness

-From anger to forgiveness

-From emptiness to feeling fulfilled

-From holding on to letting go

-From bigotry to tolerance

-From judgment to acceptance

-From the way it’s always been done to the way that it can be achieved

-From ‘because I said so’ to ‘tell me what God is saying to you.’

-From ‘I can do it on my own’ to ‘I can’t do it without your help’.

-From ‘we don’t have the funds’ to ‘let’s trust that God will provide’

-From ‘because the pastor says so’ to ‘never place a period where God has placed a comma, God is still speaking.’

-From ‘we don’t allow your kind’ to ‘no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey you are welcome here!’

Each of these moves can be scary. It can be hard to leave behind what we know, especially if we are unsure where God is leading.

And sometimes the journey makes no sense at all, until we get to look back and we can see and we can say “Oh I understand.”

Today, at any age, God has the ability to intrude into our lives, to surprise us and to say “Go.”

And just like Abraham, just like Sarah, we get to make the choice to respond, to play a role in God’s ultimate plan for salvation for all.

If we choose not to answer, who knows what blessings and possibilities we may block for others.

But if we do respond, who knows the places we will go, the people we will meet and the things we will experience?

Today, at any age, how is God calling us as an individual, as a church, and as a denomination to go from and to head to?

How can our obedience to God make possible the Creator’s cosmic plan?

Blessings be to the Spirit that moves us along the way, to Jesus who walks with us every step and to God who will not make a promise that can not be kept.

Amen and amen.

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