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                     of Almelund, Minnesota

 

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Abraham’s Story; Our Story

Pastor Marla Amborn

Immanuel Lutheran Church

September 16, 2018

Genesis 12:1-9

 

It takes faith to embark on a journey, especially a journey not of our choosing. It takes faith to leave behind that which is familiar, beloved, and that which we have always known. It takes faith to face our fears and nevertheless go boldly ahead. It takes faith to embrace what is new and different, unfamiliar, or downright scary. It takes faith to journey with God into the unknown, based on a promise of blessing.

 

Abraham had that faith. Abraham heard God’s call to pick up and leave The place he had always lived the people he had always known and loved and set out on a journey of faith. Abraham heard God’s promise that God would give him descendants, land, and blessings. Despite whatever fears or doubts he had, Abraham faithfully responded to God’s call.

 

We think of Abraham as special, someone especially chosen by God for blessing. And in some ways, he is. All these thousands of years later, we still know Abraham’s name and story. We still remember him as the father of the Abrahamic faiths – the faiths of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim people. We know that among Abraham’s descendants were Moses, King David, and Jesus. Through Jesus, the whole world was blessed. Wow! What a legacy!

 

But in other ways Abraham was just an ordinary guy. He didn’t do anything special to earn this blessing. It’s true, he was faithful, in that he left his home and followed God’s lead, but he also made some big mistakes along the way. In those ways he is just like us, just ordinary people trying to do our best, and sometimes making mistakes along the way.

 

What can we learn from Abraham’s story? How does his story relate to our story?

 

Abraham listened to God. I have often wished that God would speak loudly and clearly in plain English so that I was certain what God is asking me to do. That doesn’t happen too often. It is rare to get a spoken word from God. I don’t know about you, but I have long envied the kinds of conversations with God like we read about in today’s scripture, between God and Abraham. Wouldn’t it be nice if God would just talk with us and tell us what he wants?

 

But God does speak to us. He has given us his word in the Bible. God continues to speak to us through his people. And God speaks to us through the Holy Spirit, as we hear that still small voice inside that nudges us and guides us, that prompts us to act in faith.

We need to listen for God’s word. We need to listen to what other Christians have to say, how God may be speaking through them to us, or through us to them. We need to be alert for God’s answers to our prayers. Too often we just rattle off our wish list to God. We also take time to listen for God’s answers. If we pay attention, we will recognize God’s word for us and we will know what God is calling us to do.

 

Abraham did what God asked him to do. Once Abraham heard God’s voice, Abraham packed up and left to go wherever God would lead him. Abraham could have played it safe. He could have stayed in Haran. That seems like it might have made his life a lot easier.

 

What a big undertaking it was at age 75 to pick up and move himself, his wife, his nephew, his servants, his animals, and his whole household! There were no moving vans. They had to walk or ride animals – feeding everyone along the way. They didn’t know where they would be going. There was no map or GPS to guide the way. They were waiting for God to reveal the destination to them en route! That would sure feel unsettling! Wouldn’t it be tempting just to stay in Haran? Doesn’t that seem like the prudent thing to do?

 

But Haran is not where God wanted Abraham to be. If Abraham had stayed in Haran, he would not have opened himself to the lessons of faith that he needed to learn. If he had stayed in Haran, he would not have learned to trust God for his safety, or his wellbeing, or all that he needed to live. If he had stayed in Haran, he would not have experienced the fulfillment of God’s promises.

 

Abraham grew in faith through this journey. Early on in the journey Abraham was fearful for his safety. He didn’t fully trust God to keep him safe. As they were passing through Egypt Abraham was afraid that others might kill him, wanting his beautiful wife, Sarah, for themselves. So, he told them she was his sister, and allowed her to become part of the royal haram. What a cowardly thing to do! Selling out his wife, because he didn’t trust God.

 

Later he didn’t trust that God would fulfill his promise of descendants through his relationship with his wife, Sarah, so he went along with a scheme to have relations with Sarah’s younger servant girl, Hagar. That resulted in the birth of Ishmael, which led to the formation of the Muslim faith –something that is still having ripple effects today.

 

These were not among Abraham’s better decisions. They showed that although Abraham trusted God enough to leave his home and set off for parts unknown, he didn’t fully trust God to keep him safe or to fulfill his promises. But ultimately, after Isaac is born, when God tests Abraham’s faith by asking him to sacrifice his son, Abraham shows he has learned to trust God. Somewhere along this journey from Haran to the Promised Land, Abraham came to fully trust God.

In what ways is God asking us to leave the comfort and safety of what we have known and venture out with him on a journey of faith? Not all journeys of faith require a physical move from one place to another. But all require an openness to going in the new directions God is leading us. Learning to trust God means stepping out of our comfort zone and being open to change.

 

Might that journey of faith invite us to go beyond the basics we were taught in Sunday School and Confirmation and continue growing in our knowledge of the Bible and our relationship with God? Might that journey of faith invite us to be active participants in the work Jesus commissioned his disciples to do – to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them all that Jesus commanded? Might that journey involve living out our faith in all the little decisions we make each day? Might that journey involve telling others why our faith matters in our lives, actually witnessing to the difference God has made in our lives?

 

If Abraham had never left Haran he would never have gotten to know how trustworthy God is. He would have never experienced the trust that comes from knowing God is dependable and really does keep his promises. In what ways are we clinging to old things in our lives that keep us from growing in our faith? What might it look like to let leave the security of Haran behind and walk boldly wherever God calls us to go?

 

God blessed Abraham to be a blessing to others. God’s promises of blessing to Abraham were never for Abraham to keep to himself. From the beginning, God’s promises were made so that through Abraham the whole world would be blessed.

 

That’s how blessings work. Blessings were never meant to be hoarded. Blessings are only fully realized when they are shared. Mr. Rogers, of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, once said: “The real issue in life is not how many blessings we have, but what we do with our blessings. Some people have many blessings and hoard them. Some have few and give everything away.” How true! Well said, Mr. Rogers!

 

There is joy in being a blessing to others. There is joy in generosity – in giving of our time to help others, in giving of our resources to help others, in sharing our talents in ways that make other’s lives better. There is a joy in sharing our faith with others, in pointing to God, the source of life and love, of hope and salvation, of forgiveness and eternal life.

 

Sharing and generosity are marks of God’s people. That was true for Abraham and it has been true ever since. Sharing Gods’ blessings encourages others to live generously. Blessings spread. Resources are shared. Faith takes root. Love is given. God is honored and glorified.

 

As God called Abraham and promised him blessings, so too God calls us and blesses us. Throughout Jesus’ time on earth, he invited people to be part of the journey saying, “Follow me!” All of us are invited to follow God’s lead. All of us are invited on journeys of faith. All of us are invited to go and make disciples.

 

As Abraham was sent into new places to learn to trust God’s promises, so too, God leads us to places near and far to be his hands and feet, to share his love and salvation. What a journey it is!

 

Let’s pray:

Lord God, you have called your servants

     to ventures of which we cannot see the ending,

     by paths as yet untrodden,

     through perils and into joys unknown.

Give us faith to go out with courage,

     not knowing where we go,

     but only that your hand is leading us

     and your love supporting us;

Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.