Genesis 12:1-6a (MSG)
South Presbyterian Church’s Fellowship of Faith
March 4, 1018
The Reverend Deborah Fae Swift
Genesis 12:1-6a (MSG)
God told Abram: “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you.
I’ll make you a great nation and bless you.
I’ll make you famous; you’ll be a blessing.
I’ll bless those who bless you; those who curse you I’ll curse.
All the families of the Earth will be blessed through you.”
So Abram left just as God said, and Lot left with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot with him, along with all the possessions and people they had gotten in Haran, and set out for the land of Canaan and arrived safe and sound.
This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Biblical Thoughts on Trust (responsive)
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. (Jn 14:1 – NIV)
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Rev.21:5 NIV)
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isa.14:28-31 NIV)
We are now in week 3 of our Lenten study titled, “Peacemaking in Genesis,” and this week’s scripture is about the call of Abram who would become of the father of three great religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In fact, we are all known as Abrahamic religions.
This story about God telling him to go off to another country – to LEAVE his land and everything he had created at the age of 75(!) – with nothing but a promise from God, comes right after the story of building the tower of Babel. In THAT story, in chapter 11, the people of the world all spoke one language after the Great Flood and they were intending to build a great city and high tower as a monument to God.
But God doesn’t WANT monuments. God wants faithful LIVES. And so, it is written that God “confounded their speech” so they couldn’t understand each other. Hence, the origin of different languages on earth.
THAT story is followed directly by this one of Abram, and in MANY ways, “Abram’s call is to lead the human family to a world of shalom – of wholeness and peace. … And besides containing a call, this passage also includes a promise – a vision”[i] where it says, “So in you will all the families of the earth gain a blessing.” Or as the Message version that we read says, “All the families of the Earth will be blessed through you.”
“Abram and his descendants [… that’d be US …] hold the key to overcoming the curse of Babel, which is divisiveness and dispersion. The rest of the Bible is the story of the slow progress toward the fulfillment of that promise. The church today continues Abram’s peacemaking journey inspired and enabled by Jesus Christ.”[ii]
Abram and his family went off on this journey totally without a MAP. They were just following GOD. I was GOING to say that they didn’t even have GPS then, but in reality, they had the ORIGINAL and best GPS – GOD’S. Positioning. System. They were led by the Spirit of GOD to go where they went … do what they did. And as a result, they THRIVED!
So, I just want to make a couple of parallels between Abram and us today.
The FIRST is that we may not have a map, either, but like Abram, we ALSO have God’s positioning system. We are CONTINUING Abram’s peacemaking – Shalom – journey, led by the Holy Spirit. We are in a different place with our God’s Positioning System – our GPS – because of JESUS.
Paul tells us how this works in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (MSG)
16-20 Because of this decision [that is our decision to follow Jesus] we don’t evaluate people by what they HAVE or how they LOOK. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. NOW we look inside, and what we see is that ANYONE united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called US to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given US the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s REPRESENTATIVES. God USES us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.
21 How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on HIM who never did anything wrong, so WE could be put right with God.
These passages – Genesis 12 and 2 Cor. 5 – are CENTRAL to our call to be PEACEMAKERS in the world around us. Peacemakers. Reconcilers.
It doesn’t mean we all have to go to the United Nations or to Washington or to The Hague or Switzerland to make peace. We are to do it right here where we ARE … right in our own lives.
A SECOND parallel with today’s reading is the fact that “there will be threats to our peacemaking journey like there were to Abram’s and Sarai’s and their descendants.”[iii] Now, THEIR threats probably won’t all be the same as ours – although SOME may be similar.
THEIR threats included Sarah’s infertility, Abram’s faithfulness, Isaac’s sexism in Genesis 26 when he passes his wife off as his sister, Leah’s jealousy, Jacob’s deception and fraud, and Joseph’s brothers’ hatred[iv] like we talked about last week.
But God has promised to be with US just as God was with Abram and transformed him into Abraham.
How do we KNOW that God will be with us? Because Jesus promised us. In John 14:27 (MSG), it says: 25-27 “I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. [That’s like saying, “I’m leaving you in a state of Shalom.”] That’s my parting gift to you, [Jesus said]. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.”
By virtue of our BAPTISM, we have God’s Positioning System … we have JESUS … we have that peace that SURPASSES all understanding … right INSIDE of us.
It is that peace – that ASSURANCE – that leads us to know and ACCEPT that we are called by God to UNITE people … and not divide them.
We are sons and daughters of Abraham … AND of Jesus.
This week marks the half-way point of Lent.
Let’s Eliminate Negative Thinking.
Scientists tell us that when we are trying to break a habit, it helps to have a NEW habit to replace it with.
Negative Thinking is a habit that we’re all trying to BREAK this year. And it would help us to do that if we had ANOTHER habit to replace it with.
So THIS week … and actually, for the rest of Lent between now and Easter … I want us all to try EVERY DAY to do something nice for someone without them knowing it was you.
It’s like Secret Santa without a gift.
Do something NICE for someone every day and don’t tell them who did it. It might be someone in your family … send them a little surprise or something. Or it might be something simple and easy like holding a door for someone here … or smiling and saying hello to a stranger. But EVERY DAY!!!! Something nice for someone else. OK?
THAT’s how we become peacemakers.
And trust me … God will DIRECT you to where your Shalom needs to go and you probably won’t even be AWARE of it. All you have to do is follow GOD’s Positioning System … your INTERNAL GPS that comes from the Holy Spirit which we have within us because of Jesus.
Y’know … most of us think that the Bible is a finished book. We either think that it ends with 2 Chronicles if we’re Jewish or with the Book of Revelation if we’re Christian. But if the truth be told, the WRITTEN book is just the FIRST edition because this BOOK, itself, is still being written in and through the lives of you and me!
WE are part of the ongoing legacy of Abraham and Sarah … of Joseph and Mary … the ongoing work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
WE are the peacemakers put here to bring Shalom to a very broken and splintered world.
And each one of us should be praying, “Let peace begin with ME, Lord.” This table that we are about to meet Jesus at … this table where we will share a meal with our Lord and Savior through the power of the Holy Spirit in REAL TIME … THIS is where it all begins.
May God’s Grace make it so.
[i] Peacemaking in Genesis: God’s Peacegiving and Human Peacemaking. ©1985 by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program (PC(USA), p. 10.