Sunday, March 08, 2020

Gen.12.1-9; Second Sunday in Lent, March 8, 2020;

Gen.12.1-9; Second Sunday in Lent, March 8, 2020;
Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb. (Genesis 12:1-9, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
And God said to Abram, “Go Now!”
You know, I just don’t think I would have done it.  Oh I know, it’s not really good for a pastor to say he wouldn’t do what God commanded.  But really, look at what Abram is leaving.  God couldn’t be more specific.  Leave your country, your family and your father, leave everything behind that gives you any stability, any sense of belonging.  Most of you live pretty close to your family, and even I live not too far away.  Even if we are at quite a distance we can get reach out and touch our loved ones in a second.  That’s what cell phones do for us, keep us connected at all times to those we love.  Not Abram (his name is later changed to Abraham).  His doing what God told him to do cuts him out of the picture.  His family will go on doing what they’ve been doing.  Abram just won’t be a part of it.  He won’t inherit his father’s land, he won’t see his cousins, or nephews, or nieces, grow up.  He won’t be doing anything for the rest of his life with his family.  God’s command to leave is one sided.  It isn’t just leave.  It is leave everything.  What God does to Abram is disconnect him from his past.  I just don’t think I could do it. 
And the funny thing is that although we consider Abram a great man of faith (and he surely is that!), he doesn’t seem to have been able to do either.  There’s a clue to that here in the text.  Something that tells us Abram’s trouble with doing what God wanted.  God said,
Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house…”
That sounds simple enough, there’s just a little more dramatic force in the original language, God said, “Go now!”  And how does our hero react? He reacts by following God’s command, right?  Well, not exactly. 
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him.
Oops, what’s this with Lot going with him?  Why did Abram let that happen?  Isn’t Lot one of his “kindred” that he’s suppose to leave behind?  As it turns out, Abram would regret taking Lot along.  Lot would be no end of trouble.  Lot would be a guy that Abram would end up baling out of trouble again and again.  If Abram would have listened to God, he would have spared himself a Lot of heart ache.  But that’s always the case.  If we listened to what God tells us in His Word, we spare ourselves a lot of heartache too.  Well, we are all cut from the same cloth aren’t we?
And there’s another thing.  It isn’t just us who see Abram’s lack of ability to do what God commanded.  In Joshua 24:3 God tells the people,
Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan(Joshua 24:3a, ESV)
You see, God made it happen.  You might say that God pushed Abram out of his homeland and dragged him around the land of Canaan.  Over and over again Abram showed he was weak in doing what God wanted and trusting that God would do as he promised.  Here is just a few points to remember:
ü  Abram was given the most beautiful woman in the land (possibly the world, but don’t start thinking swimsuit model here, our sense of beauty is very different from theirs).  Sari was not only beautiful but she the way that God had promised to deliver His promises to Abram.  She would be the mother of the great nation.  And yet, Abram lent her out to two kings as a sex toy just to save his own skin.
ü  God promised that he and Sarah would have a son, the first born of a great nation.  Abraham took matters into his own hands, literally, by sleeping with another woman.  If God won’t give me a son through Sari I’ll get one this way.
Over and over again, Abraham shows himself to be doubtful of God’s promises.  That’s what we heard St. Paul say too, isn’t it.
For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. (Romans 4:2, ESV)
In fact, Abraham had nothing to boost about before God.  Everything that God asked him to do, he did imperfectly.  If God hadn’t stepped in over and over again, Abraham would have screwed everything up, over and over again.  Now there’s something to keep in mind.  Abraham may have his doubts.  He didn’t always do what God told him to do, the way God wanted it done.  God may have to slap him over the head with a 2x4 again and again.  But, in spite of Abram, God still kept His promises.  You might even say that it was God’s promises that kept everything going in Abram’s life.  In fact, God’s promises that make things happen.
Abram wasn’t a different kind of person than you are; He had faith in a faithful God.  He didn’t dig up the faith to believe what God promised; it was God’s promise itself that created faith in Abram.  All the mistakes that Abram made were his own; when he is faithful it’s his faith acting.
Remember God said, “Go Now!”  God also said Go Now to Abram when He told him to take his son, the son you love, your only son, Isaac and sacrifice him on the mountain.  There’s no backing out of this one.  He’s very deliberate in carrying out God’s instructions.  Even though Isaac is the only way God’s promises are going to happen, Abram does exactly what he’s told.  Abram believe that God would stop him, or raise his son from the dead.  It’s a difference of years and years of God’s promise being active in Abram’s life.
On that first time God talked to Abram God made him 7 promises.  It’s the last one that’s most important to us.  That all the nations of the earth would be blessed through Abram.  The interesting thing about is the word earth.  It’s Adama that same word as in Adam’s name.  Adam came from the Adamah.  A translation that gets the gist of the pun is Dusty came from the dust.  God’s promise to Abram was God’s promise to you and me.  We are children of Adam the one from the Adamah.  Now remember it’s God’s promise that make things happen.  It’s God’s promises that create faith.  That’s important because just like Abram we are quick to modify what God tells us to do. 
ü  He tells us to go now and make disciples and we sit on our hands… and our checkbooks.
ü  He tells us to love our neighbor and we cheat him out of his land.
ü  He tells us to pray for those who persecute us and we pray for them to “get what’s coming to them.”
St. Paul tells us
to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, (Ephesians 4:1, ESV)
That’s hardly doing that.  But we’re going about it all wrong if we try to muster up the strength to live as we’ve been called to live.  The strength doesn’t come from our own will power. Our will is so often influenced by our sinful nature.  Instead it is God promise that makes things happen.
St. Paul also talked about that.
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:29, ESV)
Our faith doesn’t lie in ourselves but God’s promise to bless all the people of the earth. 
God makes that promise true in Jesus.  It is Jesus who is told Go Now! Just like Abraham.  But there is a difference.  Jesus doesn’t falter as Abram did.  Jesus didn’t falter as you and I do.  There’s a hymn by Martin Luther Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice (LSB 556. v5-8, text and music in the public domain.)  We don’t sing it too much because it very long, but right in the middle of hymn is these verses.

[God] spoke to His beloved Son:
'Tis time to have compassion.
Then go, bright Jewel of My crown,
And bring to man salvation;
From sin and sorrow set him free,
Slay bitter death for him that he
May live with Thee forever.

This Son obeyed His Father's will,
Was born of virgin mother,
And God's good pleasure to fulfill,
He came to be my Brother.
No garb of pomp or power He wore,
A servant's form, like mine, He bore,
To lead the devil captive.
To me He spake: Hold fast to Me,
I am thy Rock and Castle;
Thy Ransom I Myself will be,
For thee I strive and wrestle;
For I am with thee, I am thine,
And evermore thou shalt be Mine;
The Foe shall not divide us.

The Foe shall shed My precious blood,
Me of My life bereaving.
All this I suffer for thy good;
Be steadfast and believing.
Life shall from death the victory win,
My innocence shall bear thy sin;
So art thou blest forever.

This is God being faithful to his promise.  You see, it is God who is faithful, not me, not you, not Abram.  He promised to bless you and me through Abram and he did it in Jesus Christ.  It is that shedding of His precious blood that wipes away every part of sin in all that we do.  Back to the Epistle Lesson
And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,   and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin." (Romans 4:5-8, ESV)
That’s the promise, our lawless deeds are forgiven.  That means we are free to do what God commands.  That means when we do what he commands imperfectly, we are forgiven.  And when it comes to doing better?  Well, we look to God’s promise in Jesus.  We hold on to Jesus. God’s promises make things happen.  Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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