Sunday, March 05, 2023

Genesis 12:1-3; 15:1-6; Second Sunday in Lent; March 5, 2023;

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.”” (Genesis 12:1–3, ESV) After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:1–6, ESV)
From a Sermon by Rev. Randy Asburry

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

When you plant a seed, after you have covered it up with dirt, there is time before you see the sprout come up. It becomes a time of faithful waiting. While you wait you can’t see anything happening. You can’t uncover the seed and see if it’s sprouted (if you do it will likely die). In the darkness of the soil the seed germinates and begins to grow and take root.

That’s the way it was with God’s family tree, too. He planted the seed and then came time for faithful waiting. God promised the Seed of His Savior to rescue sinful people. The promised seed would crush Satan’s head and bring life and forgiveness to God’s people once again. After it was planted there was a time when the Seed of God’s Family Tree was hidden, a time when no one could see what was happening. A time before it sprouted and began to grow.

It begins with Adam and Eve. After them the human family tree grew rapidly. According to Genesis “man began to multiply on the face of the land.” (6:1) But sin was ever present, and the tree was corrupt. “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (6:5) God sent a flood to clean everything up and later he scattered the people every whereby confusing their language.

But still even during God’s judgment against sin, the Seed of the Promised Savior, remained planted. Even during trouble God kept his faithful people safe. They trusted Him and believed in the promised Savior. It’s after all of that that we find Abraham. He is often called the “Father of Nations.” God called him to faith in the promised Savior. God called Abraham with a promise.

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.” (Ge 12:2-3, ESV)

Abraham was 75 years old when God called him to faith through the work of the Holy Spirit. The life of faith is never easy. Before God called him, Abraham worshipped false gods. But even after he believed he still had troubles. He still had doubts about God’s promise to him. He had doubts about God’s planted seed, too. Abraham even thought that God’s promise would fall to someone else. He thought his servant Eliezer of Damascus, would inherit all that he had including God’s promises. But God made his promise clear, And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” (Ge 15:4, ESV)

In spite of all God’s promises to us, we too, like Abraham have trouble trusting God and his promises. Lot’s of times, it’s hard to see God’s work in our lives. Abraham was very old. He didn’t think God could give him the promised son. When things go bad in our lives, we too have trouble seeing the results of God’s saving work in Jesus. We struggle in our faith whenever we see things that seem to go against what God promises. You know what I’m talking about. Some of you have recently lost loved ones. Some of you have lost a job. Some of you have struggled to keep your business afloat. We all struggle with temptations to sin. In the face of these kinds of troubles it’s hard to believe that God is active life. Death makes it hard to believe that God gives us life through Jesus Christ. Economic troubles make it hard to believe that God provides for all our needs. Recurring sin makes it hard to believe that God makes us holy through the work of the Holy Spirit.

One of the times when Abraham had doubts about God’s promises, he tried to make his own solution. The Bible tells us about the additional trouble that that brought into Abraham’s life. Our solutions always fall short of God’s promises. Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. (Ps 146:3, ESV) one of the Psalms tells us. He’s talking directly to you. He’s warning you not to trust in yourself and your own ways of fulfilling salvation. God promised Abraham a son of his own He wasn’t going to fulfill that promise through Abraham’s servant.

But despite all his doubts, Abraham is still a great example of faith. And [Abraham] believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. (Ge 15:6, ESV) So, what is it that makes Abraham a great example? It’s not that he lived a perfect life. Before God called him to faith, he was an idol worshipper. It wasn’t he record of dealing with other people. Abraham lied about his wife two times, saying that she was his sister, to avoid troubles. And it certainly wasn’t because he always trusted God, he tried to make his own solutions, and he fell into despair and doubt on more than one occasion.

One of the Lutheran Church fathers writes this in our statement of faith. “Faith is that worship which receives God’s offered blessings.” (Tappert, Ap IV 49). That’s Abraham. He received God’s mercy and clung to God’s promise that He would send a Savior. At times for Abraham that promise was hidden like a seed in the ground. But, Abraham still believed even though the growth of God’s promise was hidden to him.

Finally, when Abraham was 100 years old, the promise broke through the soil, when Isaac, Abraham’s very own son, was born. The family tree grew. Isaac had two sons, Jacob, and Esau. Jacob had 12 sons. And God’s Family tree was in full grow mode. After a short stay in Egypt where God delivered them from slavery, God replanted His people in the Promised Land. But, even there, there would be struggle, and God’s people would still have to live by faith in the promise.

God delivered His promise when Jesus was born to the Virgin Mary. The Promised Tree came to full bloom in Jesus, when He hung on the cross, dying for all sin. Two Gospel writers (Matthew and Luke) trace Jesus family tree right back to Abraham and his family. Abraham looked forward to the promised tree. We look back in wonder.

Jesus called himself the “true vine” (John 15:1). He said that if you are connected to him, you will have life and bear fruit. That’s Jesus talking about The Tree Promised. The fruit that He gives is faith. In faith, we see Jesus as God’s Promised Tree of Life. He takes on human flesh and blood so that he can be nailed the tree of the cross. That’s the Tree of Promise in full blossom. That’s God fulfilling His promise to save people from sin. And He connects you to all that Jesus did through the promise He made to you in Baptism. And He renews that promise every time you take Jesus body and blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.

Faith receives what God gives. That’s the faith of Abraham. When you have trouble trusting in the promises of God, promises of forgiveness and life with Him, remember how God kept Abraham. Remember the Seed Planted. Your God will always bring you comfort in the same way. He gives you Jesus who was promised, who went to the cross for you, and who is coming again. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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