2016-09-18 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
A Twinkle in Abram’s Eye
Today we move from creation and the cosmos to Genesis’ First Family…as it were…
There’s a TSN turning point in this part of the Genesis story… genealogies and genealogies…putting us in a bit of a slumber and then…11:31-12:2.
Now these are the descendants of Terah. Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran was the father of Lot. Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans. Abram and Nahor took wives; the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah. She was the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah.
Now Sarai was barren; she had no child.
Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan; but when they came to Haran, they settled there. The days of Terah were two hundred five years; and Terah died in Haran.
“I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (12:2)
Ah ha! Abram (who would re-named Abraham “Father of Many”) gets his marching orders…and we too, pick up ours!
Abraham picked up his first revelation at 75…wow huh?
And then we pick up today’s story when he’s in late 80’s… (any octagenarian’s in the house today)
Abraham is not on the freedom 55 plan…instead of a golf club in hand, he is swinging a sword…he’s at battle with oppressive enemies and trying to fight for justice. He’s just succeeded in a seek & rescue blitz against the Elamites and now he’s back in the army barracks, strategizing how he might wind down the operation and get some well-needed rest and healing for himself and his people.
It’s late night in the commander’s tent, he’s rubbing his eyes and thinking that a day’s work is well enough and done…he stares out of the tent door…lost in thought…
In the stillness, a voice…
Abram looks about, wondering if it’s one of his servants or family members.
Startled and freaked out…he grabs for his sword and stands his guard.
“Abram…Do not be afraid!”
He’s heard this voice before…ah…the “where have you been for the last 12 years” YHWH…showing his face ‘round camp again hmm?
“Abram…I AM…your shield.
“Your reward shall be VERY great!”
Reward? Abraham thinks to himself…He thinks back to the day just shortly after his 75th birthday, when God called him to leave his homeland of Haran…
He recalls the promise: “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.”
And now…12 long, arduous years later…not much of a whiff of land, “so-called” blessings…or even children!
Slightly tired…and slightly ticked…Abraham responds:
“What will you give me?”
“Lord…God…what will you…give…me? I continue childless. And you know who is going to be heir of my ‘fortunes’?? Not a son…but my house-servant Eliezer of Damascus!”
(Thanks for the great “reward” Lord!)
“You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.”
(and in the parentheses of the original manuscript, there is a “harrumph” included here…with an emoji of a mad face with smoke coming out flaring nostrils).
BUT – – the word of the LORD again, comes to him…
“Abram, this man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own ISSUE shall be your heir.”
“Go…outside…Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.”
“So shall your descendants be.”
– – And Abraham believed the Lord.
And Abraham reckoned the Lord as righteous.
* * * * * * *
As we settle back into church-life this September… do you even wonder why we gather around stories like these?
There are a hundred of other things you could be doing this morning…and yet, you’ve found yourself here…with people that you like, or kind of like…or might not even like…worshipping a God who sometimes feels as close as your breath…or sometimes feels like the Bette Midler God…watching us from a distance…
In these first few weeks of walking through the Narrative Lectionary and hearing, chronologically, the big stories of our scriptures, you’ll hear us talking of how we are living into & out of the story of God.
Finding ourselves caught up with our biblical family members…the shrewd, the wise, the scoundrels…learning the lessons of faith, promise and courage that the people of God have been learning and living for millennia.
Walter Brueggemann, the OT scholar who informs and inspires several of us preachers/teachers/Christians in the room, says this about church…
(and why we gather) (I paraphrase…)
Weekly worship and being the church is the great “rehearsal” or “liturgical re-performance” for the repeating call of being the people of God for such a time as this…we gather inward and upward each Sunday, learning the lessons of faith and formation so that we can continue the call to be a blessing – – Alongside Abraham, we join in the long-obedience in the same direction…
“I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.”
And so today…as we gather…as we “rehearse” in order to go out and be a blessing, the central theme of the day is PROMISE…and BELIEF in that promise.
A QUOTE FOR TODAY’S SERMON (see in bulletin)
It is a hard thing, to believe in a promise with no power to make it come true… Everything will happen, by and by, but in the meantime what is there to live on now?
And yet, what better way to live than in the grip of a promise, and a divine one at that?
To take nothing for granted. Or to take everything as granted, though not yet grasped.
To handle every moment of one’s life as a seed of the promise and to plant it tenderly, never knowing if this moment, or the next, may be the one that grows.
To live like that is to discover that the blessing is not future but now.
The promise may not be fully in hand.
It may still be on the way, but to live reverently, deliberately, and fully awake – – that is what it means to live in the promise, where the wait itself is as rich as its end. All it takes are some regular reminders, because as long as the promise is renewed, the promise is alive, as vivid as a rainbow, as real as the million stars overhead.
~ Barbara Brown Taylor, Gospel Medicine
I am inspired by the phrase…
“To live reverently, deliberately, and fully awake…”
A few weeks ago, Dawn put us alongside some biblical characters and encouraged us to “be brave…to live courageously…to bind up the wounds of one another as we walk together…”
Last week, in the wake of the Creation story, Jeremy encouraged us to “live as God’s creatures, cultivating daring works of love.”
And this week, I think the exhortation builds on the previous ones…
Live Fully awake.
And the great answer to “why do we go to church” helps all these exhortations.
We go to church…we “be” the church…as living reminders (just like stars & rainbows) telling each other that we are not created to do this God-life-work alone.
We do this together.
At FBC, we won’t guarantee you a perfect, got our act together community. But I think we offer a “these are pretty darn authentic human beings who are are trying to join God in God’s work of changing human history” kind of place.
In this place of work and worship, from week to week, you’ll find a people who:
…live reverently as we worship
…live deliberately as we attempt to seek the peace and well-being of the city
…live fully awake to the movement of God in our midst through word, spirit, revelation and community discernment.
We believe in God.
We believe in God’s outlandish, turning dead spaces into life-giving places promises.
And we reckon that God is righteous…that God will do what God promises to do…and that God will use us fledgling, fearful, [flawed?] yet fervent followers…to get God’s will done…on earth as it is in heaven.
And we are discovering in small and big ways, together, that the blessing is not only a future blessing, but the blessing is in the here and now.
Look to your left…look to your right…look around, look around…
We are the blessing of God…blessed to be a blessing…
we are the twinkle in Father Abraham’s eye.
Thanks be to God!