September 18, 2022
Genesis 12: 1-9
God has a dilemma today, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Last Sunday, we heard the story of the flood.
Humanity’s violence and corruption made the world irredeemable in God’s eyes. That is except for Noah … who was righteous and blameless. God instructed Noah to build an ark to exact specifications … to summon and load up animals from across creation … and to bring his family on board, as well.
Once the work had been completed, God brought on the flood and washed sin from the world. After months pass, the waters recede and Noah, his family and the creatures disembark from the ark.
Near the end of last week’s reading from Genesis, God promises Noah that there will never again be a flood to wash away the sins in creation. A rainbow will serve as a sign of that promise remains in place … a reminder of the covenant that was made.
Today, we jump ahead from Noah to the time of Abram.
In the chapter previous to today’s reading, we’re told that violence and corruption has overtaken the world once again. So, God comes down from heaven … scatters the people around the world and introduces different languages because they tried to build a tower that could reach heaven.
Which brings us to the dilemma that I mentioned a moment ago.
God remains bound by the promise made to Noah.
Despite the sin, corruption and violent thoughts among the people. God cannot flood the world again without breaking the covenant. So, God must take a different tact. God appears to Abram and makes three promises to the man.
Among them are:
“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. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
… in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Abram … who can trace his family to Noah … looks to be the last of the line. Sarai is barren and … with no son … Abram’s branch of the family tree withers and dies. But God appears and makes a covenant … a promise … with Abram.
God tells him to leave his extended family and journey to another country. This is asking a lot of Abram and Sarai.
God calls on them to forget the comfort and security of the life and people they have known in exchange for the uncertainty of an unknown future.
But if Abram’s does what God has told him … Abram will receive land … and Sarai … who is long past child-bearing age … will bear him a child. The couple will have a good laugh over this promise when they consider their ages.
Abram … God promises … will be blessed and … through this … will be a blessing to all. These blessings will mark life in the priestly kingdom that is to come.
Answering God’s call will bring Abram and Sarai new life …. It will be such a dramatic change their very identities will be transformed. They will become Abraham and Sarah.
Answering the call will bring new life and hope to the world. This will be a new approach to living in community with others… where neighbours become the focus of one’s life.
Like it did at the time of Noah, God’s promise binds God to the people. And shows that this promise can be realized through anyone … even through a seemingly unremarkable everyday person.
Before God’s visit, Abram lived an ordinary life. There was nothing special or noteworthy about him. Yet, when God made the promise to him … Abram received grace.
Abram did nothing to receive this gift. And the blessings Abram receives aren’t for his benefit … they are intended to flow out to others.
In a sense, God does bring a flood to overcome the sins in the world … but instead of water, through Abraham … through Sarah and their descendants … all the way to us here today … it is blessings … grace … that washes over the world. You’ll notice that God says “all families.”
That means that grace is all-inclusive. And there is nothing we need to do except … perhaps … to allow this grace to flow through us to others.
I remember the words of the father of an autistic child made during a recorded presentation a few years ago.
“Your life is not about you,” he said as he spoke about empathy to a group of young people. “Your life is about all the people around you.”
Here … in this gathering … in this community … we call that discipleship.
And in today’s reading from Genesis … it’s called a blessing.
And in today’s gospel passage from Matthew, it is the call to make disciples … to allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us to the world.
Like Abram we are invited to shed the old life … the old ways … to allow ourselves to be transformed … and enter into a world of the unknown … of the stranger … of the unfamiliar … because that is where we find people who are suffering … or who are hungry … who are facing a life on the streets …. who have been shunned, demonized or marginalized. This is where we touch lives … share blessings … share love … and understand that the full extent of our words and actions … of our call … can never be known.
And it is in this world where we … where we live out our call of sharing the promise … the gift … that we have received. It is where we are blessed to serve and where we are a blessing to others.
It is where we are the water that continues to was over the world.