This morning we will continue with our sermon series, “Before There Was GPS”, where we are focusing on some of the people that God called to undertake some important and awesome journeys in the Bible, as well as the journeys themselves and what they entailed. This morning, we find ourselves tagging along with Abram and his family after God called him to travel to the land of Canaan and make it his home.
I’d like you to all take a moment to try something with me. I’m going to need you to use your imagination for this. And I don’t want anyone to say that they don’t have an imagination or a good imagination. I say that because I am almost positive that each and every one of you is imagining that you are somewhere much warmer right now. I mean, I like winter and snow, but I’m even imagining we are all worshiping together somewhere where the temperature is more than just a few degrees above or below freezing.
Okay, back on topic. I want you all to try and imagine the scenario that I am going to explain to you in a minute, and when I am done I want you to try to remember your first reactions to it. Don’t spend a great deal of time thinking through all of it. I just want you to focus on your first, kind of “gut reaction” if you will. Okay? Here we go. And you can close your eyes if you want, but by no means do you have to.
Imagine that you are sitting at home with your family. It can be your home, your parent’s home, your children’s home – just somewhere that you identify as home. You are surrounded by your family and loved ones. It doesn’t have to be any special kind of event, just hanging out and going about a normal day.
And then, someone else comes in. This person is someone who has authority over you. It could be an authority of the law, or a parental authority, but someone who you would feel compelled to not only listen to, but also do what they tell you to do. And this person tells you that you have to move. You have to take your children and your belongings and go to a whole new place that you have never been. A place where the people are very different than what you have known.
Okay so now by a show of hands, how many of you had the “gut reaction” or first thoughts of something along the lines of “no way”? Okay, what about “but what about blank”? Okay, how about, “Okay”? Did anyone in their first thoughts and reaction just think, okay, yes I will go and do that?
That would be hard right? To just pack up everything at a moment’s notice and move somewhere far away from your family and to a place where not only do you not know anyone, but the people where you are going are very different than those you know from their culture to their religion to their very ways of life. It would scary right? It would be a great challenge.
And yet, that is exactly what Abram did as we read in our Scripture reading for today. Verse one says, “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 then we skip ahead to verse four where we read, “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 nowhere in-between verse one and four does it say anything about Abram questioning God, or even stopping and complaining about what God has called him to do. Now it is possible that Abram did question God or complain, but we don’t have a record of that so we cannot really be sure. All we do have here is God telling Abram to uproot everything to go somewhere new and Abram following these instructions.
Did you happen to catch his age at the end of verse four? Seventy-five years old. Who here who is even just seventy or older would be willing to move your family and everything you had to a faraway place right now if I told you that God said you should do it? I’m guessing you would probably question me and even call our District Superintendent or the Bishop.
Or what if your husband or wife, or your father or mother, came to you and said, “Hey everyone! Pack up everything you own, we are going to move to a new country where we don’t know anyone, or much about the people there. And we are doing this because of voice told me to.” You’d probably be pretty upset and even want to have them checked out by a doctor.
Now, it is important to note that our Scripture reading if taken from a much different time and context than we live in today. With the spread of information through the internet and telecommunication networks, there are very few places in the world that we do not know about or have the ability to learn about. A quick trip to the local library and you can learn more about a country, its people, its cultures, and more.
So how can we relate to this story in our lives today? How can we share in and engage with Abram and his family as they undertake this new challenge from God? We live in such a connected world that not only do people make these kinds of transitions every day, but they are made with relative ease compared to back then.
Let’s look at exactly what God was asking Abram to do, or at least on perspective of what God was asking Abram to do. God tells Abram to move him and his family to a foreign land. But he tells Abram, as we read in verses two and three, “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 the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
So while God is telling Abram to make this great change in his life, and the lives of his family, God makes Abram several promises. First, he promises to make Abram a great nation, or make him prosperous and have a large family. God also promises to bless Abram, and to make Abram himself a blessing. He also promises to bless whoever blesses Abram and curse those who curse Abram. Finally, God promises that in Abram, all of the families of the earth shall be blessed.
Those are some pretty strong promises. I mean a promise from God to be blessed and to be made a great nation is itself pretty impressive. To be a great nation could mean more than just having a large family. It could mean to have great power and wealth and influence. Can you imagine God telling you personally that he would make you into a great nation?
But the next promises may be even more impressive than being made a great nation. Being made a great nation has implications for our time on earth that are more material and about power potentially. But the next promises conclude with Abram being a blessing and therefore all of the families of the earth being blessed through him. I’m not sure I can even wrap my head around that completely. All of the families of earth will be blessed through Abram. That’s pretty significant.
So back to today and all of us here right now. How does God call us? Or does God even call us? Do you think that God calls people still today to new and challenging journeys? Do you believe when someone tells you that they felt God, or even heard God, pushing them or calling them to do something? It’s hard isn’t it? With so many people using the idea of God communicating with them over the years to take advantage of others, it is easy to be skeptical.
But sometimes we need to put that skepticism aside and really try to listen to what God is telling us. God has called each of every one of us to work in God’s ministry. As United Methodists we understand our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. But beyond that, God calls each of us to different paths and different journeys. And it’s important how we respond to those calls from God that really matters.
You see, God calls us to journeys that may make us uncomfortable and unsure. For instance, sharing our faith for example and be very uncomfortable. We don’t know if the other person will embrace or reject what we share and because our faith is so much of who we are, it can feel if we are being accepted or rejected.
God may call be calling you to reach out to a family member or friend whom you have not spoken with for a long time, maybe even because of a fight or conflict in the past. That kind of call can be uncomfortable and unsure to follow. We don’t know what the result will be or if the person will even speak to us. It would be easier to ignore these calls from God and just go along our merry way right?
But we can’t forget a very important part of our Scripture reading. Remember in verses two and three what God promised to Abram? “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 the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Abram answered God’s call, without question from what we know, and uprooted everything he had and went to a foreign land. And God kept his promises. He made Abram into a great nation. He made his name great, just ask any follower of Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. Abram, or later Abraham, is at the beginning of each of these faith traditions. I’d say that’s a very successful way to make someone’s name great, wouldn’t you?
And there is more. If we go back to verses seven and eight we read, “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 on 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 invoked the name of the Lord.”
So not only did Abram follow God’s call to him to undertake this great journey, but he also continued to worship and honor God throughout his journey. And I think that is something important to note. When God calls us to these different journeys and paths, it is important that we not only follow these calls, but that we also continue to worship and honor God throughout them.
God is always with us in these journeys. God never calls us to do something and then just sit back and watch. God is active in our lives, every second of every day. And I believe it is important that we acknowledge that and offer worship and honor to God as a sign of praise and thanksgiving. We can faithfully follow the calls that God puts forth to us knowing that God will not only be with us along these journeys and paths, but also that God keeps his promises.
As you leave here today and go about your week, I ask you to do this one thing. I ask you to take a few extra moments and listen for God calling you. God calls us all to different journeys and to take different paths. But God is always with us all and keeps all of his promises. Use that knowledge to strengthen your faith and answer God’s call to you in your life with an affirmative response. Amen.