2nd Sunday after Pentecost
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Genesis 12:1-3 Sermon
May 29, 2005
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
202 "Awake My Soul And With The Sun"
385 "My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less"
558 "How Firm A Foundation Ye Saints Of The Lord"
516 "Faith Of Our Fathers"
“FINDING STABILITY IN UNSTABLE TIMES”
TEXT: “The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Probably the one thing that tops my list of things I don’t like to do would be moving. I can honestly say that I hate to move. You know, the whole business of packing up and shifting residence is nothing but a gigantic pain in the neck.
It’s not like I don’t enjoy going other places, and it’s not like I don’t make myself comfortable in new surroundings. It’s just the whole process of moving and packing and general upheaval that I don’t like. Even though I haven’t moved around as much as some people I know, I’m not new to the process either.
I remember our first move. I was 12 years old. The only home I had known was our old two story, white weatherboard home in the small town of Emerson Nebraska. And we were moving to Lincoln, 120 miles south. Sure there was some anxious anticipation--my grandmother lived there, as did my aunt, uncle, and cousins. In many ways, I really looked forward to the move.
But the preparations were difficult. We all had to work. We had lived in the same house for 15 years and had quite an accumulation. So we had a giant auction and sold a bunch of stuff. There were things that had been sold which were hard for me to part with--and many more things that would have been worth a lot of money had we hung on to them. I guess that was the first bit of pain I felt.
I guess it wasn’t until we finally got moved and the excitement wore off the new house that I began to miss what I had left behind. I guess that I had been so anxious about what was ahead, that I never gave much thought to what I was leaving behind.
My next move came about 12 years later when I moved from my parents’ home into my own house on 35th and Dudley Streets in Lincoln--a big step for me, but at least I was living in the same town. Then I moved from Lincoln Nebraska to Mankato Minnesota where I spent the next five years living in a 24 x 8 foot travel trailer. From there I moved to Princeton Minnesota where I lived in a basement apartment while I was a vicar. From there, I had brief stays in Mankato again and Lincoln again before I moved to Australia. In Australia, I had one move there. I lived for 2 1/2 years in Brisbane and 3 years in Maryborough. And from there, I moved to Kennesaw Georgia where I lived for 4 ½ years. Then it was moving time again; so the moving van came and loaded up all my possessions and brought them to Lincoln to my current home on 11th and D Streets in 1998. And here I am.
I’ve had 8 moves in my 50 years, and each one has not been easy. Its difficult pulling up your roots and putting them down again; and I can tell you that the older you get, the harder it is to do this. I’ve grown attached to the places I’ve lived, and I like to visit my old haunts when I can.
I was thinking about all of this as I read our text for this morning. When I think about the difficulty of moving myself, I can just imagine how difficult it was for Abraham and Sarah to make the move that they did from Haran to Cannan.
This wasn’t Abraham’s first move you know. His first move was when he, together with his father’s and brother’s families left their homes in the city of Ur, and headed north to Haran. Certainly that would have been a difficult move.
But now comes the second move. God not only asks him to leave behind his country and his people, but he adds something else: “Leave....your father’s household.” So the only people that went with Abraham on this move were his wife Sarah, and his nephew Lot.
So as difficult as it was for Abraham to move the first time, this time would be worse. For one thing, Abraham was 75 years old. That in itself presented a big challenge. And secondly, he would only have his immediate family and his possessions (which included his servants). So in effect, he was going it alone, and leaving his comfortable surroundings behind, and heading off for an unknown destination.
God of course would have known how difficult this would be for Abraham. He knew what was ahead. Abraham would have known too that God would not put him into a situation that he could not handle. And so, to give Abraham assurance for the future as well as give him a willingness to heed this call, God gives Abraham a promise; or rather a whole cluster of promises.
To this childless 75 year old man, the husband of a barren 65 year old woman, God said “I will make you into a great nation.” How could that happen with no children, unless God would make it so?
If Abraham would have been thinking, “Huh...why should a man my age pull up roots and start over;” God said “I will bless you.” God would not only pour blessings out in Abraham’s personal life, He would use him to bless countless other people. God says, “You will be a blessing.”
God also tells him, “I will make your name great.” At the time of his call, Abraham was a very well-to-do cattleman. But this promise had nothing to do with his profession. Abraham would be a friend of God, a friend whom God shared some of his sacred secrets. He would be the father of the Israelite nation; he would be called the father of all believers. And most importantly, God promised Abraham that a descendant would be born to his family who would bring blessings to every member of the human race.
This of course was the Messiah. According to Christ’s human lineage, both his mother Mary and his stepfather Joseph were direct descendants of Abraham. And this fact he knew.
Jesus makes this fact clear when he says in John 8, 58: “Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” Yes, Abraham most certainly knew that Jesus Christ would be one of his descendants, and he would not only be the Saviour of the world, but he would be Abraham’s personal Saviour too.
In Romans 4, Paul writes, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Abraham wasn’t saved by some sort of generic faith in a merciful God. Abraham was saved by faith in a Person, and ONLY by faith in a Person, and only by faith in ONE Person. That one and only person is God’s one and only Son, Jesus Christ. This is what makes the Biblical record of Abraham’s life and faith so very important. Because the way Abraham was saved is the very same way sinners are saved today. It’s no different.
All we need to do is see how God dealt with Abraham, and we have a good understanding of how God deals with us. God deals not in terms of demand, but in terms of promise. And there’s a big difference between the two. God doesn’t say, “Hey go and do this and don’t question it;” but He says, “go, because there’s something better up ahead.” God’s promises are important, because that is what gives us some sense of stability in these unstable times. We know God’s promises are true. They have been proven.
The theme of my message to you today is “finding stability in unstable times.” And even though I haven’t directly addressed this subject yet, I think you can see how this fits with this discussion of Abraham’s move into something new and frightening. And I also think that we need to find this same stability today that Abraham found so long ago.
Alvin Toffler in his book “Future Shock” says the following: There are personal stability zones that contemporary nomads build into their lives. To compensate for the rapid change to which they are subjected, some people restore dated automobiles, wear clothing styles of earlier eras, or hold rigidly to dated routines. At the deepest level what we cling to has become our so-called “god.”
We all like to find some sense of stability. For some people, they hang on to every memento and form sentimental attachments, trying to cling to something from the past with the hope it will provide the stability of a previous time in an unsure future. People tend to have security blankets of varying degrees--something they know will always be there and will never change, no matter how ridiculous those things might be.
But here’s where the Christian needs to look to God, and only to Him. He’s the only thing that is stable in these unstable times. He never changes, and is always there.
As I look back at the times I’ve moved in my life, I can see the Lord’s hand at work through all of it. Every place the Lord has placed me in my life has been for a specific purpose to accomplish His will. Even though I hate to move, and each time I’ve done it hasn’t been any less painless, yet I know that I’ve gone the way the Lord has wanted me to go. There’s an old saying which I’ve found very helpful: “The will of God will never lead you, where the grace of God will not keep you.”
That’s true stability in these unstable times. All we need to do is look at Abraham and how God gave him stability for what seemed to be a very unstable future in Abraham’s eyes. And God dealt with Abraham by way of a promise, not a demand.
We can see this same promise in our lives too. Jesus doesn’t say, “you’d better do as I say or else.” No, he says in Matthew 11,28-30: “Come unto Me, all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
That’s the way God came across to Abraham, and that’s the way He speaks to you and me. We, who are laden with sin can come to Jesus through faith, and find forgiveness and rest. We, who are so fed up with instability and rapid changes, can come to Jesus for something that’s stable and certain. We, who are sickened by the world’s wickedness and lies, can come to Jesus and find absolute truth and love. We can unburden ourselves at the foot of the cross, and let Jesus replace it with peace and rest. Just as God promised to bless Abraham, so He promises to bless the Christian too.
In our Gospel lesson for today, Jesus uses the illustration of the foolish man and wise man. The foolish man built his house upon sand—and of course when bad weather hit, the house wouldn’t stand. That’s a classic illustration of instability. But the wise man built his house upon the rock which withstood the ravages of nature; and of course it stood firm.
A firm foundation gives stability in a world where everything seems so unstable. Our faith needs to be grounded on the solid rock that God provides. That rock is the entire body of Scripture. The Bible tells us that a faith which is centered in and grounded in Jesus Christ is a faith that is rock-solid. Regardless of what may happen or wherever we might go during our lives, our faith is something that needs to always remain the same. Jesus is always there with his gospel and sustaining love, come what may.
Jesus also warns us about those who are out there who attempt to dilute or pollute the faith. In Matthew 7, 15-16 Jesus says: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits….” These are people who chisel away at that sure and solid foundation of our faith, and there are many of them out there. They may be popular, they may have a lot of charisma and appeal to a large number of people. But if what they are offering is in direct conflict with what God says, then they are offering nothing more than instability, or the proverbial “house on the sand” type of faith. So we need to be vigilant.
As we studied Abraham today, we can see that he was an important person in God’s plans for saving the world. He is important for us too. Since he was the father of all believers, God had to train him to trust his promises completely. The only safe foundation for faith is not what we see or feel, but what God has said. That’s what God was after with Abraham, and that’s what he’s after with you and me as well.
So with the promises of God made sure to us, we can say with the hymnwriter: “How firm a foundation ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in his excellent word! What more can he say than to you he hath said, who unto the Saviour for refuge have fled.”