Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bethany Bullet - March 22, 2011

Something OLD and something NEW confronts us in worship weekly. During the season of Lent we will explore how these two texts intersect.

I have always been fascinated with the OLD Testament character, Abraham. From the Sunday school stories I learned as a child, to a deeper understanding of his character after a study of Genesis. Abraham is fascinating.

Abraham grew up as Abram which means “exalted father” most likely a reference to God who is our exalted Father. In our text (Genesis 12:1-9) from Sunday, God the exalted Father speaks to Abram and lays the groundwork for His plan of setting a people apart for Himself.

In the OLD Testament we don’t get much back-story as we are introduced to Abram. We know that his father’s name is Terah, they used to live in the city of Ur and he had two brothers. His brother Haran was the father of Lot and Haran passed away while they were still in Ur. Abram was married to a woman named Sari who was barren. Terah took the family and moved from Ur to Haran (not Abram’s brother) and they settled there.

While in Haran the LORD speaks to Abram. If this conversation were to take place today, perhaps it would go something like this:

“Abraham, this is God speaking. I want you to leave everything and go to the land I will show you.”
“Where’s that?”

“If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me.”
“Try me.”

“Its 1500 miles from here in a place called Canaan.”
“Never heard of it.”

“I know, and guess what else?”

“I’m going to make you the father of a great nation.”
“That’s impossible. I don’t have any children.”

“Don’t worry.”
“What do you mean, don’t worry?”

“Just trust Me.”
“Let me see if I’ve got this straight. You want me to leave everything, travel across the desert to someplace I’ve never heard of, and become the father of a great nation.”

“Is this some kind of joke?”

“What am I supposed to tell my wife?”

“That’s your problem.”

Well, perhaps a bit of poetic license but I think you get the idea. If this were me, I would have bristled at the notion to pack up and go! But not Abram, he left as the LORD ad told him with his nephew Lot, his wife Sari and all his stuff…and by the way he started this journey when he was 75 years old.

The NEW Testament writer to the Hebrews gives us a bit more to the story: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8)

Abraham leaves his home to go to the promised land of Cannan with an impossible task. Become the father of a great nation with a barren wife and no land to call his own. But soon the plan would start unfolding, there would be a new name, Abraham, which means “father of many,” a miracle baby, and the testing of faith, a life lived as a messenger to the nations. This all started because the LORD said GO!

It was not without problem or incident but Abrahams descendants were indeed blessed and all people on earth are blessed through the family of Abraham.
That was something OLD…Now for something NEW. Abraham is not the only character in the Bible who left his home.

+ Abraham left the life of comfort to go to the Promised Land.

+ Jesus left the Promised Land of heaven to bring the comfort of life.

The Prophet Isaiah speaks of the coming Messiah:
Shout for joy, O heavens;
rejoice, O earth;
burst into song, O mountains!
For the LORD comforts his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
(Isaiah 49:13)

Hearing the call of His exalted Father, Jesus leaves the glory of heaven and takes on the frailty of the flesh. He heard his Father say GO…and He went. It seemed to be an impossible mission to redeem a nation great with sin and barren of morality. But soon the plan would start unfolding, a miracle baby, the gathering of the faithful, wonders performed, and new life given.

Why? We heard the reason in our Gospel lesson from Sunday, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)

It was not a life without problem or incident. Jesus faced the problem of sin head on. There were incidents of doubt and disbelief from those near to Him but as an offspring from the family of Abraham, Jesus brings blessings to the nations and indeed the world.

Jesus’ journey ends in the Promised Land as well, and all are blessed as Jesus is nailed to the tree. His life is a message to the nations that sin has been vanquished, death is no more.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
(2 Corinthians 5:17)

What about us? We are at home and comfortable in our sin aren’t we? Like Abraham and all those who have come before us, we have been called to leave it.

We enjoy the status quo, we relish doing what we want, and when we want it. Many sins are comfortable and common and often times we don’t want to hear the Lord’s call. We may think we have it all together; we come to church each week, even twice in Lent. We read our Bibles, we pray for the suffering in Japan, and we think we have it all figured out. Many believe that if they do enough good, they will be part of the family of Abraham but in the long run Abraham’s blood is not enough, you need Jesus’.

+ It is not in being connected to the blood of Abraham, but by being contacted by the blood of the Savior.

And today the LORD calls us as well and tells us to GO. As Jesus stood on the mountain about to return to the exalted Father, He says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

+ Unlike Abraham, we are not called to be a great nation but to bring greatness to the nations.

+ Unlike Abraham it is not our name that will be great, but the great name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit that comes to us in Baptism that brings blessings to the nations.

It may seem like an impossible task, but we too have been called to be witnesses to all the nations. It started for many of us as a baby in the miracle of Baptism. Even in our great sins and barren morality, God has chosen to call us to GO. If God can use an aging man and a barren woman to make a great nation, he can use you!

It will not be a life without problems or incidents. There will be struggles, Jesus said as much, “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.” (Luke 6:22) But Jesus promises to never leave you.

So now too, as in the days of OLD, in this NEW day, God would use us to bless the people of the world. Want to know how to start? I would suggest following the advice of the Psalmist:

Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
Look to the LORD and his strength;
seek his face always.
Remember the wonders he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
O descendants of Abraham his servant,
O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones.
He is the LORD our God;
(Psalm 105:1-7a)

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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