Written by Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
According to author, Thomas Cahill, in his book, The Gift of the Jews today’s story is the beginning of western civilization. Without it there would be: no travel, no adventure, no advertising! How? Up until this point in human history there was no “new and improved.” Everything was established by the position of the stars and planets, and life was thought to be a repeating cycle. This is why an astrologist can tell you your future. It has all happened before. All you have to do is check where you are in the cycle and you’ll know what is about to happen. Also, up until this point, no one had ever moved from their home without being forced to do so. You moved because of war, or famine, or natural disasters. Sarai and Abram receive a promise from God that they will be blessed if they move. They move because of the promise of a new future. No one has ever done this before.
And Abraham is not the only one to be blessed in this process. Through Sarai and Abraham “all of the families of the earth will be blessed.” At the Co-operative ministries we feel that this blessing comes to all families—those who are single, those who have two mothers, those with two fathers, those headed by a single parent, those with extended families that help hold everything together. And what is God’s plan for blessing? How is God going to bless everyone on earth? Turns out the answer is laughter. Maybe we should all just tell a bunch of jokes this Sunday and have a time of holy laughter? Some churches have people laugh out loud until they can feel the Holy Spirit moving inside of them.
God gives Sarai and Abraham the promise “to your offspring I will give this land.” It is a faithful promise. The only problem is that it’s not going to come to fruition for several hundred years. Abram and Sarai will live as resident aliens the rest of their lives. Their offspring will be forced to live in exile in Egypt because of a drought. They will live several hundred years in Egypt, many of those as slaves. They will be delivered from Egypt, and then spend 40 more years in the wilderness. And then God will give them the land. It’s a true promise, and it will come true, but not in Sarai and Abram’s lifetimes. Not even close.
After this reading today we have what I like to call, “The series of lies.” Abram is worried about how he’ll be welcomed, and worried because Sarai is so beautiful that people will kill him to get to her. So he tells people, one after another, that Sarai is his sister. Well it turns out he’s not lying exactly. She is his half sister! Yes, we turn to the Bible to find all of our family values!
In verse 10 they go to Egypt to reside there as aliens, because there was a severe famine in the land. Doesn’t that sound familiar? After just finishing the story of Ruth where Naomi has been forced to go to a foreign land because of a drought in Israel, this story has a resonance to it. People move around. Sometimes they go because of the promise of a better life. This is the narrative we use to talk about our ancestors coming to live in this country. They were living in another land, and they heard about a better life in America, so they picked up everything they owned and they came. In many cases they didn’t own much.
Some of the people moving to our country now come to survive. There is violence and terror in their land and they cannot survive there. Some come because of economic violence—they can’t afford to feed their children or make a living so they move. There is a long history of people moving from one place to another. Some for promises of a better life, some to survive. I can’t imagine you can pass laws to stop them. People will take incredible steps when they are threatened or facing hardships. Today’s reading calls us to remember that our spiritual narrative is one of a resident alien. He wondered the countries of the Middle East. Scripture calls us to welcome the alien in our land, because “A wandering Aramean was our ancestor.”
Quotes for the Week
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky
“Our lives improve only when we take chances — and the first and most difficult task we can take is to be honest with ourselves.” Walter Anderson
“And so by the fifteenth century, on October 8, the Europeans were looking for a new place to try to get to, and they came up with a new concept: the West.” Dave Barry
“A man walks into a clock repair shop and the repairman is German and says: So? Vat sims to be ze problem? It’s my grandfather clock. It doesn’t go ‘tick-tock-tick-tock’ anymore. Now it just goes ‘tick-tick-tick.’ Hmmm! I sink I can fix zis. Let me look inside. Ve haf vays of making you tock!” Prairie Home Companion 2011
A mother took her little boy to church. While in church the little boy said, “Mommy, I have to pee.” The mother said to the little boy, “It’s not appropriate to say the word ‘pee’ in church. So, from now on whenever you have to ‘pee’ just tell me that you have to ‘whisper.'”
The following Sunday, the little boy went to church with his father and during the service said to his father, “Daddy, I have to whisper.” The father looked at him and said, “Okay, whisper in my ear.” Ibid
Lesson Genesis 12:1-9 (NRSV)
The Call of Abram 1 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. 2 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.”
4 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. 5 Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, 6 Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. “7 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. 8 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. 9 And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.”
Questions for the Week
What is one change in your life that you are struggling with?
Is there a promise you are still hoping will be fulfilled?
Is there a time in your life you were a wonderer? What was it like?