Summary: God ordered Abram to leave Haran (which means "crossroads") and journey to an unknown land that he would guide him to - this was the crossroad of Israel's begninning.
2nd Sunday of Lent - Genesis 12:1-4a
Well I must admit when I first read over the lessons for today, I said to myself, Richard knew what he was doing being away this Sunday. What more could I possibly say about Abrams walk of faith with God? What could I say about “being born again” that has been preached on many times and still is for the most part misunderstood? But then I remembered that our readings in Lent are a journey through the building of Israel and the redemption of mankind through Jesus Christ.
One of the things I try to teach people is to always look and see how the old testament is pointing towards Jesus and how both testaments are one unified book. Last week we read about Adam and Eve and the fall. We will remember that in the middle of the Garden of Eden there were two trees—the tree of knowledge of good and evil which which ultimately led to the fall, and the tree of life. In the bible the word tree is often used to mean “cross”. We know from the opening of the Gospel of John that Jesus—the Word—existed from the very beginning. We also know that Jesus is the tree of life. From today’s gospel reading vs 16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” There are many other examples in the Gospel of John where Jesus makes reference to “those who believe in him will have eternal life.”
Two things struck me about today’s old testament reading—1st not only Abram’s immediate faith in going as God told him, but where he left from; and 2nd the use of the words bless and blessing. In four short verses these words are used 5 times.
1st lets get some background.
“So Abram went, as the Lord had told him.” This is how we are introduced to the patriarch of three faith traditions: “so Abram went.” In chapters 10 and 11 of Genesis we are given a long genealogy from Noah’s son Shem, to Terah the father of Abram. In the 5 verses immediately before our reading, we discover that Abram has two brothers, one of whom dies in Ur of the Chaldeans, leaving a surviving son named Lot. Abram “takes a wife,” Sarai, who is barren, “for she has no child.” Finally, Abram’s father, Terah, dies in Haran and is buried there.
We then read that God tells Abram to go to a place he has never been before — go from your country, go from your kin, go from your father’s house — go, and I will show you where. So Abram goes. We know so little about this man. We know nothing of his pedigree, his credentials or qualifications. Was Abram a righteous man as was Noah? We are not told. Why would God call him? The text is silent on these matters, so we do not know — yet we do.
We know the ways of God through our experience of God today. In our churches, in our congregations, in our own callings as ministers, and in the callings of others to both lay and ordained service, we can see God’s method at work. We see that God does not always call those with the best credentials or the shining pedigrees. We see, again and again, that a faithful response to God's leading results in a blessing of gifts and talents, of learned and acquired skill sets sufficient for the task of which an individual is called. God calls and Abram responds faithfully and receives the power of procreation and the skill set to become a great nation.
The city of Haran, from which Abram is called, means “crossroads.” God’s call to Abram at this crossroads and Abram’s faithful response is the starting point of Israel’s history. Again we have that word “cross”, and when I think of crossroads or two highways intersecting each other, I envision a large cross, and I see God leading his people back to that tree of life—back to Jesus.
But what about us? You and me? All of us are, or have been or will be at a cross roads in our life. How will we hear God’s call to us? How will we respond? I hope as Christians we will pray and ask God’s guidance and help; that he would give us the courage to step out in faith as Abram was called to do; that we would put our reliance on God for the necessary skill sets; that we would see God’s hand at work. About 15 years ago I was at a crossroads in my life—not knowing where or what I was to do, but knowing that something was changing within me; and when that call began to make itself known, I was filled with the inevitable questions: Do I have the time? Do I have the gifts and talents, the skill set for this task? Am I a “good enough” person to fill this role? And of course the answer was no to all of the above. But my experience and the witness of Scripture concur that the one who calls is the one who equips. Therefore if the call is of God, the answer to all the above questions is yes. A faithful response is the embrace of what God has already called into being—a newness of being—and the release from what is known for what is promised. A faithful response is neither forced nor coerced, but a step freely taken toward our true selves.