Sunday, October 6, 2013

THE STORY Week 2 sermon

Week 2
Abraham: God will provide
 <<<Slide>>> Last week we talked about God’s vision for the world in which humanity would freely choose to live life walking in the cool of the day through the garden of perfection, which God had created. That sounds wonderful doesn’t it?
That isn’t the way it worked. Adam and Eve had different ideas. They thought it would be really cool to have the knowledge of something called “evil.” God was keeping a secret from them and they wanted to know what this “evil” was. Well they found out. They found themselves on the outs with God, left out of the Garden of Eden. Things would never be the same between Adam and Eve, between humans and creation, between humanity and God, or between us and God.

This week is take 2 or maybe take 3 if you count the flood. Now if I were God (and that’s always a dangerous thing to say), How about If I were God’s PR man I would have suggested a billboard as big as all the sky. God could re arrange the stars in the sky so they read, “I’M REAL AND I LOVE YOU.” Wouldn’t that have gotten humanity’s attention? Wouldn’t that have proven God’s point? Who could deny that?
God had a different plan, though. He always does. God had a different plan and that is where we pick up today.

In the upper story, God is still seeking any way he can to gain personal relationship with people. Remember freely chosen relationship is one of God’s primary values. God will do anything to love and be loved by his people.
Therefore, God tried a different way this time. In the garden, he had a rule and explained the consequences of breaking it. “Don’t eat. If you do you will die.” Adam and Eve couldn’t even handle that one rule!
 Instead of giving a bunch of rules, this time God tried promises. Perhaps God was following the, “you get more flies with honey” philosophy. Whatever the reasons God made some big promises. Notice on page 13 of the story, those promises are all laid out nice a neat for us.
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.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
 and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
 will be blessed through you.”[1]
I break those into 4 promises
Those are some great promises, that really have to do with God’s provision.
 <<<Slide>>> I will provide you with a place.
 <<<Slide>>> I will provide you with people.
 <<<Slide>>> I will provide you with protection.
 <<<Slide>>> I will provide you with a purpose

How does that play out on the lower story? Not the way you would expect.
The first promise was “I will provide you with a place.” <<<Slide>>> Let’s take a look at the map then, so we know where we are. You’ll find it on the inside cover of your book if you are keeping track there. Abram was born in UR of the Chaldeans, down near where we said the Garden of Eden was. <<<Slide>>> For unknown reasons Abram’s father had wanted to move the family to Canaan, but only got as far as Haran, which is up by the turkey/Syria border. For perspective that is about a 600 mile trip.
When Abram was 75 years old, just in the prime of his life, God makes this series of promises that I mentioned.
The first promise was “I will provide you with a place.” Now the place was 400 miles away. Many of you know how much work it is to move. Just imagine packing all of your possessions up on camels and donkeys to move your whole family, and all your possessions, and your hired hands, and your animals 400 miles across the desert. Remember Abram was 75 years old when this happened, no spring chicken.
 Why then? Why did he move? Simple… because God said to. God said “Lech Lecha!” which means, “Go, Go out.” And he did. We call that faith. Let’s define faith as “believing in that, which cannot be humanly understood.” So there is no way to understand why Abram moved. He moved because he believed. God said, “I will provide a land” and he did.

The second promise was “I will provide you with a people.” They would be descendents. Now that is a problem. Remember I told you that Abram is 75 years old. His wife Sarai was 65 years old. Even if by some miracle, a 65-year-old woman could conceive, in those days she would have died in childbirth. But Sarrai couldn’t conceive. She was barren. She was infertile.
If we were going to start a new nation, we would look around for the best specimens of fertile manhood and womanhood we could find. God’s ways are not our ways. God chooses an old infertile couple to start the nation. And it works… sort of …25 years later, when Sarai is 90 years old she has her one and only child. Isaac. He was Abraham’s pride and joy. Abraham loved Isaac’s half brother Ishmael too, but not in the same way he loved Isaac. Looking down the road from Isaac would come Jacob and Esau. Then Jacob (who was renamed Israel) would have 12 sons who would become the 12 tribes of Israel. It was a great nation too. There were 600,000 descendents of Abraham who left Egypt at the Exodus, and 2,000,000 who crossed into the Promised Land. They did, indeed become a great nation.
God said “I will provide many descendents for you” and he did.

The third promise was “I WILL PROVIDE PROTECTION.” There is one story from today’s readings that stands out as a fulfillment of this promise.
The story is the one in which Isaac was offered to God. (You’ll find this story on the very bottom of page 19 of your STORY)
Some time later, the Bible tells us, God tested Abraham. He told Abraham to go sacrifice his beloved son Isaac. Being Abraham, when God said, “GO” Abraham went. As they drew near to the mount of sacrifice, Isaac asked, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place TheLord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
God said I will provide protection, and he did.

The final promise God made was “I will provide a purpose.” Genesis reads, “You will be a blessing to all the nations.” In other words, other nations will come to know me (God) through you. That is your purpose. God provides the purpose. The reason God provided a place, the reason God provided people , the reason God provided protection was so that this nation could fulfill its purpose: to be a blessing to all the world’s people.
Now looking back through our Christian lenses how different is that from “Go therefore into all the earth and preach the gospel?” It isn’t. This is a reminder that the God we are reading about in the Old Testament is the same God with the same purpose as the God we worship today. There is no “God of the Old Testament” and “God of the new testament. There is only a God of one purpose: to bring all creation back in perfect relationship with himself.

So what does it mean for us? We did the upper story and the lower story, what about our story? The big lesson is God provides. God provided for Abraham, for Isaac, for Jacob and all the nation of Israel. God will provide for us too.
But don’t get to comfortable. Lest you think that I am talking about God providing everything we want I need to correct that right now. God provides not what we want, but what we need in order to fulfill his purposes. God needed a whole bunch of people to live together faithfully in relationship with God so that the other nations would see that and turn to God. So God provided the place, the people, and protection in order to fulfill that purpose.

What about us? Some would have you believe that in this place we can’t compete against sports and all of the other activities and demands of modern life. Do you believe that? I hope not, because the truth is God has given us everything we need to share the gospel of Jesus with the people in the place God gave us. If you don’t believe me, ask the 80 people who come to LIGHT.
Some would have you believe that we don’t have enough people to do the work God wants us to do here in our church. Do you believe that? I hope not because the bottom line is God provides the people we need. Not one more, not one less; but exactly what we need. With that attitude, nominations has gone great this year.
Some would have you believe that we don’t have the prosperity to do God’s work. That we don’t have the money to do the things we need to do. Do you believe that? I hope not. There is plenty of prosperity in this church, as the old joke says; the problem is it is still in your pockets. We don’t have a problem of resources. We have a problem with faithful regular generosity.
Some would have you believe that we don’t have the energy to do what God has called us to do. You know what… even if you are 75 years old like Abraham, God is not asking you to pack up and hike across the desert. Maybe it is just a committee, maybe a class, maybe befriending a neighbor. There is no retirement age in the church. I believe that God has given us all the energy we need to be the people God wants us to be.
Do you believe that?
Do you believe what I am saying?
I can’t hear you…
I hope so.

[1] Genesis 12:2-3 New International Version (NIV)

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