Saturday, July 15, 2006

A NEW HOPE. Genesis 12

This Weeks sermon - rather more full notes than I normaly use....

Farm boy makes good – it’s the sort of story plot that kind of appeals.
In one of my favourite movies Star Wars – that is precisely what the major theme of the story is – a boy from the middle of nowhere becomes the hope for the universe.
In genesis ch 12 we have the same story – Farm boy becomes the hope of the world. FEEL GOOD FACTOR
It’ this sort of thing that not only fills us with glee –, and hope but it also shows us something about the nature of God.
When it comes to the relationship between human kind and God – we have struck out twice so far
Without letting you in on a secret as to where Edrick is going – first time is through Adam and Eve…
Secondly through Noah
In spite of a perfect creation and some very spectacular people – the first man and woman, and a guy who was able to make a boat in his backyard (not something I think many of us could do)
The plan has gone wrong.
GOD’S Nature
Who Abraham is – reveals something about who God is – and How God works…
I say it reveals something about God in that he chooses probably the least likely person to continue the task.

He looks like no one special - but history will call him the father of three religions. Judaism, Islam and Christinaity
So who was Abraham?
Two major things from the text
(1) he’s a pagan, not a Christian, a jew or even a muslim – a plain old fashioned pagan.
(2) He’s not on the right side of 30 – When someone says that you are going to be the father of a great nation – it probably pays to be the father of at least one kid – his name was fast dying out….
One other thing -MONOTHEIST.
Another aspect of who he was that he lived in a place where many gods were worshipped – you could go down the supermarket and find a God for every day of the week – for him to commit to one God – was an amazing decision and unheard of in the time he lived…
So what made him special?
– Probably nothing – it was all God… GOD’S Grace…GRACE
We talk a lot about grace in the church – often comes across as just being nice or something – associated with meals, or something that is cheap….
The reality is so much more and it’s when we see how God encounters people that we come to understand it not just in our head but how it can work in out lives.
When the hymn writer said amazing grace…. He meant it – it’s the kind of song that should bring us to tears when we sing it - as my mother in law says you cannot understand the song – it sound stupid until you have first experienced grace…

When God spoke to Abraham he experienced something for the first time, not just a God – his world was full of them – they were violent, jealous, and controlling. But to encounter a God of Grace …. That was something amazing…

It was God’s grace at work not Abraham that made him into a nation….
In fact you can almost pick the times when he did it by himself – but when God worked through him – things happened..
God’s grace is like a bridging point between the pretty average and God’s wonder – when we see God at work it’s by his grace – we don’t deserve it and we cannot earn it… We just have to respond, embrace it, breath it in like we cannot live without it….

But that is not all that is happening hear – God’s grace is at work but it requires a response – one that only we can give – Faith….
Because of who God is and not because of what Abraham has done he is called, asked to give up everything he has known to follow God to a place he does not know
God says “go”, all Abraham has to do is respond – simple as that isn’t it….
But I think we know it isn’t that simple
Just like it took 3 movies to get Luke Skywalker from being the humble farm boy to being the guy who defeated the empire – I think we all know it’s going to take more than yes for Abraham to be all God has called him to be.
To be the person that Paul was raving about in Romans as a model of faith…
God spoke to Abraham – that was grace – his response, his YES in spite of everything that was against him – his age and all the other stuff was an act of faith.
Now for us we can take a step in faith based on how we have seen God act, in other people, in the Church, through Jesus – there are lots of things we can base out faith – belief that God will do what he says he will do
In fact we could say that we know God will do what he says he will do because he has always done it – He has never been wrong. Odds on favourite – reliable – timing may not always be what we want, results may not always be what we want, and in all honesty we can mistake his voice for the sound of a rumbling tummy – But God is faithful and so we can trust in that.

Abraham had nothing to trust in…. Maybe that is why he often fell over… For Abraham faith was that he should move to anew land when everything says you shouldn’t – that is faith – maybe that is why Paul cannot sing his praises enough….
And the journey wasn’t that simple either -
God says - I will give you this land…. First thing that happens – a famine – maybe he misheard God.
God says - I will make you into a great nation - but did not trust God to care for his wife –or to even use his wife for that purpose.

What rings truer in your ear – the voice of God or the voice of doubt??
I think if we are going to be honest it is often doubt more than the voice of God – ”we can’t do this, maybe we heard God wrong”. For Abraham he must have looked insane at times. But he heard God’s voice and kept focused on that.

Everything else was secondary –
GOD had spoken…and that was enough to keep him on track
If he had said NO I will not go we do not know what would happen - he could have made excuses – he had more than enough reason too and maybe God would have had to look elsewhere for a person to choose…
Chances are that may have happened once before…
At end of chapter 11 Abraham’s Father also sets out to go to Canaan – Whether he did it in response to God or simply because it seemed like a good idea at the time we do not know…
What we do though is that he didn’t make it.. He got half way – fell short – settled for second best
He found somewhere comfortable on the way and settled down
He died in Haran…
His epilogue – born, lived died – He was so like many of us on a journey with God, we set out and were all excited – and then we get distracted – something else is on offer – the road ahead looks tough – so we give up…

So where does that leave us? - Do we hear the voice of God too?
Well if we call our selves Christians then we must have heard the voice of God… It may not have been a voice in the heavens, may have been through the bible, through something that has happened in our lives
Being a follower of Jesus – a Christian is not something we are born into – it requires us to respond
When Jesus says to us, “to come and follow me”
Then like Abraham we have been called
Everything we have and everything we do should be a response to that; work, relationships, how we see the world - EVERYTHING..

For Abraham the voice of God became the voice he followed – in spite of where it lead him – in spite of the danger he was put in.

But like Abraham and his father we too have a choice about how far that call goes.
The Church has been filled with people from day one – who have heard the call of God, responded and settled for second best.
But there are also many who have said yes trusted in God and gone where they are called to – do what they were called to.

What that call means for you – I do not know – But I know this unless you put your trust in God it will lead nowhere…
Story - I once attended a church that had the most uncomfortable pews in the world – I always thought they were uncomfortable to keep people awake during the sermons – but it ends out that is not why they were so uncomfortable – the reason was is because the pastor of the church who put out the design wanted people to not get to comfortable in church – so that when God called them and he believed they would they would get up and go do what they were called to do –
He didn’t want his church to be a church full of people who heard god’s voice and fell asleep.
But to people who would be awake and respond
Who would step out in faith, just as Abraham had…

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