The Rev. Linda Campbell Proper 5A : Genesis 12: 1 – 9; Romans 4: 13 – 25; Matthew 9: 9 -13; 18- 26 “Movin’ On”
One voice: Father Abraham has many sons.
Many Voices: Black ones and white one,s yellow, brown, and red ones.
All: We all claim Father Abraham!
One voice: Mother Sarah has many daughters.
Many Voices: Poor ones and rich ones; young ones, retired ones.
All: We all claim mother Sarah!
One voice: I have a story, you have a story, and God has a story.
Look for yourself in the story of Father Abraham.
Many Voices: And Mother Sarah.
All: And all people of faith!
My eldest son moved this weekend – from
When Abraham came home from the fields one day with the news that they were moving, I have no idea what Sarah did with all her belongings. Unlike the move from
What ever possessed them then to pack up and move?
One word - God. God – who rather routinely messes with the way thing are, the way things have always been, the way things have always been done.
These two elderly people way, way, back in the day, became the archetype of faith. They gave up the way things were because God called them. That God called them to journey into something new and strange and unknown must have been difficult – but there also must have been something so irresistible about God’s call – that Abraham and Sarah found themselves willing to move beyond three very human, very powerful and very deep-seated fears—
fear of the unknown; fear of others who are different, and fear of impotency or powerlessness in the face of the impossible.*
Who knows why God spoke to Abraham? But God did – and Abraham responded. And as he followed God without knowing where he would end up or what his life would be like - he became the very archetype of faithful living.
First, God called Abraham to leave his home and, with it, everything that was familiar: "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you" (12:1). So, Abraham gathered up his immediate family and left – setting out for a place he’d never been to, on a route he didn’t know. He and Sarah left all that was familiar – their comforts, their extended family and friends, all the regularity and rhythms of their lives. Abraham and his wife exchanged their clarity about their place and their purpose for a future of genuine and profound not knowing. They journeyed from what they had to what they did not have. They journeyed from the known to the unknown, and from everything that was familiar to everything that was strange. The apostle Paul was so struck by this obedience to God’s call that he wrote about Abraham in his letter to the Hebrews: "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. By faith he made his home (in the Promised Land) like a stranger in a foreign country" (Hebrews 11:8–9). “In his journey into the unknown, Abraham embraced ignorance, relinquished control, and chose to live with confidence in God's promise to bless him in a new and strange place.”* (Journeys with Jesus, Dan Clendenin)
But to do so, Abraham had to leave behind a small minded, parochial vision. God told this wealthy, but obscure, Semitic nomad, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” God narrowed his promise down to this one person – in order to open out again into all the families of the earth. And that meant that Abraham had an even longer journey to make than the physical one. Because in addition to parting with their home and their possessions, Abraham and Sarah had to part with their prejudices and assumptions. And that is not easy.
Prejudices and assumptions are most often hidden from us – we don’t even know they are there, until we are put into some situation in which they come blazing out, or someone tells us about them. I recently completed an anti-racism training with the Diocese. It is required for all clergy. None of us likes to think of ourselves as racist- but the truth is, we are. We cannot help it. Racism is not just about prejudice – it is about imbalance of power. And the truth is, it is often hidden from the people who don’t actively experience the consequences of it.
Is racism the only “ism” scar that runs deep throughout us? By no means. But it is a window through which we can clearly see the truth that “our common tendency is to fear the other, to suspect and marginalize the strange, to dismiss all that is different from who and what we know.” And almost all of the time – we don’t even know we are doing it.
We find subtle ways to dismiss what does not please us, and to get rid of what offends us, whether that is ideas or people. Eugene Peterson, in his book Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places says that it is common to “construct religious clubs instead of entering resurrection communities..” (Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, 2005) The truth is we dismiss difference under a variety of guises – “we want to stay small” “we like doing things this way” “we are traditional” “there’s no need for anything to change.”
If this is uncomfortable – it is meant to be. Since I arrived at
Thankfully, God keeps knocking at the door of the religious clubs we construct –calling us out, out, to enter God’s resurrection community… - a community that includes people and music and cultures and worship and outreach and neighbors who look and act different.
Resurrection, by it’s nature, is messy and rarely follows the rules. The dead, after all, are supposed to stay dead. But then, God raised Jesus from the dead. People in their 70’s are supposed to stay at home and they’re not supposed to become first time parents! But Abraham and Sarah left the comforts of home for the rigors of crossing into the
What amazing ancestors we have! What a pattern they’ve give us for a full life! When and if God taps you on the shoulder – do you hold your life lightly enough to leave behind the comforts of the known, to become a sojourner who is open to real difference – and to believe in the impossible?
Like Abraham and Sarah,
Where is your story in this story? Where is
Praise be to God.