Saturday, 15 March 2014

So Abram went...

Genesis 12:1-9
The Call of Abram
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. And 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. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
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. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 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. From there he moved 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 called upon the name of the Lord. And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb.

As many of you will know,I am directionally challenged - at least I think that's the PC term for someone who couldn't find their way out of a paper bag.
Google is my friend - especially Google maps.
Although I frequently get into "spirited debates" with my sat nav in the car, I can't imagine going anywhere without it.
So, when I read of God calling Abram to go "to a land that I will show you" it sounds like my worst nightmare.
To take off on a mystery tour with no navigational aids, for me, just doesn't bear thinking about.
What was God thinking?
To call a man of 75 to gather his family and leave all that they know to journey who knows where on a promise and a prayer.
And then to suggest that Abram would father a great nation at this advanced stage of his life just seems incredible.
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. And 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. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
So Abram went...
What a journey of faith.
A couple who might have begun to relax into the life that they had built, content with all that they had acquired over the years, pleased with all that they had achieved.
So Abram went...
And, even though the promises that God made demanded a vivid imagination and called for energy from a couple already of advanced years.
So Abram went...
And, however bizarre the promises God made must have seemed, Abram went.
He took the first step on a journey not knowing where that journey would take him, having no idea how God would fulfil the bizarre promises made, yet Abram went nonetheless.
What confidence Abram must have had in God.
And what confidence God must have had in Abram!
When you look at the history of the Christian faith through the ages, it always seems to hang on the confidence and sometimes the seeming over confidence of God.
God, whom you would have thought would know better or would certainly learn as time went on, continues time after time to place confidence in fickle human beings so that God's will can be fulfilled.
Be it Abram who was destined to become the father of a great nation.
Or Mary who would mother the Son of God.
Or a handful of disciples who would take the good news into all the world.
God seems to specialise in hanging his coat on some decidedly shaky pegs, with no evidence of a back up plan.

What we read this morning is just the start of the story of Abram, the very beginning of an amazing journey.
But, in those few verses, we gain a real glimpse of how Abram manages to stay tuned in to God along the way as well as how he celebrates significant milestones.
From early on in the journey, as Abram enters new territory, he seeks out "holy places", places that the locals tend to go when they're seeking the guidance of God.
He asks around, tunes in with the local culture.
And, by enquiry, he tracks down those places, we might call them "thin places" where it seems God is especially near at hand.
He makes for those places and, there, he checks in with God.
In those holy places, Abram listens out for reassurance, for affirmation and for direction from God.
And, as Abram's story progresses, we find him, as well as scoping out the traditional sites, we find him setting up new sites - setting up memorials to the faithfulness of God, so that those who come after might learn from and be inspired by his journey.
Seeking out the old places and setting up new ones.
Celebrating where God can be found and forging new pathways.
Leaving a trail, some of it well worn but always open to new discoveries and changes in direction.
Isn't that what we are about today?
Walking with the wisdom that has been shared in this place.
But also laying down some new paths.
Honouring traditions.
Yet setting up new rituals.
All along the journey, checking in with God.
Questioning - are we still on the right path?
Altering course when we need to.
Waiting patiently, sometimes, for affirmation and guidance.
Abrams story for us today is a timely reminder that the wind of the Spirit is always taking us on new journeys, whatever age we are.
God is not finished with us yet.
And whether 75 is an age that seems light years away.
Or whether you passed that milestone long ago.
The Spirit of God continues to nudge us on - or drag us kicking and screaming if necessary down familiar paths as well as into scary new territory.
We hear so much today about the demands of an ageing population. Not least in the church.
What about the collective wisdom of an ageing population?
With age comes wisdom and knowledge.
With age comes years of discernment - of falling over hurdles and of getting up and getting on with the journey.
With age comes the ability to sort out what is important from the things that can be discarded along the way.
There is a tendency in the church - and in the rest of life - to leave the old ways behind, to infer that , in this fast moving age of advances in technology and communication, that only the next new trend is the one that matters.
Keeping up with the pace of change, as you well know, can be exhausting.
And, while it will always be important, as a church, to communicate effectively, using whatever tools are at our disposal, there is also a great need for God's people to be place holders too, to hold fast to tried and tested ways, to maintain instantly recognisable traditions, to provide the comforts of home to which folk can return again and again.
Whatever age we are, today we may want to ask:
What are the altars in our faith journey together, that should be maintained, the useful way markers that continue to provide guidance on the journey of faith for the people of God today?
And what are some of the new altars that we might set up, signs of encouragement for all generations, by which we can continue to discern God's will for the church of today?
God calls us - whatever age we are - to set out on a journey.
To discern what we must take.
And what we can leave behind.
God calls us, frequently, on the journey, to check in, to be guided on the way forward.
And, building on old traditions, to find new ways to be the people of God today.
So Abram went...
So the people of Castlehill went...
Thanks be to God.

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1 comment:

Sharon said...

I love the way you acknowledged valuable rituals (etc.) and also challenged us take steps of faith to embrace new rituals (etc.). Very nice. Thank you!