Saturday, 13 September 2014

Covenants and Cairns

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. 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 the one who curses 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. Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come 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 on 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 invoked the name of the Lord. And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

As we move through the Narrative Lectionary, recalling those old, old stories of ancient texts, we are re-examining the Covenants that God made with people through the ages and how people then and we, the people of God today, live into those promises.
Nine chapters into Genesis, just a few chapters after the story of Creation, we find a God so disturbed by the evil in the world that destruction follows and creation is wiped out by water. 
But, even as the flood waters are receding, this God makes a covenant with the world - to never destroy the world in such a manner again - the symbol of that covenant - a rainbow in the sky.
So, a God who makes a covenant with the world and all its people.
In today's story of Covenant, God's promise appears more specific.
Between God and one man, Abram. God said to Abram;
 I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you.
The same God, who makes a covenant with all the world, promises Abram, I will make of you a great nation.
But we know well that anything that affects one person cannot help but affect others.
Abram, at 75 years old, starts a journey into the unknown.
He took his wife, Sarai, his nephew, Lot, all their possessions and all their hired help.
There was probably quite a tribe as they set off from Haran to go to Canaan.
So, it's not just about Abram, this covenant.
It's about Abram and Sarai and Lot, their staff and all their families.
But, even with the whole entourage, doesn't it seem like God has scaled down the Covenant?
From making a Covenant with the whole world - to making a Covenant with a particular group of people, singled out for a peculiar blessing.
That doesn't seem fair somehow.
But let's look again at the Covenant God makes with Abram.
"I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
It's not just about Abram, not even about Abram and all his family but about all the families of the earth. The Covenant God makes with Abram is a Covenant through which all the earth will be blessed.
This story of Covenant we're considering today is a Covenant offered in 3 stages.
Firstly to Abram, then to Abram's descendants and then to the whole world.
Blessing leading to blessing, leading to blessing.
Last week, we considered that God's promises usually involve a journey.
And that blessing comes, not when we've reached our destination, but along the way, as we move from what we know to discover what God has in store.
For Noah, the journey involved building a boat, taking his family into that boat, neither knowing how the journey would be or knowing where it would take them.
God's covenant involves us going on a journey - physically and spiritually.
That is even clearer in this wee section of the story of Abram and the covenant with God that we read today.
The story of Abram, who became Abraham and whose story is told over the next twelve or so chapters of Genesis is a remarkable story, full of twists and turns on the way - until we read in Genesis 25:
Abraham breathed his last and died ... an old man and full of years (175), and was gathered to his people.
Even this wee bit of Abram's story that we read today describes a journey made in stages.
From Haran to Canaan.
From Canaan to Bethel.
And then, in stages toward the Negeb river.
A journey made in stages with lessons and blessings along the way.
There's something else that becomes clearer in the Abram story of covenant.
Gods love for us, God's promise and God's blessing is not dependant on us completing the journey or even on accomplishing tasks along the way.
God's love, God's promise and God's blessing come to us anyway.
Our response to God"s love enables us, or compels us to embark on or to continue the journey with God.
But we are assured of that love and blessing accompanying us on the way.
Even if we backtrack.
Or wander off the track.
God continues to bless us with love.
If we traced Abram's path, it would show what a circuitous route he took, with lots of stumbling along the way.
We tend to idolise Abram and his journey with God.
Yet when we look at some of the events in his life - twice he tried to pass off Sarai as his sister, rather than his wife. He cast out his concubine and her son to die in the desert. 
He didn't always get it right.
But it is his faith that we admire.
It is Abram's faith, not his ability to do everything right that we hold up today.
And the wondrous thing is that it is just such folk that God uses to bless the nations.
Not those who have it all sewn up.
Not those who behave impeccably (thank The Lord)
But folk just like you and I.
Folk who have faith.
And God uses our faith, however limited it is, God uses our faith to bring blessing to others.
Remember the outcome of Abram's daring?
He was blessed - but so were those around him.
Through Abram's faith, a whole nation was blessed.
In fact through Abram's faith,the world was blessed.
Imagine we had the audacity to believe that the world might be blessed through us?
Blessing the world!
On our journey with God.

It takes faith to embark on a journey, 
especially a journey not of our choosing.
It takes faith to make the first step 
and then another and another.
It takes faith to clamp down our fears and boldly go.
It takes faith to embrace what is new and different, 
unfamiliar or downright scary.
It takes faith to journey with God into the unknown, 
with a spring in our step and a song in our heart.  
It takes faith.

1 comment:

Monica said...

Lovely. Hope you are slumbering away.