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Blessed to Be a Blessing | A Sermon on Genesis 12:1-9

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I want to start off today with a really difficult question.
Why did God choose Abraham? Is God into playing favorites?

Let’s think about it.
Last week we talked about Noah’s family and the flood and how God made a promise to all flesh on earth. This was a cosmic story and a cosmic promise. It was obvious in that story that God’s desire was to redeem the whole earth and all life in it.

So, why not just go with that? Why not just bless everybody, all the time?

Now, here in Genesis chapter 12, we see that God singles out one man from a city named Ur, way out in the country of Chaldea, and blesses him.

One guy.

Yes, there are obvious lessons we can learn from this story.
It’s an incredible story.
God told Abraham to go, and didn’t tell him where he was going. That means God called Abraham into the unknown.
Then God said, “I will make you a great nation.” But, Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was barren. She couldn’t have children. So, God called Abraham to believe the impossible.

That is still how God’s call works today.

God calls us into the unknown future and asks us to believe the impossible, that broken people can be restored, that the dead will rise, and that there will be peace on earth.

We could just end there and we would feel challenged.

But, I’m still plagued by this bigger question. Why choose Abraham?

Why would God do that?
We know where this leads, don’t we?
Any time one group of people believe that they are the “chosen ones” of God it leads to trouble.
They can start telling themselves things like:
God loves us more than God loves everyone else.
God loves us and hates everyone else.
God chose us because we are better than everyone else, and we deserve it.
Everyone else deserves to be condemned and mistreated.
We are “in” and everyone else is “out” and you must become one of us to be right with God.

And then different groups claim to be God’s chosen ones and they draw battle lines.

We’ve seen this kind of thinking repeated over and over throughout history. It has led to violence, war, poverty, sickness, and death.

So, again, why would God single out one guy and set up humanity for this kind of exclusivism?

Well, there are two basic options.
Either
(a) God is really into exclusivism, superiority, and violence, or
(b) for there is some kind of necessity for God to choose one person.

If we believe that Jesus is the revelation of God in the flesh, and to truly understand God, we need to understand Jesus, then it is impossible for us to believe that it is option (a). Jesus taught us to love others, to think of others as better than ourselves, to reach across the boundaries of exclusivity.

So, if it isn’t a, then there must be some reason.

Let’s do a little experiment.
I want you to think about God for a moment. Close your eyes and imagine God. What comes to your mind?

There are hundreds of ideas and images that were just generated in this room right now. I’m sure that they, if we could flash each one of them up on the screen they would be radically different from each other.

There is one thing that I guarantee they all have in common, though. They are all wrong.

They aren’t completely wrong. That’s not what I’m saying. They are all wrong in the sense that none of them could possibly be THE picture of God.

Think about it. God is infinite. God is the creator of all things, therefore God is not a thing. There is no thing in existence that could possibly, accurately represent God. Therefore, that thing, even if it was a noble idea, like love, is pitifully unable to describe God.

One theologian, named Augustine, said,
“If you can explain it, it isn’t God.”

So, Steve, what you’re telling us is that it is impossible to know God.

Well, yes and no.

Let’s do another experiment.

Let’s say that I stand before you all today and declare my love for you. “I love you all” “Be warm and well fed.” “I want the best for you, and I will do all I can to help you thrive in life.”

Do you believe me?
You may or may not believe me. What have I done? I’ve spoken words into the air. That’s it.

What would happen if I did this.
Here I have a bag of rocks. What if I brought this bag of rocks to you and said, “Jason, these rocks represent my love for you and your family and my promise to do everything in my power to help your family grow in your faith. Take this rock as a symbol of my blessing upon your life and my commitment to you. Whenever you look at this rock, remember this vow that I have made to you today.”

And then if I came over to you and said those things to you. These rocks are a symbol of my promise to you.

And to you, these rocks are a symbol of my promise to you.

And to you, these rocks are a symbol of my promise to you.

And to you, these rocks are a symbol of my promise to you.

The first thing you might think is, That’s kinda weird. Why would you give a rock?

Good point. Just go with it.

Let me ask you a question. Is the rock my promise? No. Is the rock me? No. Although I have been accused of having rocks in my head.

No, these rocks are just rocks. However, by me physically giving the rock to each of you and speaking my promise over the rock, the rock now has meaning. You can hold the rock in your hand. In some sense, the rock gives weight and substance to my promises to you.

Now, I want to expand this experiment. Each of you to whom I gave a bag of rocks, I invite you to find two other people in this room, right now. God to that person and say, “the promise given to me, I give to you.” and hand them one rock.

Go do that now. Seriously, go. Say, “the promise that I have been given, I give to you.”

[let that happen]

Notice what happened. When I spoke a general promise to everybody, it was real. Everybody heard it. But, my guess is that it had very little impact.

But, when I singled out one person and placed a solid object in his hand, suddenly the promise took on a completely different dimension. It was personal. It felt more tangible. It had something physical attached to it.

But, in order for me to make the promise like that, I had to single out one person. By choosing one person I automatically eliminated everybody else.

Did I really, though? My promise to everyone still stands, but what must happen for everyone in the room to experience the promise in the same way that Jason did? It has to be shared.

That’s why God had to choose Abraham.

Notice what God said to Abraham. He said, I will bless you, so that all the nations will be blessed through you.

Abraham, you are blessed to be a blessing.

I didn’t choose you because I love you more than everyone else. I didn’t choose you because I want everyone to become just like you and I won’t love them if they don’t. I didn’t choose you so that you could create a member’s only club.

I chose you because people can’t wrap their minds around me as me. People need something physical in order to know me. I have to work with you so that I can work through you. I give you this blessing so that you can share this blessing with the world.

And that is our calling today.
We will see throughout this year that God worked with and through Abraham’s descendants—the nation of Israel—as a physical symbol of God’s blessing for the world. And then Jesus came, a Jewish man, from the family of Abraham, as God in the flesh, to be the ultimate physical symbol of God’s love and blessing for the whole world.

And we, as followers of Jesus, are called, just like Abraham, to be a blessing to the nations. We are blessed to be a blessing.

I want to look at one more thing in this passage.
Notice what Abraham did after God blessed him. God told this man to move away from his homeland to a place he didn’t know, and promised that his old, barren wife would give him children.

Abraham believed God and went. And when he arrived at a place called Bethel, Abraham did what? He built an altar. He piled up a bunch of stones and called out the name of The Lord.

This pile of stones would serve as a memorial to Abraham and all his descendants about the promise that God had made to him.

Right now, I invite everyone who received a stone today to come up here with me.

Come on. come up here.

As this group stands up here, let’s transfer the meaning of these stones. These stones don’t represent my promise to you. They represent God’s promise to us. God has promised to redeem. God has promised to forgive, and to guide, and to be with us always. God has blessed us, not so that we can be the “in” group, but that we can share those promises with everyone we meet.

Let’s make an altar together and be reminded of God’s promise.

[build the altar]

Our theme this year is Blessed to Be a Blessing. Each week we will see a new sign of God’s promise and God’s blessing, and we will be challenged on how we are called, like Abraham, to be a blessing to the world.

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