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Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service.
September 18 2022
Grace to you and peace from God, our Creator, and from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
A story is told about two babies in their mother’s womb. One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?” The other said, “Of course! There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we’re here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”
“Nonsense,” said the first. “There’s no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”
The second one said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than in here. Maybe we’ll walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we’ll have other senses that we can’t understand now.”
The first replied, “Nope. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Why would we do that? The umbilical cord gives us nutrition and everything we need. And the cord is so short. So, life after delivery isn’t possible.”
The second insisted, “Well, I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”
The first replied, “Nope. And, and, and if there is life, then why hasn’t anyone ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there’s nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”
“Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.”
The first replied, “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s a laugh. If Mother exists then where is She now?
The second said, “She’s all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.”
And the first said, “Well I don’t see Her, so it’s only logical that she doesn’t exist.”
To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and you really listen, you can feel her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.”
This parable was written by a Hungarian author whose name I cannot pronounce. And I think of it when I read the story of God’s call to Abram and Sarai. Because they were venturing into as much unknown as a baby – or babies – who are about to be born.
In the Bible, the story of God’s call to Abram is the one that marks the turning point from what’s called “pre-history” or “primordial history” into a specific moment in human history. It narrows the scope from the big-picture view of what’s going on in creation and the world, and begins to center on the people that we come to identify as the heroes of faith.
When God called Abram to pack up and leave everything that was familiar, it wasn’t just a matter of moving from one place to the next. When Abram answered God’s call, he left his tribe – the source of his identity, his livelihood, social standing – all of it.
All we know about Abram before this is that he’s a descendant of Noah. We don’t discover why God called him until later on the story when we learn that the promises God made weren’t fulfilled right away – and that Abram continued to trust God anyway.
When we read these stories, it’s sometimes hard to remember that the events didn’t always happen immediately. In this story, they unfolded over years – decades and even centuries, because Abram’s story continues far beyond these few verses.
But in those years, God’s relationship with people deepened – and so did their relationship with God. And as those relationships deepened, so did the experience of God’s promises and faithfulness. And this family that starts with two people beyond child-bearing age grows through the rest of Genesis, continues to experience God’s promises, and eventually becomes the nation that we read about in Exodus.
But God didn’t choose Abram and Sarai and their descendants to be a nation unto themselves and hoard God’s promises. God chose them to be a conduit of sorts through which God’s blessing would be distributed to all of humanity. That was their primary function.
It wasn’t about the privilege of being chosen. But about using what God had given them to bless others. That’s how they lived into their faith.
When we think about the entirety of Abram and Sarai’s life, and that it unfolded in stages, there are times in our lives when we can relate to the journey that God called them to. Like we can recognize when one chapter in our personal lives transitions into the next.
And it isn’t a stretch to say that we as a congregation are on our own journey moving into a new chapter. Part of what it means to be a community of faith is to grow and shift and change, and not be stagnant or stuck. We’ve been talking a lot about transition over the last 6-12 months. And we know it isn’t happening all at once; we’re living into the stages of it.
Last week, we celebrated the choir being here after two-and-a-half years of being away because of Covid. We’ve started offering in-person Sunday school for the kiddos, in-person learning and Confirmation for the youth, and in-person activities for the youth.
We came together for service projects last Sunday, and again yesterday to spread the rest of the mulch and make some progress clearing out the old nursery to get it ready for its remodel.
In all of this transition, we’re discovering anew who we are as a congregation, because we aren’t the same one we were when the pandemic started. And that’s exciting! But as we explore all of this, it’s tempting to hold onto or hoard God’s blessings and promises and keep them to ourselves because it feels safer that way and more secure.
But in all of this transition, God calls us to remember that we are a community that exists for the sake of others, and to be a blessing to others because God has so richly blessed us.
God has blessed us with the women in Dorcas circle who make quilts for Lutheran World Relief; the women in KnitWits who knit prayer shawls, hats, scarves, and other items for people in our community and around the world; the men who serve on the Building and Property Committee.
And, by the way, there are no gender restrictions in any of those groups – so it’s okay to mix it up. This is just how they’re made up right now.
God has also blessed us with a group of people who are dedicated to education and awareness around social justice issues. God has blessed us with a beautiful facility and campus that we share with community groups, and God has blessed us with a dedicated staff and volunteers who help keep it running and care for the people who come through our doors.
These blessings aren’t meant for us to hoard or keep to ourselves. God gave them to us so that others might be blessed through them. Even, and I would say – especially, when we don’t know what God has in store for us. Because it’s when we share them, when we take those steps, that we more fully experience the promise and blessings of God and God’s faithfulness in our lives.
It’s the same as a baby not knowing what’s coming next when it’s born, and Abram and Sarai not knowing what the fulfillment of God’s promises of land, descendants, and blessing would look like – or when they would be fulfilled.
Wherever we are in our journeys as individual people and as a community of faith, God calls us as partners in blessing others in each of our places and stages. And we’re able to do this because God has blessed us. Thanks be to God! Amen.