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Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer

Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

I Will Make You into a Great Nation - March 12, 2017 - Second Sunday in Lent - Text: Genesis 12:1-8

Pack your bags, we are moving. My boss just gave me notice that we are being transferred to our Oregon office. In our day and age this is not a rare occurrence, rather it tends to be the norm. We live in a very mobile society. We live in a constantly moving and changing world. If you have ever had to move, especially for business purposes, you might have some idea of what Abram went through. I say some idea because Abram did not have the post office to mail letters back and forth, nor did he have e-mail, nor Facebook, nor video chat, nor twitter, nor snap chat, nor did he have the telephone or cell phones in order to call his family back home to tell them how he was doing. When Abram left, he left.
God’s call to Abram came when he was seventy-five years old. In verse one of our text we read, “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’” (v.1). At least when our company tells us they are going to transfer us we can look at a map to see where we are going. We can read about where we are going in an encyclopedia (for you young people, that is a book that contains most all the information you get from google), or on the internet, or get a newspaper from that place. There are many ways we have of finding out about a place. Abram did not have all these resources at his disposal. God called, Abram answered. Abram had no idea where he was to go, simply that the Lord his God called him to leave his country, his people, his family, his relatives.
But with the command to go, the Lord gave him a promise. The Lord promised to bless him. In verse two of our text we read, “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” (v. 2). The Lord promised Abram great physical, or material blessings. The Lord promised to make Abram a great nation. That means the Lord promised to make Abram the father of many people, so many people that they would be a nation. The Lord promised that He would make Abram’s name great. The Lord did not promise to make Abram a famous person, but that he would be remembered as someone special.
The Lord promised that He would bless Abram. He promised that He would lead Abram, that He would be with him on his journey, that He would give him a land for his own. In the first part of verse three the Lord says, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse” (v. 3a). The Lord promised to be with and to protect Abram on his journey. If anyone tried to curse Abram, the curse would fall back on them. If anyone blessed Abram, they too would be blessed.
The Lord also promised that He would bless others through Abram. The last part of verse three reads, “and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (v. 3b). Here the Lord is promising spiritual blessings to Abram. The ultimate fulfillment of this promise was the sending of the Savior into the world through the line of Abram. Not only was Abram be the father of many people. Not only were Abram’s children, grand-children, great-grand-children, and so on a great and large nation. Not only did Abram’s people own the promised land, but the Savior of the world came through Abram’s family. Let me say that again, the Savior of the world came through Abram’s family. Through Abram “all the families of the earth” were blessed, blessed with forgiveness, life and salvation.
The uniqueness about our text and what stands out most is the fact that it was God who chose Abram. God called Abram. It had nothing to do with how good or how righteous Abram was. It had all to do with the grace of God. In His grace, in His undeserved love, God chose Abram. God made His covenant with Abram. God is the one doing the action and Abram is the one passively being given God’s good gifts and blessings.
Another uniqueness about our text is that God’s timing is not our timing. God does not immediately take Abram to the promised land and give it to Him. He does not immediately give Abram children, grand-children and so on. In our text we read of the Lord making His promised covenant with Abram and that is all. As we continue reading our Bible we see God’s hand in time as we watch how later Abram did receive the promised land, but he did so according to God’s time schedule, according to God’s good and gracious will.
God acts in our lives in much the same way that He acted in Abram’s life. It is God who chooses us. More specifically, it is God who has chosen us from the beginning of time and who makes us His own through our Baptism. We do not choose God. Because of our sinful human nature we cannot choose God. But God chose us. He chose us and sent His Son Jesus Christ to bring us back into a right relationship with Himself.
Just as God worked in Abram’s life according to His own time frame, so too God moves in our lives according to His good and gracious will. Just as Abram did not always know what lay ahead of him, neither do we always know what God has in mind and in store for us. All we know for certain is that our Gracious Lord chose us to be His own, that He has promised to always be with us, and that by faith in Him we are children of Abram and are heirs to eternal life through Jesus Christ.
So, what does this mean? There are some religions and denominations that will suggest that the way you become a Christian is that you have to make a decision for Jesus, in other words you have to “choose” Jesus as your personal Savior, or you have to “make a decision” for Jesus, or you have to “dedicate” your life to Him. I remember as a child being out on the playground at recess. We would choose two captains who would pick teams so we could play a game. I remember at times my best friend being the captain and I chose to be on his team, but you know what? That did not matter.  It did not matter what I chose, because I was not the captain. What mattered was that my best friend chose me to be on his team. Likewise, it does not matter if we choose Jesus, as a matter of fact, Scripture tells us we cannot choose Jesus, “No one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit”  (1 Cor. 12:3). If we do say, “Jesus is Lord,” that is not because of some innate knowledge in us, but because we have been given that declaration by the Holy Spirit. Remember when Peter professed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Jesus told Peter, that this did not come from him, but from the Father in heaven who revealed this to him (Matt. 16:17).
Now, some will point to Joshua and say, in Joshua, he asked the people to make a decision from God. He said, “choose this day whom you will serve,” how can you say we cannot make a decision for Jesus. Well, let us look at what Joshua actually said to the people. Joshua ended his remarks by saying, “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). Notice that Joshua does not even give the option of choosing the one true God. His options are that they either choose the idols their fathers serviced in the region beyond the River, or the false gods of the Amorites. Joshua understood what we understand, that we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ our Lord or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called us by the Gospel and enlightened us with His gifts.
Just as God called Abraham to faith, so He calls us to faith. He calls us to faith, through means, namely through the means of grace. In other words, although God came directly to Abraham and called him directly to faith, God does not come to us directly today. That is not to say that He cannot come to us directly, that just is not His usual way of coming to us. Today God comes to us through means, thus we understand the importance of the means of grace. We believe in God’s doing, choosing, and giving through Word and Sacrament. And that is why these means are so important to us and why they permeate our divine service and our lives. Because we believe God works through Holy Baptism, we begin our lives being baptized as infants, we begin each divine service with the words of our baptism, the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Because we believe God gives forgiveness and because forgiveness is so important, we begin our divine service with confession and absolution. Because we believe the Word of God is so important, our service is filled with our repeating back to God the very words He has given us to say. Because we believe the Word of God is so important, our lives are centered around that Word, having personal and family devotions, being in Bible Class and Sunday School, being in divine service as often as offered. And because we believe the Lord’s Supper is the means through which we participate in His life, suffering, death and resurrection, we partake of His Holy Meal as often as offered so we might be given the gifts He has to give through this as well as through all His means of grace.
Yes, God gives and we are given to. God’s promise to Abraham is His promise to us. We are children of Abraham, by faith. This is not something which comes with DNA. We are not saved because of the faith of our parents or grandparents or because of anyone else’s faith. We are saved by God’s grace through the faith which He gives to us through the very means He has of giving us our faith. And this faith is that instrument which reaches out and grabs hold of the blessings our Lord has to give. Blessings which are what God promised to Abraham. Blessing which include physical blessings, yes, a land flowing with milk and honey and no, I am not speaking of America, but eternal life in heaven, the ultimate promised land. And this faith grabs the greater blessings, the spiritual blessing of forgiveness of sin, life and salvation, that life and eternal life in the land of milk and honey, heaven. And all this is gift. All this is given, not chosen, not decided for, not with anything on our part, but all God’s doing and giving.
In a similar way that the Lord called Abram to leave his people and to go to a land that He would show Him, so too the Lord has called us. He has called us out of this world to be followers of Him. He has also called us out of this world as a church to teach and to lead in a Christian way. And in a similar way that the Lord blessed Abram in order that he might be a blessing to others, namely through his offspring of Jesus Christ, so too as the Lord blesses St. Matthew so that St. Matthew is a blessing to others, because as children and families come to St. Matthew and hear the Word, that Word takes root, springs up and bears abundant fruit, for Jesus’ sake and to the praise and glory of the name of the Lord. Indeed, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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