Rev. Katherine Todd
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.
For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.
For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.
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,
What a beautiful God we serve!
This passage from Genesis is simple.
And it is beautiful.
God planted this dream in Abraham. God spoke and Abraham listened.
And then, Abraham followed.
It is that simple.
Did Abraham know the way?
No. God said God would show him the way.
Did Abraham get to stay in the familiar and the comfortable?
No. God said to leave everything he had known and to go.
And so, Abraham took this leap of faith.
Abraham chose to believe God over his own wisdom.
Abraham chose to follow God over his own Father and family.
Abraham allowed God into the nitty gritty of his life.
For Abraham, God was not a ritual. Faith was not merely a profession. Faith was not an assent to a belief system or set of doctrines.
No, for Abraham, God was his life-line.
For in their culture, people survived by clumping. They survived by numbers and connections. To go out alone was to ensure your own death. There were no fast food chains. There were no internet lists of best hotels and accommodations. There wasn’t Google Translate or Rosetta Stone language learning systems. Maps were limited. And you stayed alive by staying among the familiar, surrounding yourself with family.
New folks in town could be completely on their own, outsiders and excluded. And worse yet, you were most certainly more likely to be met by armed men than a welcome basket of home-baked goodies…
And God was specifically instructing Abraham to leave all his security, on a mere promise.
God promises to lead Abraham. God promised to protect Abraham. God promises to bless Abraham and to make him a blessing.
And Abraham believes.
This belief is not merely talk.
This belief is up close and personal.
This belief is living and active: Abraham is leaning on God moment by moment to find his way forward. Abraham is leaning on God to protect him. Abraham has put all his eggs in God’s basket.
Have you ever experienced such a thing?
To put all your eggs in God’s basket??
When I was living at Camp Hanover, I felt God call me into church ministry. And I was eager to follow. But God had me on a journey of discovery and transformation as well. God was freeing me from the weights of oppression. God was freeing me to finally see and know myself. God was freeing me to live more authentically true to who I am.
But I was searching for my next step.
And finally in the middle of a worship service at Ginter Park Presbyterian, God spoke to me through the hymn, “Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore.” The phrase, “now my boat’s left on the shoreline behind me. By your side, I will seek other seas” struck me. I felt in my Spirit that God was calling me to walk away from my job, my security, my source of income…and to follow.
Now, I don’t think my leaving was as graceful as Abraham’s. Or if Abraham’s leaving was ungraceful, we’re not privy to that information! But I needed assurance. I asked God to confirm it to me, and in moment by tiny & big moment, God made me know in my bones just how needed it was. And finally, I followed. I stepped away from where I was, in order to embrace where God was leading me.
And it was terrifying.
I dubbed it: “The Grand Experiment of My Life.” I was the experiment. And the question I was asking as I was followed was, “God, if I follow you, will you keep me from harm? Will you bless me and make me a blessing?”
Now, I can assure you that my journey has not been without suffering. We follow a God who came to us in Christ Jesus and knew an agonizing death. And I have suffered following God. That is true.
The way has been fraught with the effects of human sin and discrimination. The way has been fraught with fears and uncertainties. The way has been fraught with anger at injustice.
And yet, I once was dead, and I’ve come back alive!
I was lost, and now I’ve been found!
I was alone without true companionship and friendship, and now I am embraced in loving partnership and community.
I have grown in depth.
My eyes have opened to many whom I’d never before seen or understood.
I have learned to be slow to speak and quick to listen.
And I can honestly say that God has blessed me and made me a blessing.
And my journey is not yet through.
I continue to follow after God: listening for the still small voice; reclaiming my identity, responsibility, and power; laying down my fears (over and over again) at Christ’s dear feet; and asking God to direct my steps.
We all journey differently. There is no one the same. But until we let go and fall into God’s waiting arms, we will never truly know the depth of God’s love and mercy, grace and provision, deliverance and protection. Until then, all these promises of God that we affirm Sunday after Sunday are hardly transformative and little understood.
So, will we, like Abraham, choose to follow where God leads?
Will we, like Abraham, release our death-grip on the comfortable and the familiar, in order to follow God into the promised land that awaits?
Will we, like Abraham, exercise our daily muscles of faith – trusting God for the smallest and biggest aspects of our daily lives?
Will we, like Abraham, exercise our daily muscles of faith – trusting God for our common life together, as church?
We believe in the cross and resurrection!
Are we willing to allow God into our moments of obedience (…unto suffering and great loss…)
that we might finally KNOW our God who brings life out of death?
THIS is the God we serve.
The God who raised Jesus from the dead is our God.
May we KNOW that God.
May we believe that God.
May we trust our God.
And may we follow, such that our very lives witness – alongside the Bible – to the goodness, might, mercy, grace, healing, wholeness, beauty, protection, provision, and deliverance of our God,…our Maker, Redeemer, and Friend.