March 5, 2023 – Second Sunday in Lent – Genesis 12:1-4a
In my day . . . the men had all the power. But that didn’t mean that we women didn’t have opinions. And I was generally not shy about express my opinion. So when my husband, Abraham, stuck his head into the tent that day and told me that we had to move . . . again . . . I had a few things to say.
In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I am Sarah, the wife of Abraham. And when I say we had to move again it’s because we had already made a major move to follow his father, Terah, from our beautiful city of Ur up to Haran. If you remember back to your school days and what you learned about the Fertile Crescent . . . (gesturing) . . . we had lived way over here, on this end of the crescent in Ur, but Terah had decided to move the family to Canaan, which was way over here on this end of the crescent. Now we only got about halfway before we settled down here in Haran. Still, even that had been a journey of 600 miles, and I was more than ready to stay put. We were getting up there in years – Abraham and I. He was 75, and I wasn’t far behind.
So when Abraham told me about his little “conversation” with God, I had a few things to say. “What do you mean, ‘The Lord spoke to you?’ What god were you talking to (because we lived in a land of many gods)? You mean, you want me to pack up all our belongings, and get all the servants together, and you’re going to move all our flocks . . . again? And where to this time, Abraham? To the land that “the Lord” will show you? What does that mean? How long are we going to be on the road? Because, you know, that 600 miles we’ve already travelled to get here to Haran – that was no walk in the park. And we’re not as young as we were when we left Ur. The Lord will bless us, you say? Yeah, okay. What kind of blessing is this? And what’s this I-will-make-of-you-a-great-nation nonsense? Have you forgotten that we don’t have any kids? (This was actually a point of great embarrassment – even shame – for me. I was barren. And in our day, it was disastrous not to have any children. You all have social security and pensions and retirement plans and assisted living centers and nursing homes. You know what we had? Children. We were doing aging in place long before you all started talking about it as a strategy for your later years. But I hadn’t been able to conceive when I was young, and by the time Abraham popped into the tent with his divine eviction notice, I was well past my child-bearing years. So I really didn’t want to hear this great nation foolishness.) How are we going to make a great nation when you and I don’t even have a single child? Is this some sort of a sick joke? And this business about blessing every family of the earth? Listen, Abraham, I’ve gotta tell you, I think this ‘Lord’ of yours is playing with you. We can’t be thinking about other families. What about our own? (And seeing I wasn’t making any headway, I even whined a little.) At least here we’re comfortable!”
See, I had plenty to say. But in the end, Abraham still had the final word, and his word was “We’re going.” So we packed up all our belongings, all our animals, all our people, and hit the road. Again. And while it all turned out okay in the end, there were some real struggles along the way. If you want to find more about our adventures, you should read the next dozen chapters in Genesis. We ended up in Egypt for a while, where my beloved husband passed me off as his sister and sold me into Pharaoh’s harem. That was fun . . . not! And then there was the whole Hagar and Ishmael incident. If you don’t know that story, you should really look it up because it’s a doozie. But eventually, what the Lord had said did come true. Finally, we did have a son, we did end up in a land of our own, and people do still talk about us to this day. Our family did eventually grow to bless every family on earth. In spite of my early misgivings – which I will admit, continued well into our journey – looking back now, I have to admit that Abraham was right to trust the Lord.
But trusting the Lord isn’t always easy. And this business of being a blessing to others – which, not coincidentally, is also what the Lord has called you to do in your baptism – seeking to bless the world is rarely easy because, as I knew so well, it means being open to change: changing our priorities, changing our routines, changing our perspective. Seeking to bless the world means offering our hands, our feet, our voice, our money, our resources, our hearts – our very selves for the sake of others. Seeking to bless the world means being willing to sacrifice our comfort. The Lord never promised that we would always be comfortable. But we can trust that we will always find help from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
Because that, in the end, is what I believe the Lord’s blessing is all about. The Lord promised me, through Abraham, and the Lord promised you, when you were baptized, that no matter what struggles we may encounter, God will always be with us to comfort us. That was hard for me to understand – how such a disruption to what I had grown used to in Haran – could ever be a blessing. It was only in hindsight, looking back over my life, that I could see how going out of my comfort zone led to something better than being comfortable: a child, a new home, and an opportunity to participate in God’s saving work in the world. And you all – you have something we didn’t have. You have Jesus. You have that promise with a living example tied to it. For God so loved the world that God gave Jesus as a flesh-and-blood reminder that never – in this life nor in the next – never are you ever without God by your side. Because of Jesus, never do you ever need to wonder if God is going to make good on God’s promises. Never do you ever have to settle for the status quo – not for yourselves, not for the world. Jesus is the proof that God has something even better in store for us all.
Take this advice from an old lady: don’t be afraid of change or discomfort. These ancient words of promise still hold true: The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore. Amen.