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04 Lent 02 Second Sunday in Lent

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                My friends, I greet you today in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Our lesson comes to us from the 12th chapter of Genesis, beginning with the first verse. 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.  2 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.  3 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."  4 So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

                Well if there was ever any doubt or uncertainty before, these four verses should erase all doubt.  If there is one thing that we can say with any certainty it is this.  That Abram was in no way, shape or form a Lutheran.  How do we know this for sure?  Because at the age of seventy-five, he made some very big and major life changes.  Alright, that wasn’t that funny.  And perhaps we Lutherans have been given a bad rep when it comes to change.  And we aren’t the only ones for whom change is difficult.  But you have to admit, this is a pretty amazing thing that happens with Abram. 

                This is for Abram a change of religion, a change of location, without even knowing the destination.  And not just a change of destination, but leaving behind the security of his homeland, and inheritance and all that stuff.  This means uprooting his family and moving.  It is the breaking off of relationships, and can you imagine the reaction?  Neighbors, friends, family members, they must have all thought that he was nuts.  Because you simply don’t do what Abram did, and yet here he is.  And it raises the question, “Why?”  Why in the world would Abram do such a thing?

                And the key word in that question is “world.”  Why in the world?  There is no reason, according to the world, to do something so seemingly foolish.  But there is no reason in the world why Abram is doing this.  This world does not have with it the kind of security that we like to believe it does.  Everything could change in a moment.  By comparison however, God is constant.  He does not change.  He will not change.  He is sure and certain.  He also happens to be in control, that means that even when our world falls apart, it is not beyond him. 

                Abram seems to know this and so he packs up a u-Haul and he makes his way out.  Not knowing where he goes, but only that God is leading him and guiding him.  But that is not the whole story.  There is another part of this whole thing.  And that is that this change in Abram’s life is a change that has a purpose.  It is not just a test to see if Abram will do what God asks him to do, rather it is the beginning of a plan.  The plan is that through Abram and his descendants, the world would be blessed.  God blesses Abram so that he can then be a blessing to others.  God blesses Abram so that others would be blessed through him.  The blessing of Abram is not an end in and of itself, rather it is a means to an end, and that end is that all the families of the earth would be blessed.

                That blessing is no small matter.  Because all the families of the earth have found themselves living in a world that is twisted, broken and corrupted by sin.  Sin separates us from God and from one another.  Sin brings about pain, and suffering and terrible things, and God loved us enough not to leave us doomed to this style of life.  So he did something about it.  This began with Abram and our story here, but it continues down the road to a descendant of Abram who happened to be the Son of God.  Jesus, truly God and truly a man, lived the perfect life that God requires.  He did this without sin.  He suffered on the cross and died.  But he did not stay in the grave, three days later he rose from the dead, and he lives and reigns forever. 

                The blessing of Jesus’ perfect life, death and resurrection is given to all who believe in him.  And so we have forgiveness of our sins, life everlasting, and a restored relationship with our God, and the abilities to have our relationships with one another restored as well.  People of Our Father, we have been blessed.  And that is sure and certain.  You can take great comfort in that fact.  The blessing that we have been blessed with is not however an end in and of itself.  Rather it is a means to an end.  Just as Abram was blessed to be a blessing, so too with you and me, we have been blessed so that we can be a blessing to others.

                Jesus is the blessing that all the families of the world have been blessed with, but it doesn’t end there.  Because those who have been touched by that relationship with God, those who know of his forgiveness, those who have had their life influenced by the good news of the gospel are changed people.  Pastor Rob Bell, is a pastor at Mars Hills church in Grand Rapids, MI.  Bell writes in one of his books, “If the gospel is not good news for everyone, then it is not really good news.”  What that means is this.  The gospel touches our lives in such a way that it changes everything.  It changes how we see the world.  It changes how we treat the people in our lives.  It changes how we interact with our neighbors.  It changes how we care for our world.  All of those changes should be positive changes, because they are changes in you and me, that come from having our lives touched by the love and grace and mercy of our God.  He pours those things out into our lives and fills us to overflowing, so that they can then flow through us.  I think I might have mentioned that a few times before.

                These changes in us, being positive, mean that we would treat the people around us more positive as a result of the gospel.  So even if they don’t hear the message from us, their lives are affected by it, because it has so strongly impacted us. 

                Now this is one of those ideas that looks good on paper, or sounds good in a sermon, but the reality of the situation is that it holds the potential for some scary possibilities, and even for some, dare I say it…”changes.”  What in the world are you talking about?  What in the world are you thinking?  And the answer is just that, the world. 

                We are here at this time, in this place to be for this community a place of hope, a source of strength, a stronghold of God’s love.  We, who have been blessed by our God, are here to be a blessings to those who live around us.  God does not need our good works.  But our neighbors sure do.  I see this place as being a strong community of the Gospel.  By that I mean, the ways in which we interact with one another clearly show the love that we have for one another.  Out there people may act one way, but when they come in contact with this community and the members of this community there is no doubt in their minds about God’s love.  

                That means that as I stand before you today, and talk in this way, that I am not saying, everything you know is going to change.  We are going to do everything differently and nothing will be the same from here on out.  That would be terrible.  May that never happen here.   It is just as important for you to be able to receive from God and to worship him in a way that is meaningful and connects with you, as it is important to enable others to receive from God and to worship him in a way that is meaningful and connects with them.  And as long as we , as a community, are seeking the Holy Spirit and asking him to guide and direct all that we do, we can live together, walk together, and serve together in harmony.

                And you begin talking in this way, and I begin to get really excited.  Because when we live with one another in this way, and we work together to serve our community, serving them because it shows God’s love to them, not because we are trying to get our numbers up, when we live and serve in this way, then we are experiencing life as it was intended to be lived.  We live blessed by our God and become blessings to others. 

                My challenge for the week is this.  Be aware of the opportunities given to you this week to be a blessings the others.  It may not be something big and fancy, it could be as simple as smiling and giving a friendly greeting in these walls.  It may be telling some, or reminding them that they are cared for and loved.  It could helping out where you know help is needed.  The possibilities are endless, but in doing these things, in serving our neighbors, we are serving our God, who has blessed us, so that we could be blessings, and may he always be glorified in our lives together and in our service to our neighbors.  Amen.

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