31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
July 23, 2017
Genesis 11:31-32, 12:1-7
Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-12
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
On the surface, Abraham and Moana do not have a lot in common. Abraham is seventy-five years old when we first hear about him. Moana is a teenager. He lives in the Middle East, in ancient Babylon. She lives half a world away in Polynesia. And probably the most glaring difference is she’s a Disney cartoon character, and Abraham is the father of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.
In spite of these differences, though, they have one really big thing in common. They have both been called. They have both been called to be a blessing to all the families of the earth.
Abraham’s story might be a familiar one to you. He was born and raised in the city of Ur, not far from the Persian Gulf, and God called him to take his wife, Sarai or Sarah, and his nephew and ward, Lot, and travel to a land God would show them. God said to Abraham, or Abram as he was called at the time, “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…and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
You might know that Abraham and Sarah did travel to this “promised” land, and there they were miraculously blessed in their “old age” with a son, Isaac, who had two sons, with the younger son, Jacob, becoming the father of 12 sons, who became the people of Israel.
If you have never seen the movie, you might not know the story of Moana at all. Moana is the daughter and heir of a chief on the small Polynesian island of Motunui. From an early age, Moana feels called to the ocean, called to journey out into the sea. It pulls at her heart like a lure, but her people think the ocean is a dangerous place, filled with monsters and storms, so they always stay safely within the reef.
Moana wants to be a dutiful daughter. She wants to fit in with her people and be as happy on the island as they are. She loves her island, her kindred, her father and mother and her home, but she cannot help that the “line where the sky meets the sea calls me”.
Call is a very real thing. Moana is called. Abraham is called. Abraham knows why God is calling him – to be a blessing, to bless all the families of the earth. At first, Moana does not know why the sea calls her, but in time, she discovers that she, too, has been called to be a blessing to the families of her island and all the families of Polynesia – because a blight is taking over the islands. The fish are dying off. The islands’ vegetation is dying off. The people are in danger of starvation.
Something needs to be done. Someone needs to venture beyond the reef – to find a solution or at least find fish, but Moana’s father will not go, and he will not let her go. Going beyond the reef is dangerous. And thus going beyond the reef is forbidden.
But Moana cannot ignore that she is being called. Call works like that. Scripture’s recounting of Abraham’s call is very two-dimensional. God says, “Go”, and Abraham went. Sounds simple and easy.
In the song “How Far I’ll Go”, we get a better sense of calling. It is persistent. It is a song that gets in your head and repeats over and over until you answer it. It is a physical draw that pulls you forward. It is not something that interests you, something that would be nice to do. It is not a tiny tug on your heartstrings; it is a tug of war on your mind, heart, and soul. Callings cannot be ignored.
And yet, people do all of the time.
After feeling this call toward the sea her whole life, Moana discovers that her people were not always an island, farming people. Her grandmother shows her their boats, hidden away in a secret cave behind a waterfall. Generations ago, Moana’s people were once voyagers, sailing the seas, constantly on the move, discovering new islands, new promised lands.
But they got stalled. Much like Abraham’s family got stalled. You might have been surprised to hear this morning that it was not Abraham who began this journey to the promised land, it was his father Terah. Genesis tells us that Terah was the one to take his son and grandson and daughter-in-law, Sarai, to go from Ur, north to Haran, which is in modern day Turkey, and then on to the land of Canaan, the promised land, “but when they came to Haran, they settled there.” (Genesis 11:31).
Terah got stalled. Had he first been called by God to go to the Promised Land? Had he been the one from whom a great nation would come and all the families of the earth would be blessed? Had the call originally been for him? And if it was, why didn’t he follow? Why didn’t he complete the journey?
We don’t know. Perhaps he got sick. We know Terah died in Haran. But maybe Terah got comfortable in Haran. Maybe he found a nice house, nice friends, liked the food, and he let all of these things drown out God’s still speaking voice, God’s persistently calling voice, because it is true that God often whispers and the world is loud.
It is easy to get comfortable. To find a place where we are blessed with plenty. To forget that we are a people called to be on the move, called to be ever changing, ever evolving, always responding to God’s still speaking voice and call.
That’s what happened with Moana’s people. They forgot that they were called to be voyagers, explorers, and they not only became comfortable on land; they became afraid.
Have you ever ignored God’s call because you were afraid? Have you ever turned up the volume on your busyness to drown out God’s persistent song?
It happens. In our comfort, in our fear, in our fear of losing what is comfortable, we can develop great tools for ignoring God’s call.
Picture though what would have happened if Abraham had stayed safely in Haran. There might not have been a promised land. There might not have been people of Israel to be in relationship with God. There might not have been a Messiah, a Christ, to reveal to us God’s unconditional love and salvation.
If Abraham had stayed safely in Haran, the families of the world would not have been forever blessed.
And what about Moana? She discovers that this pull, this lure to the sea was not just some childish rebellion to go out into the forbidden, it was a calling to bring the island goddess Te Fiti back her heart, which had been stolen a thousand years before. And with the island goddess restored to wholeness, the islands were restored, and the families of Polynesia, at least, were forever blessed.
Abraham and Moana were brave and bold and most of all faithful. It took a lot of strength and even more faithfulness to go out into the unknown, to face obstacles, to overcome adversity, all to follow God’s call. It took a lot of trust and faithfulness to leave behind the familiar, to leave behind cherished loved ones, to leave behind their countries, kindred, and fathers’ houses to fulfill their purpose, their calling from God.
We should not underestimate how challenging it is to follow God’s call, and neither should we underestimate the necessity and importance of following God’s call.
To each of us have not only been given gifts, we have also been called to do justice, love kindness, and walk with God. Each of us is being called to be on the move, called to be ever changing, ever evolving, always responding to God’s still speaking voice and personal call for our lives.
We are each being called to leave behind the familiar, the comfortable, the beloved, to faithfully serve the world in Christ’s love.
We don’t know how Abraham felt about leaving Haran. We don’t know if his father was still living or had died. We don’t know if it was with a heavy heart or an adventuresome spirit that Abraham went to the Promised Land. All we know is that when God said go, Abraham went.
In Moana, we can see the push pull of emotions. She wants to be a good daughter; she wants to be a responsible leader in training for her people; she wants to be grateful for the abundance provided to her and all of those things mean staying on the island. But her calling is persistent. It will not let her go, and we know why – because Moana will be the one to return the goddess’ heart, restoring life to the islands and life to her people.
Moana is a BFF. Abraham is a BFF – They faithfully follow their callings, and bless families forever.
In this time of discernment and listening, I invite you to listen for God’s whisper, listen for how God is persistently, insistently, calling you to bless the families of the world forever.