31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
September 16, 2018
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Abe was an ordinary person, like any of us. He had his blessings: a loving and supportive partner in Sara, a large extended family, a home close to that extended family. His life was good, not perfect, because whose life is, but it was good. He had his sorrows, too though. His younger brother had died prematurely. And Abe and Sara had no child of their own, and that was a constant ache in their hearts.
Abe was an ordinary person, however, when we read his story in the Bible, he sounds anything but ordinary. Because God chose him. God chose Abram to be the father of nations. God chose Abram to be a blessing to all the families of the earth.
Abram had to be somebody pretty special, pretty extraordinary to have earned such a role from God. Right? Wrong. The Bible doesn’t tell us anything about Abram before this, other than where he fits in the family tree. As far as we know, Abram wasn’t anymore deserving of this honor than any other person.
We don’t even know if Abram knew God, had a relationship with God, before this moment. What we do know though is that God spoke to ordinary Abram and made him this promise:
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. (Genesis 12:2-3)
Can you imagine God speaking to you and saying such a thing? It would be amazing – and yet, it’s not all that unbelievable because God speaks to us all the time.
Yes, God is still speaking. Maybe not knocking on your front door; maybe not sitting next to you in a restaurant, maybe not calling you up on the phone but maybe? Maybe all of those people are the way God is calling you to be a blessing to the world.
God is still speaking. God is always speaking. We aren’t always listening though. I have a picture in my office that says, “Make time for the quiet moments as God whispers and the world is loud.” “Make time for the quiet moments as God whispers and the world is loud.”
The fact that God spoke to Abram is actually quite ordinary. The fact that Abram heard and listened to God seems the extraordinary part. Because our world is too loud, too busy. We have too much to do. It would take an extraordinary effort to sit and listen for God. And yet, the Quaker community still makes time for quiet moments to hear God. They sit in silence until God speaks to one of them. And if the Quakers can do it, so can we.
We can, as individuals and as a Christian community, cultivate listening hearts. We can create the space in our lives to be able to hear God: Sunday worship’s moment of listening and discernment, centering prayer worship services, coming early to worship and sitting in the meditation space in the Chapel or in the newly planted memorial garden. Taking extra slow steps as you walk to get the newspaper or back from the bus stop or into work.
You, we, can make time for the quiet moments to hear God whispers, to hear God’s call, to hear God’s invitation to be a blessing.
So really, its’ not all that extraordinary that God spoke to Abram or that Abram listened, but when I read this story, even knowing how their lives turned out, I’m still anxious when I read God’s words to go, to leave behind all that is loved and familiar and travel to a new place.
Abram and Sarai had to have had an extraordinary trust in God to have taken this journey. Their faithfulness must have been off the charts. Can you imagine leaving behind family and all that you know, all that is comfortable, to follow God’s calling?
Actually, some of you can. You have moved states, moved churches, walked into this church, walked out of unhealthy relationships. And when you were called to take the journey, instead of being afraid or holding on, you have let go and let God and embraced the freedom of starting new. You amaze me.
Some of us, though, cannot imagine a journey into the unknown as exciting and freeing. The thought of change makes us slightly nauseous. In his article, “Leading Unafraid”, Rev. Adam Hamilton, writes about this. He says:
Congregations and individuals often come to …[a] fork in the road. One path is easy and safe and doesn’t require a lot of risk taking. The other path is difficult. It feels riskier. It makes us a little sick to our stomach. When confronted with these two paths, it’s usually the path that makes us a little queasy that is the right path. It leads to the greatest reward and the greatest impact. I call this the principle of “discernment by nausea.” (Hamilton, May 16, 2018, Lewis Center for Church Leadership)
You would have to be crazy or have a tremendous amount of faith in God to take that path of nausea, and yet, did you hear what Rev. Hamilton said, that path is usually the right path. That path leads to the greatest reward, the greatest impact. And did you hear God? Go “and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3)
Sometimes, it is not that we cannot hear God; it is that we don’t want to hear God, because God is calling us into the unknown. God is calling us to take a path that feels risky, a path that makes us a little sick to our stomachs, and we are afraid. We are afraid to try the new, to take the risk, to leave behind the familiar, and yet, it is that path, that journey that invites us to be a blessing to others, a blessing to the world.
As individuals and as a congregation, God is calling us to go, to take the journey, to follow the path that leads to making disciples, to transforming the world with Christ’s love. Jesus’ final words to us in the gospel of Matthew were not to gather in close and take care of one another. Jesus’ final words were to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) To take the risk, to embrace the new, to take the journey.
If there is a choice before you between staying put and taking the path less traveled, even though the thought makes you a little queasy – Take the Journey.
If you have the opportunity to keep doing things the way you have always been doing them or trying something new and the thought of the new excites and energizes you or even makes you queasy – Take the Journey.
If you aren’t sure if this is the way forward or a detour on the highway of life, but you have a deep and abiding sense that God is with you – Take the Journey.
If God says to you, “Leave the familiar behind and go. Go on this adventure, and you will be a blessing to the world.” – Definitely take the Journey.
May God comfort you; May God discomfort you; May God be always with you as you, as we, take the journey and bless the world.