Genesis 12.1-9 (NIV)
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.
From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.
Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.
- Who is the most adventurous person you know?
- What makes that person so adventurous?
When Liam and I went to camp we were one of the few families who didn’t live in Colorado Springs … one kid’s granddad heard Liam and I were from Fairplay … He said he really liked Fairplay … He asked a question I wasn’t prepared for.
“Wow, you live in Fairplay? Do you work in the adventure industry?”
I answered quickly, “Oh no, I’m not really part of the adventure industry … I’m a pastor.”
It sounded pretty lame as I said it. There had to have been a better answer. I wished I would have thought a little more before I opened my mouth.
I thought about how I’m not a snowboard instructor or rafting guide, but there really are some adventurous things about being a pastor.
I thought about a book I have been reading that describes the Christian life as something like, “finding aliveness in the adventure of following Jesus” (Brian McLaren, “We Make the Road By Walking). I wondered if the life of faith has more to do with adventure than we give it credit for? I started to wonder what churches would look like if we understood following Jesus as something more like an expedition … as something more like an adventure?
Abraham was an adventurer.
A family history at the end of Genesis chapter 11, introduces us to Abraham.
Abraham’s father, Terah, was the one who took the first steps of the adventure. Terah started out on a journey to the land of Canaan but he never made it to his goal; his family settled in Haran. Abram had a nephew named Lot. Abram was married to Sarai and they were unable to have children.
After Terah died, God called out to Abram (back then that was Abraham’s name) and told him to go to Canaan. God would make his family a great nation, he would be blessed, and his family would be a blessing to all people on earth.
Abram was called to finish the journey his father started.
And Abram left.
As we follow Abraham, as he was renamed by God in chapter 17 of Genesis, we see that he is a model, or an example of a person who was faithful to God. Abraham was far from perfect, but still his story is core to our faith. Abraham’s story goes on to chapter 25 of Genesis where he dies, but really, Abraham’s story stretches on through the rest of Genesis, through the Old Testament and into the New Testament, and even into our lives as we see God bring the promise to Abraham into being.
Abraham is known for putting aside his plans and his comfort. He left his home behind and started out on a journey to a new and unknown place. God’s call disrupted Abraham’s life, and the lives of Abraham’s family. God moved them out from where they may have been comfortable to a journey where they were not really sure where they were going – other than they were following God.
In his book, “We Make the Road by Walking,” Brian McLaren writes,
[Abraham’s story] tells us something about true faith. Faith is stepping off the map of what’s known and making a new road by walking into the unknown. It’s responding to God’s call to adventure, stepping out on a quest for goodness, trusting that the status quo isn’t as good as it gets, believing a promise that a better life is possible … for [Abraham], true faith was simply trusting a promise of being blessed to be a blessing. It wasn’t a way of being religious: it was a way of being alive (“We Make the Road By Walking,” pp. 25-26).
I love that – the faith Abraham teaches us that faith is “responding to God’s call to adventure.” “Faith is a way of being alive!”
Faith is not static. Faith is dynamic. Faith invites us into an adventure.
God told Abraham he would be blessed and he would be a blessing to all the families of the world.
What does it mean to be blessed and to be a blessing?
“Blessing” is a word people use a lot, but when we really think about it, it can be difficult to know what it really means.
What is this blessing God is promising to give Abraham in these verses?
Dennis Olson, an Old Testament teacher, wrote, “Blessing involves fertility, life, success, well-being, and a good name” (workingpreacher.com. Gen 12:1-4a).
Walter Brueggemann, one of my favorite Old Testament teachers, says, “A blessing is an act–by speech or gesture–whereby one party transmits power for life to another party” (Reverberations of Faith, p. 18).
James McKeown wrote in his commentary on Genesis,
“To be blessed is to receive tremendous privileges and advantages, but to be cursed is to encounter a force that limits and debilitates … Pronouncements of blessing in the Pentateuch [the first 5 books of the bible] are powerful and [effective]. Such pronouncements are more than simply speeches. They have the power to change situations and to alter circumstances. Their meaning and their effect vary from one situation to another, though generally blessing leads to success and cursing brings disaster” (The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary: Genesis. pp. 224 & 226).
It is like God’s blessing is a life-giving force.
This blessing God promised to Abraham wan’t something just for Abraham to enjoy, Abraham was blessed so that his family could be a blessing to other families and nations. One Bible commentator wrote, “God’s focus on one particular family was from the beginning designed to be the funnel for God’s blessing to all the families of the earth” From the beginning, God’s blessing isn’t something people keep for themselves, God’s blessing is something we are called to share.
God didn’t choose Abraham’s family to be blessed and to be a blessing because they were any better or different from any other family. In fact Abraham’s family was a surprising family to choose. Abraham was 75 years old and didn’t have any children when God told him that he was going to be the father of a great nation. In Genesis 18 when the Lord appeared to Abraham and told him that “in due season” Sarah would have a son Sarah laughed. The thought of a couple Sarah and Abraham’s age having a child was crazy. Abraham and Sarah’s son Isaac wasn’t born until Abraham was 100 years old. When Isaac was born Sarah laughed even more saying, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me. Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age” (Genesis 21:5-7). Abraham and Sarah’s lives were changed as they responded to God’s call and stepped out into this adventure of faith.
Jesus invites his followers, you and me, the people all around us, into this same adventure of faith … Jesus calls us to step out into uncharted territory … to experience God’s blessing and to pass along God’s blessing. Just think of the adventure Jesus invited his disciples into … as they followed Jesus they wound up in situations they never would have imagined … they encountered people they never would have on their own … they watched as Jesus brought God’s blessing to people who desperately needed life and blessing.
You are called … you are invited to join in this adventure of following Jesus and seeking God … of being blessed to pass along God’s blessing … of living with openness to God’s leading … and navigating what it looks like to love God and love our neighbors.
We are called into this adventure together … Maybe the church is more adventurous than it gets credit for.