“Moving With the Spirit”
March 12, 2017 – Lent 2 – Year A
Robert Frost wrote – I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence;
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by.
And that has made all the difference.
On this second Sunday in Lent, we look at the road and how it diverges into a path of faithfulness. To do so, we look to our ancient story of Abram and Sarai.
God calls Abram and Sarai with a demand and a promise, and Abram and Sarai responds obediently. The demand is 3-fold. First, the ancient people are called to leave their country, or land. Abram and Sarai were called to leave the largest cultural group within which they moved. Together Abram and Sarai moved away from national security. Second, Abram and Sarai leave their kindred. The kindred, or clan, refers to a grouping smaller than a tribe but larger than the extended family. God calls Abram and Sarai to abandon their social context. Third, Abram leaves his father’s house. Leaving the father’s house was to abandon his right to the family inheritance. Abram and Sarai were called to leave both family and economic stability.
The promises offered to Abram and Sarai corresponds to those 3 things they sacrificed. Leaving country to find a new land resulted in a great nation being formed. Leaving people or clan pointed to the promised descendants that would become a great nation. And leaving the financial security of his father’s house, became blessing upon blessing as prosperity was gifted to the people.
I can’t help thinking of today’s refugees. They too leave country and national security, They say good bye to family and they leave the stability of having parents and other relatives nearby. Our 2 Syrian refugee families are doing an amazing job of assimilating into Penticton. They are learning English and growing accustom to our way of life. But when I think of all they left behind, I am humbled. I am not sure I’d be as adaptable. I value the security of the familiar. Yet, it raises for us the question, “would I pull up stakes and venture to where God is calling?”
Abram and Sarai’s call marks the beginning of perhaps the most pivotal time in the history of the people of Israel. I don’t sense from the narrative that Abram was at all reticent about the journey before him. I don’t hear him asking God to move on to the next guy because he is content where he is now. I admire that go-for-broke faithfulness that maintains a focus on the journey, not the destination.
Every Christian denomination is living in a time of call and promise. Collectively, we are today’s Abram and Sarai, called to be a blessing to God’s people as they hover on the cusp of radical change. Like Abram and Sarai, we have a choice. Do we stay, or do we go forward? Abram and Sarai opted to venture into unknown territory, with only God’s promise to guide and protect them. That took some serious courage.
We don’t know what the unknown terrain of the church’s new reality will look like. However, we have all the tools we need for the journey: faith, promise and an extra helping of courage. We dare to dream. We dream of a church that will reach out to the powerless. We dream of church that loves radically. We dream of a church that truly wells all – regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, or social standing. We dream of a church that welcomes through baptism, sojourners like Jenny. We dream of being courageous spokespeople for those whom God adores.
Woodrow Wilson reminds us: “We grow great by dreams. All significant people are dreamers. They see things in the soft haze of a spring day, or in the red fire on a long winter’s evening. Some of us let these great dreams die, but others nourish and protect them; nourish them through bad days till they bring them to the sunshine and light which comes always to those who sincerely hope that their dreams will come true. Don’t let anyone steal your dreams!”
God’s spirit is telling us to move. We are to move past the glory days of what has been. We are to move with reckless abandon among those who have a vision for justice. We are to move our creaky joints in the way of compassion.
May we be like Abram and Sarai and faithfully take the path less travelled. Amen.