Promise & Faith!
Second Sunday in Lent Trinity Lutheran Church
12 March 2017 Murdock, NE
+ Jesu Juva +
What is God’s cup of tea? His modus operandi? It’s this: God makes promises. God is the God of the promise. Especially to save sinners. Redeem them. Restore them. To put death to death. Give forgiveness. Crush Satan’s head. All through Jesus His Son. That promise was first given to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15. Adam and Eve believed God’s promise of salvation in Jesus. Faith trusts the promise. The justified live by faith. God promises. Faith receives.
All of God’s promises in the Old Testament flow from the Genesis 3:15 divine promise of salvation because of Jesus. All the Old Testament promises revolve around and take their meaning from the Genesis 3:15 pledge.
All history then, Israel’s and the world’s, gets directed by God so that Jesus gets conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffers under Pontius Pilate, gets Good Friday-ly crucified, buried graveyard dead and then rises from the grave victoriously never to die again on Easter morning. Absolutely everything recorded in the Old Testament, even down to the smallest detail, takes place FOR YOU AND FOR YOUR SALVATION! In other words, the climax of world history takes place when Suffering-Servant-Immanuel-God-With-Us-Jesus dies on the cross TO GIVE YOU forgiveness, life and salvation!
So, today in Genesis 12 what is God up to? Well, I’ll give you one guess. Yes, that’s right. He speaks A PROMISE … to Abram. “Leave your county, your people and your father’s house. Go to the land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation. I will bless you. I will make your name great. You will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those that curse you. ALL PEOPLE ON EARTH WILL BE BLESSED THROUGH YOU. Trust me. I will do it.”
Really? How unlikely is that? All people blessed through a seventy-five year old senior citizen whose barren wife is ten years his younger? They can’t have kids. Never could! No pill or no science can change that. And why trouble themselves, pick up stakes and move? After all, Abram and Sarai have a contented life and happy home in Haran. Servants. Sheep. Goats. Camels. Cattle. Name it. All the conveniences and creaturely comforts of the ancient world. Comparable to an upper class suburban lifestyle in Lincoln with a house on Firethorn Golf Course, triple car garage, swimming pool, in-home theatre with surround sound, and closets loaded with Joseph Abboud suits and Ivanka Trump outfits with shoes to match every occasion.
That’s when God interrupts Abram’s at ease and well-to-do life with these words: “Abram, it’s time to pack up an move. Tell your Melania Trump look-alike wife Sarai to empty the closets and take down the drapes. Tell your beloved homeland, relatives and friends sayonara. Time to travel and wander for a lifetime like a homeless nomad in a land I promise to give you.”
Move. You now that most of us, me especially, will do just about anything to get out of moving. Moving disrupts your entire life. Throws a big pipe wrench into your life plans and most cherished dreams. Abram and Sarai had planned to live out their childless existence in the comfy and cozy home of Haran. God, however, had other plans. “No! You’re going to move. You’re going to wander as pilgrims. I want you to LIVE OFF MY PROMISE that through you the Savior of the world will come!”
So, when Abram arrives at Shechem the Lord promises again: “To your offspring I will give this land.” Abram, in response to the promise, builds an altar to give thanks and praise to the God of promise. God promises. Abram believes. Promise / Faith. This is why Abram is the father of us all. Abram worshipped through faith in God’s promises. God’s Word – His promises sustained him. St. Paul puts it this way: “He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed – the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.”
Abram packs up everything and wanders. He endures all kinds of adversities, misfortunes, heartbreaks and fears along the way. Why? FOR THE SAKE OF THE PROMISE! FOR SALVATION! God’s will to save sinners sometimes means inconvenience, hardship, suffering, and even death. The world’s salvation comes by a Good Friday cross and grave – through death and resurrection – not around it. All that is never a pleasant, convenient or happy experience. God promises eternal salvation in His Name. Sometimes that means that you don’t have temporal peace, happiness, security or an easy life. Just ask Abram and Sarai! Ask any believer!
Your life isn’t so rosy and comfortable all the time. God interrupts your life and then you endure many hardships and difficulties as you travel in this foreign land waiting for the promised land of heaven. Tragedy strikes. And you wonder “Why?” When “bad” things happen to “good people” you ask, “Why?” When people you thought you could trust betray you or when those you love the most, hurt you, you are tempted to doubt and despair. As if God has forgotten you. Like He has amnesia or as if He is unreliable. Not trustworthy. Like He doesn’t keep His promises.
Well, I’m here to tell you today that the answer to your whys is given in the text from Genesis today and the long view of the Bible. God is in the midst of all things. He’s been there all along. Ordering everything down to the littlest detail in order to give you salvation that comes only in Jesus JUST LIKE HE PROMISED!
This is exactly what St. Paul means when he writes: “We know that in everything God works for good to those that love Him who are called according to his purpose.” God’s purpose is SALVATION THROUGH THE DEATH AND RESURRECTION OF JESUS, not your personal convenience, happiness, or contentment. God’s purpose is your salvation. Rescue from all your sin. Slamming the door on the grave. Binding Satan and stomping on his head. Freeing you from the condemnation of the Law and propitiating God’s wrath by taking all your sin in His Good Friday Body and getting damned with it. That is what God is up to!
So, let me finish this sermon in a flourish. I’m here to tell you that Abram and Sarai moved from Haran to the land of Canaan SO THAT JESUS WOULD REACH DOWN FROM THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD AND COME TO YOU this morning in the divine service at Trinity. To gather you around Himself and His Good Friday wounds. To give you, in His Word and sacrament, all the forgiveness and salvation that He won FOR YOU on the cross. A washing of renewal and regeneration in holy baptism. His true body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins in His Supper. He has moved you here, put you at this place and this time FOR A PURPOSE. What’s that? TO SAVE YOU! TO CLAIM YOU! TO FORGIVE YOU! TO CLEANSE YOU!
God’s cup of tea is not only making promises but it’s also keeping them. The promise He made to Abram He kept. The promise He made to you in holy baptism – that you belong to Him and He belongs to you – that Jesus’ death and resurrection are yours – He keeps! His promise of forgiveness in Jesus will bear fruit for the long haul – the resurrection of the body and life everlasting in heaven. You are blessed! God said so to Abram. God keeps his promises.
In the Name of Jesus.