Scripture: Genesis 12:1-9
It’s interesting that when you move you hear other people’s moving stories. It’s never what you’d call a “fun” experience, but people in this country are pretty used to moving. According to the census bureau, in 2000 the median time people in our country live in one residence is 5.2 years (which means half move sooner and half later). Each year, one in six people are moving.
Let’s take a straw poll – How many of you have moved in the last five years? How many will move this year? See…
I even think it’s ingrained in our American history. From the time of Daniel Boone and Lewis and Clark we’ve been a people on the move, and Methodists preachers even more so. Francis Asbury traveled 130,000 miles on horseback during his ministry in colonial America and his circuit riding brethren would log many more moving from town to town.
And even if you haven’t physically moved to a different location, many of you have made moves of a different sort – some of you out there have graduated high school or college and are moving to a new school. Some are moving to new jobs. Some are transitioning to living with aging parents or returning children. Some are simply making lifestyle changes.
Whatever the transition, it can bring with it a lot of stress. There’s the grief of leaving behind old friends and familiar ways of life, but there’s also the anticipation and excitement about new possibilities. Jennifer and I have talked a lot in the last few weeks about feeling a “swirl” of emotions almost minute by minute.
But, then again, all this moving has a biblical precedent. It’s interesting to note that in the Bible most significant events are preceded by someone changing their address. To be God’s people is to always be on the move, whether it’s moving to a new location or moving out of a comfort zone. In fact, as this week’s text tells us, God begins his great mission by calling a Mesopotamian herdsman to make a big move—a move that would change the world forever.
Abram is a guy who seems to just be minding his own business when we first encounter him in Genesis. At the end of Genesis 11, we see that he and his family have already had one move, from Ur (in present day Iraq) to go to Haran When they reached Haran the family patriarch, Terah, decided that they would “settle” there – set up house, get comfortable, nest in. But when Terah died at age 205 (they must have had good water or something!), God puts Abram on the move again – “Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”
Notice there’s no roadmap…no triple A Trip Tik, no brochures promising wondrous vacation properties or greener grass on the other side of the desert. God simply says “Go” and Abram doesn’t ask “Where?” You’d think he’d be concerned about that…I know I would!
Now, I don’t know what Abram was doing when God’s word about the move came to him, but I do know where I was when I got the call about coming here—I was in the shower. I was in the locker room of the Basin Recreation Field House in Park City toweling off after a particularly grueling workout with my sadistic personal trainer when heard my locker buzzing. It was the Utah district superintendent, Steve Goodier, calling me to let me know that I was being given a new appointment and that someone would be calling me later to tell me where. What a great way to start the day! One minute you’re getting ready to start the routine you’ve been working for seven years, the next you’re virtually on your way out to parts unknown. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this is how God works.
I got the second call a little while later from Olon Lindemud, the DS here at the time, who told me that I was coming to Tri-Lakes. That was exciting to me because this church has a reputation in the annual conference as being a growing, thriving, congregation with tremendous potential—much of that thanks to you all, your vision and commitment, but also because you have had great pastoral leadership in the person of Bob Leeds. At the same time, however, I was sad about leaving behind the work and the people of Park City Community Church. Worse yet, I couldn’t tell them for close to another month! I felt what Abram must have been feeling when God called him to leave behind his country and his kindred to go to a new land.
When God calls us to move, however, it’s much less about place position than it is about people and purpose. Before God reveals to Abram WHERE he is going, God reveals to him WHO God wants him to be… verse 2 – “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.” God is determined to do something wonderful with Abram in the promised land, determined to bless him so that through him others would be brought into God’s family and be blessed. Abram’s move would be the first step in a new vocation—he is blessed in order to be a blessing.
Not that this would be easy. Genesis 11:30 tells us that Abram’s wife, Sarai, was barren…It’s hard to have “offspring” when this is the case, particularly when the principles are way up in years…Abram was already 75 when they set out from Haran. In fact, in chapter 18, Abram, now called Abraham (meaning “father of many”) is visited by three men who tell him that that time has come for he and Sarah to have a son…they laugh (wouldn’t you?). Here’s what Sarah said, (18:12 – “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?” They’re thinking geriatrics while God is thinking pediatrics. But God does a marvelous and miraculous thing…they have a baby and the promise is fulfilled. The writer of Hebrews sums it up beautifully, “And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and countless as the sand on the seashore.” (11:12)
See, if God is the one calling us, if God is the one giving us the vocation, then God will always provide the means even when the circumstances seem impossible. In fact, if the thing we think we’re being called to do is relatively easy, there’s a pretty good chance it’s not from God. God is always calling us to do things, seemingly impossible things, because it’s then that we realize that we can’t do it alone.
One of my mentors in ministry taught me to always ask this question when evaluating when discerning if God is calling us to something new. The question: “Is it scary enough?” Is this something that will force you to your knees to wonder how in the world it can happen? Is this something that will force you to depend on God?
Well, I would argue this morning that beginning a new appointment is scary enough. Is it scary enough for you? I know it’s scary enough for me! Things have changed and more things will change and change is hard for most people. It’s like that old joke: how many Methodists does it take to change a light bulb? Why would we want to change it?
But in the midst of change we need to remind each other
that God has brought all of us here together for a purpose. I come here this morning having been blessed to lead a great congregation for seven years and you have been blessed with a great pastor and church life for eleven years. I have been blessed with a marvelous partner in Jennifer and blessed with two fantastic kids. You have been blessed with a wonderful church family. But all that blessing has been given to us for a singular purpose—to share that blessing, to take on the covenant mission of Abraham, our spiritual ancestor to be a people through whom the world is blessed. More specifically, our call is to bless this part of the world—Monument and surrounding areas, joining God in his redemptive mission for all of creation. We’ll be talking a lot about what that looks like in the weeks and years to come.
Like Abram, we have been called to “Go” – to go into our community and into the wider world bringing the good news of God’s grace, God’s blessing, God’s divine rescue mission through Abraham’s most important descendant—Jesus Christ. Together we will be a people on the move, a people who will embrace a mission that is scary enough. A people who are blessed to be a blessing.
Come to think of it, all this “go” talk should make a lot of sense to a church that began in a truck stop—a place where people were always on the move!
I am excited to see how where we will go together in our future, and excited to see how God will use us to be a blessing.