The following sermon was preached on Sunday June 11, 2023 at St George’s Transcona. You can learn more about St George’s and find links to their YouTube channel by clicking here.Photo by Katie Drazdauskaite on Unsplash 


May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable and pleasing in your sight O God, for you are our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

We move back into Ordinary Time this week and over the next few months the lectionary has us doing deep dives into several books of the Bible. We have readings from Genesis for most of the summer, and we’ll be reading from Romans for 15 weeks in a row.

Genesis is the first book in the Bible and seeing as we’ll be spending a lot of time here over the next few months, let’s start by highlighting a few things from earlier chapters of Genesis that I think provide some important context.

Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning God created…”

I don’t think it’s important to get bogged down in the hows of creation, but I do think it is important to regularly remind ourselves that this world and everything in it, including each one of us, was created by a good and loving God.

We are not cosmic accidents, we are God’s creation.

God created us, loves us, and wants what is best for us.

And it’s not a competition where we are loved and other people aren’t. Or where other people need to suffer so that we can have good things.

God’s economy doesn’t work that way. God’s economy is so much bigger than that.

God loves everyone and desires good things for everyone.

In the earliest chapters of Genesis we have the stories of creation, of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Ark, and the Tower of Babel. In these stories we see human beings being very human – working for selfish purposes rather than for the betterment of all humankind. We see them become more separated from each other, working against each other rather than for each other.

In today’s reading, we see the earliest steps in God’s plan to bring them back together again.

Today’s reading begins in chapter 12. The main characters in this story are Abram and Sarai.

In later stories, they will change their names to Abraham and Sarah. Changing your name was a really common thing to do and we have many Biblical stories where this happens. St. Peter was first called Simon. St. Paul was first called Saul to name just a few.

Today people can get really excited and upset when someone changes their name but this has been a practice since the very beginning and we should celebrate whenever someone begins to use language that more fully reflects who they were created to be.

I’m also very likely going to use the wrong name for both Abram and Sarai at some point because I am much more used to calling them Abraham and Sarah but when I do, I’m just going to correct myself and move on – which is what any of us should do if we accidentally use the wrong name or the wrong pronouns for someone.

God tells Abram to “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 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.” (1-2)

Although we won’t be looking at today’s gospel reading in any detail, it’s worth noting that Mathew has a similar experience to Abram.

God tells Abram to go somewhere he has never been, and Jesus tells Matthew to leave the comfort of his current life to follow Jesus to unknown places and into an unknown future.

I suspect if you were to interview these men at the end of their lives they would tell you that following God into the unknown was a good decision, possibly even the best choice they had ever made.

But I also suspect that they would tell you that following God into the unknown wasn’t always easy, sometimes it was unspeakably hard even, and it often took them to places they never ever imagined they would go.

As a parish, God is calling you all into an unknown future as well. You don’t know exactly was the future holds for you. I expect it will be hard, scary even, but I trust, that if you pay attention and follow God’s leading in this journey that you will also look back on the choice to follow God as the best choice you have ever made.

God tells Abram to go and Abram goes even though, practically speaking, the promises God makes about this journey make no sense.

God promises that Abram will become a great nation. But there are two things required to make a nation – land and people – and Abram doesn’t have either.

Our reading tells us that Abram is 75. A little later in Genesis we learn that Sarai is 10 years younger than Abram making her 65. (17:17) They have been married for a long time, but they don’t have any children.

Now as you well know, senior people can do a lot of pretty amazing things, but having a baby, let alone having enough babies to reasonably imagine they can create an entire nation is rarely one of them.

This fact alone would make me question God’s call for me to leave the place that I was living, a place where I was comfortable, and go somewhere I had never been before.

Because what God is asking them to do doesn’t just seem hard, it seems impossible.

So Abram does not have any children to make a great nation, but he also doesn’t have any land. In the rest of our reading, Abram will begin to travel to various places and there are a few things I want us to note about this.

The first is that as Abram travels to various places God will tell him that these lands will belong to Abram’s descendants, not Abram. (7)
God has a very different sense of time than we do. God’s plan to make Abram a great nation is not a plan that Abram will see fulfilled in his lifetime, but it will be fulfilled.

Right now – for better or for worse – we are dealing with the decisions made by our ancestors in the church. The decisions they made impact us today. Similarly, our descendants in the church will be impacted by our choices. May we always keep them in mind and make choices that will help them to flourish.

Secondly whenever Abram stops in any of these places he builds an altar to the Lord.

We don’t have a specific practice like this in the church now but I have often wished we did.

I think the key point of building an altar is to stop and acknowledge what God is doing in your life. That can be done by anyone, anywhere and doesn’t cost anything.

Sometimes, we may want to remember a particular event by creating a tangible, reminder. By building something. This can also be done in a variety of ways: you could chose to build up the community by volunteering at Plessis Family Resource center as a way of giving thanks for a family member, you could take a picture to remember a particular place or particular time that God spoke to you, you could do something more formal, and more expensive, like creating a window for the church that reminds you of God’s faithfulness in the past.

There are a lot of creative things you can do that can help you stop, be thankful, and remember God’s faithfulness.

God calls, Abram follows. God makes promises, Abram builds altars.

Although this will not be the case in every story, in today’s story, Abram never speaks. He doesn’t say anything to God, he just listens and obeys.

Maybe he did speak, and that’s just not recorded in scripture. Maybe he asked God a lot of questions before heading out on this journey into the unknown. It’s certainly OK to ask God questions, but if Abram did, we don’t know what they are.

What kinds of questions are you asking God right now as you follow God into the unknown?

It’s OK, important even, to have and ask questions. But I would encourage you not to get stuck in the questions. Not to sit by the side of the road waiting until you have all the answers. Keep asking the questions, but keeping taking each next faithful step as well.

Abram never speaks in this story, but neither does Sarai.

When God tells Abram to leave the comfort of his home and journey into the unknown, Sarai has to go too. Abram has a choice, Sarai doesn’t.

Sarai is silent and Sarai is not given a choice about whether or not she wants to go on this journey. She won’t always be silent, and she will make many choices in later stories but when you look at the choices she makes, keep this in the back of your mind. How would you speak, and what kind of choices would you make, if you were forced to leave your home and go on a journey like this?

God doesn’t just tell Abram and Sarai to go on this journey into the unknown however. God also makes some very specific promises. God makes a series of “I will” statements, or promises.

The land they are going to? They won’t have to guess where it is, God says, “I will show you [the land]” and I will give it to your descendants. (1 and 7)

God also says that “I will make you a great nation. I will bless you. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.”

All of these things God promises to do if Abram and Sarai follow God into the unknown.

And there is one more promise in this story as well. God says, “in you – in Abram and Sarai – all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (3)

This blessing isn’t just for Abram, it’s not even just for Abram’s family. Abram is being called by God to do something that will bless the entire world.

Our actions always impact others but I suspect that we don’t always think about that. What might change, what blessings might we be able to impart, if we chose to think beyond our own benefit to how our actions might benefit others, the entire world even?

We are also called to bless the world, and we have the power to do so in our own way. As you move into the unknown, I pray that you will always remember that God is with you, and you will never forget that you have the power to make a difference and change the world for the better.

Which is good news.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.