Sermon Starter: Father Abraham

February 23rd, 2011

Father Abraham had many sons. Many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them, and so are you (ladies included), so let’s all praise the Lord!

That’s the first thing I learned about Abraham. He’s our spiritual ancestor, and he’s the common link we have not only with our Jewish brothers and sisters, but with our Muslim brothers and sisters as well. We’re all family because of Abraham, so we should just all get along.

As I got older, however, and I decided to read this story for myself, I found out this whole thing was a little bit more complicated. I found out that the story of Abraham is a very strange one. He gets up and leaves his land at an extreme old age because some deity he’s never heard of (who turns out to be the God of the universe, but ol’ Abe doesn’t know that at the time) tells him to. This God promises him a child in his old age but takes so long to deliver on the promise that he has a child with a slave girl, only to have a child with his wife, and send the first son off to die in the wilderness to avoid a fight over his small inheritance. Oh, and let’s not forget that whole “kill my son because God says so” incident (with all due respect to Soren Kierkegaard, that story makes me question Abe’s sanity)!

As strange as the story is in places, Abraham remains a pillar of our faith because of his obedience to God. And it’s this obedience, even in the midst of doubt, misunderstanding, and frequent mistakes that makes this story so valuable and relevant for us thousands of years later. Paul talks at length about the example of Abraham because Abraham is an active recipient of God’s grace. He didn’t earn his salvation by doing what he did, but neither did he simply take God’s grace for granted and do nothing with it. Paul is telling us that we, too, can’t earn our salvation by doing all the right things, but neither should we simply pray one prayer and go on living our lives as if Jesus had never come.

Speaking of Jesus, he also talks about what it is to be an active recipient of God’s grace. In his late night conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus coins the phrase “born again”. That’s a term that has become very loaded in the last two millennia. Being born is not something we choose to happen to us, but we participate in the process of being born nonetheless. It’s some mixture of our actions, the actions of our parents and others who care for us, and the actions of God. We can understand a lot about it but in the end it remains a beautiful mystery. Just like Abram received the new name Abraham to signify his new life, we, too, are being continually reborn and remade into God’s likeness. We doubt, we stumble, and we make mistakes, but God never gives up on us, because God is just that good.

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