Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org

Would We Have?

Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

March 16:

Call:    John 3: 16-17
Text:    Genesis 12: 1-4a; Romans 4: 13-16
Prayer:  W&S #17
Psalm:   121   (844)

            Would We Have?

Who - other than God - do you think is the most important figure in the OT

You might say Moses
Cecil B. DeMille and Charlton Heston made him famous
You might say David
a juicy and well known scandal made him unforgettable

But as for me, I choose Abraham
A man who,  I fear,  gets short changed.

Three of the world's major faith traditions
   - Christianity, Judaism, and Islam -
trace their roots back to him.

That is important and that is impressive.

But even more importantly Abraham's story
Gives us a remarkable example of faith

Abraham's story takes place
   Before   Jesus
   Before   the prophets
   Before   David (and the other kings)
   Before   Moses and Joshua
   Before   Joseph and his father Jacob and his father Isaac

It is at the roots of Judaism
   That we meet Abraham, the eight greats grandson of Noah

When we meet him his name is Abram
He is seventy five years old
He lives with his father's family in Haran
Where his father had moved from Ur of the Chaldeans

When we meet him
   We learn that his wife, Sarai, is barren

When we meet him     God is speaking to him
   This     is what God said,    [Genesis 12: 1-3]

God wants this seventy five year old man
   To pack up his wife and his possessions
   And to go - not to a stated or familiar location -
         - not for a stated or identified purpose -
      But simply "to the land that I will show you."

[As an aside: that is how we know that in another life,
Abraham would have been a Methodist pastor.]

We are familiar with Biblical calls to others.

God called Moses  to go to Egypt to set God's people free
   God told him where and told him why but Moses protested
God called Jeremiah  to go out and be a prophet to the world
   Where (a bit broad) and why   but Jeremiah too protested

But when God - without explaining either where or why - told Abram to go, the author of Genesis says,
   "So Abram went  as the Lord had told him" [Genesis 12: 4]
Thus the meat of the story of the Bible began
   with this example of faith and of trust in God.

God told Abram to go.   Abram went.
The question that presents to us is:   Would we have?"

Abram went and
   God renamed Abram "Abraham"
   God renamed Sarai "Sarah"
      And they did   - about 25 years later - have a child

The rest of the story of the OT is about
   Abraham's descendents and the promised great nation

It is an up and down story.

Those descendents went to Egypt to be rescued from famine
But later the Egyptians became afraid and enslaved them

So God sent Moses to lead them out of Egypt
   And while they were wandering, God gave Moses the law
After Moses' death
   Joshua led them into the promised land
When they begged God for a king God gave them a king
   But they grew further and further away from God
   They took God for granted  [an aside: Would we have?]

Despite warnings from the prophets
   They ignored God's law
And finally were conquered and many taken into exile.

Eventually they were allowed to return to Jerusalem
   And when they did, a group developed which believed
that if they obeyed the law to the letter
      The community would please God.
Those people were the Pharisees
   whom we meet frequently during Christ's ministry on earth

They were good men who tried hard to obey the Mosaic Law
   And to set expectations for the people of their time

However, by the time Jesus undertook his earthly ministry
their devotion to the law became slavish and legalistic
   And actually interfered with their relationship with God
It was as if they worshipped the law rather than God

That was the culture when Jesus walked the earth.
That was the culture which Jesus shook up.
   When Jesus healed on the Sabbath
   When Jesus ate with sinners
That is why the Pharisees were appalled at
   What Jesus did and what he taught

Those actions were   vi  o  la  tions  of  the  law      the law!

Oh, Jesus had tried to make it clear why he came into the world
   It was, as we heard when called to worship this morning,       because God loved the world so much
God sent God's only son into the world
            Not to condemn the world
            But to save it
         And God did so, knowing that by sending him
            He would be sacrificing him.

But the Pharisees and many, many others   did not get it.
They saw to it that Jesus was flogged and crucified.

And so again the question for us is:   "Would we have gotten it?

Oh, we claim to be his followers and want to say, "of course"
But many of his contemporaries who claimed to follow him
   Had been raised in the culture of the law
      And did not get it

As a result,    the major issue in the early church was
   Whether the gentiles
who accepted Christ as savior,
and   who demonstrated the impact of the Holy Spirit on them
      in order to be a part of the church had to obey
         the dietary and circumcision laws?

Paul had been called to take the message to the gentiles
As part of fulfilling the Great Commission to be a witness and make disciples throughout the entire world.

And Paul, resoundingly declared
   that the gentiles did not have to obey those laws

He convincingly explained the legitimacy of his position
By taking his readers and listeners back
         Before Moses
and   before the law
He took them back to Abraham  [Romans 4: 13-17]

Paul reminded them that Abraham's blessing resulted
from faith
   Not from obeying every jot and title of the law.

Paul explained that this was essential
   Because God's blessings come from God's grace
- not our merit

And then Paul goes on to remind both the Romans and us
   of the strength of Abraham's faith
By showing the hurdles it had to overcome:

[verses 18 and 19]
   we need to ask ourselves,  "Would we have weakened?"

[verses 20 and 21]
we need to ask ourselves   "Would we have been fully convinced?"

The church accepted Paul's position
   (And of course, since it was a church, even after the decision was made, some people did continue to grumble)

Without that decision
 those of us whose ancestors were not biological descendents of Abraham
   Would not be in the church today.

Abraham had faith - strong, powerful faith
   A faith so strong that it was part of opening the church to us

With that faith, when God told him to go     He went
   Again we ask:  "Would we have?"

"Would   we    have?"

We have been asking that question of ourselves
   Throughout this time of reflection

But to get the most out of this Lenten season
we have to go one step further and ask ourselves
   Not only    "would we have"
   But also    "will we have that kind of faith?"
If our answer is in the affirmative
If we are truly committed
   To following and obeying
to serving and sharing  Christ
If we are not just giving lip service to make ourselves look good

   Then, our lives should demonstrate and reflect those answers!