Delivered at Ames UCC
on September 16, 2018
©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie
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Well, there’s not really enough in this passage for me to work with, is there? The action is pretty limited: God tells Abram to go, he does, God promises Abram some land, Abram builds an altar.
There isn’t much language or symbolism for me to unpack, either. Bethel can mean “house of God” and if Bethel, the house of God or the garden of Eden, is to the west of where Abram built an altar, we could hear that to the east of Eden Abram still found cause to thank God. To echo last week’s story, despite how far humanity had come from the garden, Abram as everyman constructs a reminder that God is present no matter where we go.
In a different context, I might speak to the issue of God offering up another peoples’ land to Abram, but I think that would be a negative lesson, and we have enough negative lessons these days.
So, again, not really enough to work with for a sermon. I wonder if Abram felt the same way about himself when God called him out.
We don’t know anything about Abram at this point beyond his age of 75, that he is a descendent of Noah, and that his wife Sarai is infertile.
We do not know anything of Abram’s character or why God would choose him. There are no tales of his chivalry or wisdom or might or piety. Noah, his great-to-the-eight grandfather, is described as a blameless and righteous man, but not Abram.
Abram is just an old guy, by ancient Mesopotamian standards, who lives with his wife and nephew, and one day is told by God “You shall be a blessing and all the earth shall be blessed through you.”
Woah! Where did that come from, God? I wonder if Abram felt confused and overwhelmed, and like maybe he didn’t have enough for God to work with, not enough for blessing the whole earth. Perhaps you don’t believe you have enough to be a blessing either.