Genesis 12:1-4 | Rev. Will Conner
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 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. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.
When I was growing up as a child I remember a taking trips to visit my great grandparents. As an adult, I realize how fortunate I am to have known my great grandparents and to actually remember spending time with them. I remember my great grandmother, whom we called Granny. She was the one who taught me to eat mustard on a sausage biscuit – this was wise advice. I also remember a story she told from her childhood. She told of how one day her family made opossum for supper – probably it was opossum stew, but I don’t recall.
She said it was the most awful thing she ever had—greasy and nasty. It made her sick, and eating it once was enough—she knew she would never eat it again. Of course, as a young boy I thought that this was quite funny, and couldn’t ever imagine eating something as ugly as an opossum.
What I remember most about visiting my great grandparents, though, is where they sat. I knew them in their old age, and I remember visiting their home to see them sitting in their front room. Granddaddy and Granny had chairs that faced each other in front of a picture window. As a kid I never knew anyone that sat as much as these two; and as a kid I thought that this was the most boring place to be. When we would visit we would sit in their living room and they would sit. Why would anyone want to sit in a chair all day and watch traffic drive by? As an adult I realize that my childhood impressions likely over exaggerated this sitting, and I think that it would kind of nice to sit back and watch traffic go by. – Maybe I can do this in my office; sit back and watch traffic pass on highway 30.
The reality is that many people sit most of the day. Most people wake up in the morning, sit on the couch to drink their coffee and watch the morning news—or their morning cartoons if you have a 5 year old and 3 year old as I do. Then you shower, get ready for the day, and sit in your car on your drive to work. I’m beginning to really appreciate this drive time—I’ve got about an hour drive from my house to the church—lots of time to sit. Then you get to work (or perhaps school), fill up your coffee cup and sit at your desk until lunch when you eat lunch at your desk and wait until it’s time to sit in your car to drive home and sit in front of the TV again
It’s true that there are plenty of people who don’t spend most of the day sitting down. My wife, Hope, is a great example. She is a hair stylist and salon owner in Chattanooga. She might sit down for 5 or 10 minutes during her work day. Always she is standing on her feet as she colors, cuts, and styles her clients’ hair. If you work in a factory or in construction, you too are going to be standing much of the day.
But for the rest of us, we do a lot of sitting. And it seems that we are constantly being warned that sitting is the new smoking. I recently ran across an article that lists the ways sitting is shortening our lives: it increases the risk of developing cancer, increases the risk of heart disease, increases the risk of obesity, it increases the risk developing depression, and a host of other health issues. But who doesn’t like to sit? What’s better than relaxing in front of the TV with a cold beverage watching a football game or catching up on bachelorette on DVR? It’s an American pastime.
But it’s not just sitting. As humans, we like things to be stable; we don’t like change; most of us enjoy predictability and routine. Yes, we like to have fun, but only if that fun comes in predictable patterns.
If you need proof of this just look to a little over a week ago when the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. Nobody believed it would actually happen. In the aftermath of this, so called Brexit, (by the way, I won’t be surprised if Brexit is the word of the year for 2016) the British pound lost tremendous value, our retirement accounts took a hit, and according to CNN Money -- $3 trillion was wiped out of global markets. Investors, businesses, and people in general are skittish and scared about the uncertainty that is a result from this recent vote in the UK.
It seems as if nearly every week we hear about a new terrorist attack – be it an attack in Brussels, Paris, Baghdad, Chattanooga, Orlando, or most recently in a busy airport in Istanbul. This uncertainty hard, and challenges our very core of stability.
Today is my first Sunday as your pastor, but six weeks ago I drove up to Athens and had a meeting with some folks from Knoxville on the front porch of the Cracker Barrel. We were talking about plans for Recovery ministry. In my last church, Ooltewah United Methodist, I very involved with the planning and launch of a new recovery worship service—that’s designed to offer hope and healing for people and families. I was satisfied; for the first time in several years I felt stable and was thankful for this. And here we were planning next steps in this recovery ministry at Ooltewah. I went home excited about the future, and shared with my wife about how I knew God was going to use this recovery ministry to give people new life.
The next day I went to the office to continue working on this, then my phone. It was our district superintendent. Now, United Methodist pastors get nervous when the DS calls, especially in the months of March, April, and May. And with only five words, “Will, we need to talk,” my sense of stability shattered and my comfort was gone.
This idea of comfort and stability is central to what we read in our scripture reading earlier. When we look at our scripture lesson this morning we encounter a man named Abram. Perhaps you know him better as Abraham. When the story opens, Abraham is living in a place called Haran. This is a place that his father settled; this is home.
In Haran Abraham build a home, he built a business. He sold goods in the market place, he took care of his wife. They made friends, celebrated birthdays, entertained their life’s dreams. When Abraham’s father got sick, this is the place where he cared for him. This is the place where Abraham buried his father. Abraham was settled; Abraham was at home; Abraham was comfortable.
Then the phone rang; it was his district superintendent, and he said, “Abraham, we need to talk.” Ok, it wasn’t his DS, but in this, God told him to go. God told Abraham to leave his home, and friends, and dreams in Haran move to a new place. And God promised to Abraham, that if he was willing to take this journey Abraham would be blessed and Abraham would bless others—in fact, Abraham would have an impact on the entire world.
Can you imagine? His sense of stability was shattered and his comfort was gone. Abraham set out on journey because God told him to go. On this journey things wouldn’t be all that comfortable and things wouldn’t be all that stable, but Abraham journeyed with God. Because Abraham was willing to take this journey great things happened. The whole world was introduced to the grace and love God. Because Abraham was willing to take this journey new communities were blessed and many people experienced the newness and new life that God has to offer. Through a lack of comfort and stability, God had something new in store for Abraham.
I am sure that when you learned of Hugh’s retirement your sense of comfort and stability was challenged. I am sure that you worried about the future of your church, the future of your ministries. As time ticked away, I know that your leadership, at least, was worried whether or not you would even have a pastor after Hugh.
Then a few days after I got my phone call that messed up my comfort and stability, your leadership got a phone call that informed them I was going to be your next pastor. In sense, I’m sure, that it was a relief knowing that you were going to get another pastor, but no one had met me. You knew I wasn’t going to be living in the parsonage. You had never met me before. The lack of comfort and lack of stability continued.
Reflecting on this lack of comfort, I began to realize that comfort is overrated. Perhaps comfort, like sitting is the new smoking. You see, when we get too comfortable we tend to get lazy. We tend to think that we have things figured out. We tend to believe that we don’t need to try new things. We tend to believe that our likes and our beliefs are the most important things. And when we have things figured out, we forget about God. We forget to listen to God and we forget what God wants us to do.
So since we have all been uncomfortable; so since we have all lacked a sense of stability; I believe that God is calling us as God called Abraham. God is calling us to go from home, to go from our sense of comfort and stability—to go on a shared journey where we will bless our community. Where the people of Meigs county will meet Jesus in a new way because God is calling you and God is calling me.
If you are thinking that this journey isn’t for you. If you are thinking that God is only calling me as your pastor, let me draw your attention back to our scripture lesson. You see Abraham was not a young man when God called him on this new, uncomfortable journey. Abraham was 75 years old when God said, I want you to journey with me and do a new thing. So friends, this journey is for all of us.
I don’t yet know the destination. I don’t yet know what the outcome will be. But I know that God is with us. I know that God is calling us to journey together. I know that God is calling us to a new place, a new era, a chapter in ministry together. That goes for me and for you. This new journey will have its difficulties, it will likely be uncomfortable at times, and lack stability at times. But sitting is the new smoking. Being comfortable too long leads to sitting, and sitting leads death.
Our shared journey, our journey together leads to life. Our journey together leads to new life in God. Our journey together leads to this community being blessed because God has called you, because God has called us.
Decatur United Methodist Church
Our hope is that these messages will be relevant in your life and encourage you in faith.