Blessings Galore

Blessings Galore

Blessings Galore – Genesis 12:1-9

As I was reading and studying this text from Genesis about the call of Abram earlier this week there were two questions that kept haunting me.

First, a question that we asked of Noah last week, a general, “How did we get here?”

And second, more specific to Abram and his encounter with God, “So what do we do with all these blessings?”

Let’s start with the first, which is really more like, “How did we get here, and how did Abram get there, and how in the world is he gonna follow God on this wild journey?”

So here, the 12th chapter of Genesis, post flood, post Babel, and after a whole lot of multi-syllabic names listing who begat who, we find God calling Abram and Sarai.

Rabbi Jon Levenson writes,

The universalism that marked Genesis chapters 1-11 having now failed, the Lord begins anew, singling out one Mesopotamian – in no way distinguished from his peers as yet – and promising to make of him a great nation, not numbered in the seventy nations of chapter 10. What the Lord promises Abram (his name is changed to “Abraham” only in chapter 17) – land, numerous offspring, and blessing – constitutes to a large extent a reversal of some of the curses on Adam and Eve – exile, pain in childbirth, and uncooperative soil (3.16-24). The twin themes of land and progeny inform the rest of the Torah.[1]

God calls Abram out of a land of comfort to a land where he will be a stranger, a land that will be foreign, a land where he will most definitely not be at home.

Eric Elnes is a pastor in the United Church of Christ who hosts a video blog called Darkwood Brew. This week as Eric was reflecting on this passage from Genesis he was remembering the poet WB Yeats, and the love that Yeats had for one woman. A love that was so great that he proposed to her 5 different times, each time being rejected. And like any good poet whose love has been rejected that many times he put his frustrations into verse.

The Song of Wandering Aengus by William Butler Yeats

I went out to the hazel wood,

Because a fire was in my head,

And cut and peeled a hazel wand,

And hooked a berry to a thread;

And when white moths were on the wing,

And moth-like stars were flickering out,

I dropped the berry in a stream

And caught a little silver trout.

 

When I had laid it on the floor

I went to blow the fire a-flame,

But something rustled on the floor,

And someone called me by my name:

It had become a glimmering girl

With apple blossom in her hair

Who called me by my name and ran

And faded through the brightening air.

 

Though I am old with wandering

Through hollow lands and hilly lands,

I will find out where she has gone,

And kiss her lips and take her hands;

And walk among long dappled grass,

And pluck till time and times are done,

The silver apples of the moon,

The golden apples of the sun.[2]

 

It’s a little different for Abram than it was for Yeats, and is still different for us. But Elnes suggests that when we encounter the God who loves us beyond our wildest imagination it has that affect, it knows our name. It calls us to be who we are. We sense that our whole identity is in that place from which we are being called.[3]

That’s something that makes us wander into the unknown, no matter what the cost. Following the unforgettable love of a God that will not let us go. Following the unforgettable love of God gives us a vocation as we respond to God’s call in each of our own lives. Following the unforgettable love of God provides us with blessings in our lives, the big and the small.

Which gets us to that second question… What do we do with all these blessings?!?!?

In his Covenant with Abram, God promises Abram land, offspring, and that he will be blessed, so that he might be a blessing to others.

For Abram the promise of land meant that he would have a place to call home. The promise of children meant that even at the age of 75 he would become a father. And the promise to be a blessing meant that he would change the world.

Blessings today come in many different shapes and sizes. When I immediately hear the world blessing I can’t help but think of Joel Osteen and some of the other prosperity gospel preachers who have been in the news recently. Building their extravagant houses off their seven figure salaries, and saying that God’s blessing is specifically a financial one and nothing else.

But when I get past that image of blessing, I get down to God’s blessing being the things in life that give us the most hope and joy.

As descendants of Abram, the fulfillment of one of his blessings, we too are blessed to be a blessing to others throughout the world.

The way we bless the world is as varied as the number of descendants of Abram. The gifts we have been given by God of time, talent, and money are how we are to bless the world today.

Sometimes being a blessing looks like being good financial stewards, tithing, and pledging to the church, and to other non-profit organizations who are making a difference in the world.

Sometimes being a blessing looks like volunteering with Vacation Bible School, or teaching Sunday School.

Sometimes being a blessing looks like shelving or giving out food in the food bank.

Sometimes being a blessing looks like using some extra time to go by and visit a friend who’s been sick who you haven’t seen in a while.

And sometimes we never know who calls themselves blessed because of the blessing we give to others. We’re going to finish this morning with some pictures from a project that songwriter Lucinda Williams asked folks to send in as a part of her album “Blessed”. The song is called what you would guess, “Blessed.”

(Blessed Video ~ Lucinda Williams, 3’24”)

[1] Jewish Study Bible, Genesis 12:1-9

[2] from The Wind Among the Reeds (1899)

[3] Eric Elnes, Darkwood BrewA Way Out of No Way (Part 2), podcast accessed online Friday September 8, 2014 9:40pm.