The Call of AbramGenesis 12:1-3 (NRSV)
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. 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. 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.”
We have two young people in our congregation who attended magic camp this summer. And I have been lucky enough to see some of their amazing card tricks. I have also witnessed things disappearing and reappearing before my eyes! They were so excited to tell me all that they had learned, and they even shared some of their magic secrets with me! Through all of this, I learned that, though it often looks like a simple waving of a hand or a wand, there is actually a lot of work that takes place behind the scenes.
This past week, because of their hard work and dedication to the magic trade, their parents got them each a (magic) wizard wand! And their excitement got me thinking. What if we each had a magic wand, that gave us the ability to bless others? How cool would that be?
Well In the Old Testament, in the book of Genesis, there’s a story about a man named Abram. Now, to be honest, Abram wasn’t anyone special. He was a good and kind man who owned many sheep and cattle, and he lived with his wife Sarai in the land of Haran. One day, God came to Abram. Whether it was in a vision or in a dream, we don’t really know. But God came to Abram and God said, “Abram! I want you to pack up all your things and leave your home! Go to the land I will give you. I promise that I will bless you, and your family. Don’t be afraid because I will be with you in all you do. Oh, and because of you, all the families of the earth will be blessed.” Can you imagine hearing God say, “In you, all of the families of the earth will be blessed?” It’s like God handed Abram a magic wand to bless others.
Now I’m sure that Abram must have been really excited and really scared at the same time. Because what that meant was that Abram would have to leave the place and the people he knew and go to a place and a people that he didn’t know. Abram would really have to trust in God. And you know what? That is exactly what Abram did! Abram took his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot. They packed up everything they owned and moved from the land of Haran to the land of Canaan because that is where God led them.
Now it couldn’t have been an easy move to make. After all, they didn’t have U-Haul trucks and moving companies back then! Abram had to pack his things on camels and donkeys and travel the four hundred miles mostly on foot! That would be like us traveling from North Attleboro to Washington DC or Niagara Falls! And Abram? Abram was seventy-five years old when God told him to pack up everything he owned and leave his home!
The blessings that he was giving to all the people on the earth did not come with a simple wave of a magic wand. The people of the earth were blessed because of Abram’s faith, hard work, and dedication. But I guess Abram knew in his heart that his hard work and struggle were worth it, knowing that he would be blessing all the families of the earth!
I wonder, how would you have reacted if God had asked you to do something like that? Would you trust in God and make the journey? Or would you reply, “No thanks, I’m good!”
This beginning of Abram’s story reminds us that when we choose to live lives of faith, it is not always easy and that we have to be ready to face the burdens as well as the blessings. Folks, the truth is, every moment of every day we get to choose the path that we walk. And the good news–which is sometimes exciting and sometimes scary–is that God is always calling us in new directions and God is always calling us to not only be blessed but to bless others.
Usually, however, it takes stepping out of our comfort zone and doing things a little differently than we have before, just like Abram when he had to leave his home and life as he knew it. Sometimes it takes seeing God in the burdens and in the blessings of life to know that whatever you are facing, God is always there. Now some would see the journey that God called Abram to take as a burden, but Abram saw it as an adventure! Some would see it as an overwhelming weight on his shoulders, but Abram saw it as a blessing!
Friends, whether we see our lives filled with burdens or overflowing with blessings depends on the lens through which we look. Because sometimes, the blessings are in the burdens that we face. I told you earlier that two of our young people shared some of their magic secrets with me, and I’d like to share something with you that I have learned in my years of ministry as well.
I used to say to families that were struggling with grief or illness or loss that I wished that I had a “magic wand” to wave that would take their grief or struggle or pain away. But what I have learned over the years is that sometimes my “magic wand” is the time that I spend sitting with them, not trying to fix anything but simply assuring them that they are not alone. Or it’s the time that I really want to complain or tell someone what to do, and instead, I just hold my tongue and listen. Or it’s the time that I could easily control the situation, but instead, I give them room to figure it out on their own. Friends, we can only see the world through our own eyes, but the true magic of blessing another is attempting to look through their eyes as well.
Folks, in the week ahead, I pray that you might all use the magic wands within yourselves to see the blessings in the burdens that you carry and to use those blessings to bless others.
My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen!