Scripture: Genesis 12:1-10
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
8 From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.
9 Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.
Abram in Egypt
10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe.
The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
Since the beginning of time, we have been attached to land. Why? Why are we attached to land?
- we depend on it to live. It gives us sustenance (food, minerals, water, etc).
- it’s a basic need. A place to lay our head. Feel safe.
- borders on land make us feel more safe/protected.
- gives us our identity. Citizens of the United States of America. It gives us our “people” – where we are from.
- we learn from scripture that land is a blessing – promised to us by God.
- we take power in owning land and being attached to it.
- our loved ones are buried in the ground. It is holy to us.
I spent the last two weeks in my childhood home going through closets and storage spaces – helping to clear out and reorganize spaces for my parents.
It was a delicate task, I’ll tell you. Going through old linens and books helped me learn a lot about my parents. It made me learn that they didn’t really want to throw much away. I would move as much as I could into the give away pile…but I knew I needed to let them look over it before I took it away….because without fail there would be some worn, well loved object that meant nothing to me, but meant a whole lot to them.
For my parents, a worn quilt reminded them of the sweet woman who made it for them. They can see her face. They can tell her story. They remember wrapping us kids in it as they tucked us into bed. They can feel our small bodies within it.
These possessions help them stop time. Rewind it. Relive it.
Attachment to items like a worn blanket and to land are important because they holds our memories. They hold life’s meaning.
I realized as I was in running in my hometown that I am also attached to land.
As I passed particular trees, I remembered waiting there each day to be picked up from school. The high school yard reminds me of the millions of times I must have run laps around it in soccer practice.
* * *
In our scripture passage today, God calls Abram and Sarai to LEAVE their country, to leave their land. Their people. And to follow God to another land.
The story starts with a great upset.
Abram is seventy-five when he hears this call. I imagine that like my parents, he has accumulated some stuff….and that stuff and land hold precious memories for him.
And yet, Abram hears God’s call and he follows.
I want to point out that he disobeys a little ….
I like when biblical characters disobey…it makes them feel more human.
God calls him to leave his land, his father’s household…and yet, Abram sure takes a lot with him! He packs up a lot of his possessions and takes a whole lot of people with him…but, hey…attachment is important.
Scripture says, “He went.” He travels with this entourage to Canaan and through Canaan until he came to a particular tree – the great tree of Moreh at Shechem.
When he gets to Canaan, God speaks:
“To your offspring I will give this land.”
The Hebrew word “offspring” means both his descendants and also seed. This land will receive his seed and bear great fruit.
What a great promise! What a blessing! Having traveled so far, through the unknown…it must be a great relief to know that your children will have a place to call home.
And yet, the land God promised wasn’t empty. Canaanites lived there.
I wonder…why would God promise something that belongs to someone else?
Well, perhaps that is the whole point.
The land doesn’t belong to the Canaanites…
Nor will it every really belong to Abram’s descendants.
The land belongs to God.
* * *
We forget sometimes…but we belong first to God.
We belong FIRST to God.
Then to God’s creation – to God’s land and God’s people.
This gets tricky fast. Because someone has to make decisions. Someone has to hold power.
And so we humans take on the power to decide how to care for the land – or not care for the land.
We, humans, decide how to care for God’s traveling people – or not care for God’s people.
Attachment is powerful. And it is important.
But, we have to pause and check what we are attached to —
Is it God? Or is it something else? Is it someone else?
As many of you know my mom is sick. That’s why I was back in NC. And I am very attached to her.
And yet, I am convicted by this passage that she exists to point me to God. Her love points me to God’s love. Her struggle points me to trust deeper in God’s strength.
My mom preached this particular text at my ordination service at her church in Burlington, NC. It held great significance for us because Tim and I, like Abram and Sarai, were being called by God to leave our land, our people, to leave quite a few of our possessions and go to a distant land.
God promised us a blessing – that we would find a safe home here….and we have.
God promised us that we would find a family here…and we have.
God promised us that regardless of who or what we cling to…. God will be with us. We are not alone.
* * *
The truth is… God is calling lots of people to this land. To the Bay Area. To the United States of America.
God is calling people to seek refuge in a safe place.
To a place where there is food and shelter for them.
And God is calling us to welcome them.
To pull our chairs to the side and make room at the table.
To show our attachment to God FIRST, by creating room for our blessing to become a blessing for others.
As Leslie said last week in her sermon, God is calling us to be hospitable. And hospitality is a core spiritual gift of this community.
I’m going to share a story with you of a young man named Jose. (name changed for confidentiality)
Continue to listen for God’s word for you….
– Jose is 15 years old
– His father left Honduras to work in the US when Jose was 6 mos old
– Jose’s mother left Honduras to join his father when Jose was about 3 yrs old
– Jose was sent around to live with various family members over the years
– When he turned older, Jose started receiving threats by the gangs
– He was beaten up many times
– His family was threatened and forced to pay a war tax
– His father sent for him after he received very serious threats
– Jose took a very long journey through El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico to reach the United States
– Jose was caught at the border and processed through the Office of Refugee Resettlement
– Jose was reunited with his mom and dad after more than 10 years of not seeing them, only speaking by phone
– Now Jose feels safer, but he misses his friends in Honduras
– Jose cannot go back to Honduras because he would be harmed
– 4 of his friends have been killed by gangs since Jose came to the United States
To make room at our tables,
in our land,
and in our hearts.
We are called to be a blessing for God’s people coming to us.