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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz

Mar 12, 2017  SERMON ARCHIVE

Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

The text for our meditation today is the Old Testament Lesson for today, Genesis 12:1-9. There we read these words:

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. And 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 him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." 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. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD. And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb.

We begin in the name of Jesus, Amen

The name Abraham is a big name in the Bible. Abraham is regarded as a great man. In the Old Testament, his story takes up much of the book of Genesis, and you hear much in the New Testament about the example of his faith. His genealogy and city are listed in Genesis 11, but the Old Testament lesson from Genesis 12 is where his story begins; and within those short nine verses, there are a few things beyond the history that are vital to your faith.

The history by itself is fascinating. Abram was not yet renamed Abraham, but he was already 75 years old when the Lord told him to move: "Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you." So Abram packed up household, servants and possessions; and taking Sarai and his orphaned nephew Lot, he set out from everything familiar.

Understand something: When you’re moving an entire household, it’s nice to have a destination pinpointed on a map. Abram didn’t have any GPS coordinates, though: he only had God’s Word that there was a destination, an unseen land that the Lord would give to him.

That unseen land was Canaan, and Abram and his entourage arrived there safely. The text does record a hitch in the plan: "the Canaanites were in the land." One might say that while the land was promised to Abram, the Canaanites were of a different opinion.

In fact, the Lord promised Abram that He would give the land to his descendants; but for the rest of his life, Abram would live as a guest and an outsider in the land of Canaan—not as its owner, not as its king.

That’s the segment of Abram’s life you get in the Old Testament lesson for today: Abram was called out of where he was, to go to a place he’d never seen. Once he arrived at Canaan, he trusted the Lord’s promise that the land would belong to his family, even though he would be treated as a guest in his own land for the rest of his days.

But there’s more than the history of the Promised Land in the Old Testament lesson for today. There are also two more promises of God. Along with the promise of the land, the Lord had also said to Abram: "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."

Stained Glass Baptism Window

But there’s more than the history of the Promised Land in the Old Testament lesson for today. There are also two more promises of God. Along with the promise of the land, the Lord had also said to Abram: "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."

He would be 99 years old before Isaac, the miracle baby, came along. One child seems a slender thread for the start of a great nation; but from Isaac was born Jacob, from Jacob many sons, and the nation of Israel began to grow rapidly from there. The Lord would keep this promise, even though Abram wouldn’t live to see it with his own eyes—once again, he was living by faith.

The best promise of all, though, was the last one: the Lord declared, "In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." Abram would be a blessing to the nations around him in Canaan: when the five local kings were conquered, it would be Abram who would rescue them and their people.

But the Lord didn’t tell Abram that he would be a blessing to a few assorted Canaanites; rather, He said, "in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed," and this includes you and me.

Mark that verse well, because with those words the Lord renewed His promise of the Savior. The family tree would keep growing long after Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It would continue through generations and include a virgin named Mary, who would conceive a child by the Holy Spirit and give birth the Jesus, the Savior of the world. Jesus is the blessing of God to all the families of the earth.

Once again, Abram wouldn’t live to see this promise fulfilled; but by trusting in the promised Savior, Abram was forgiven for his sins. Any Canaanites who heard and trusted that promise were forgiven for their sins, too; just like anyone today who trusts in the Savior—who now has come—has forgiveness and eternal life.

It’s a remarkable story. One day, Abram was living in Haran. Then God called him to a land, a nation and a Savior that he’d never see in his lifetime; but Abram heard the promises, and he believed them.

But here’s the kicker: what sort of man was Abram that the Lord picked him out and made these promises to him? I s it that Abram was such a man of faithfulness and integrity that the Lord knew he would believe and obey, no matter how crazy the promises sounded?

Not at all. From Joshua 24:2, we know that Abram came from a family of idol worshipers. Abraham could never say, "God chose me because I was better than the rest." He could only say, "I am the Lord’s solely by His mercy and grace."

It was not that Abram showed some special signs of character that made God choose him, for Abram was lost like everybody else. It was that the Lord chose him, spoke His Word to him, and gave him the faith to believe. It was solely by the grace of God that Abram believed, and that faith was credited to him as righteousness, all for the sake of Christ.

The greatness of Abraham is the faith God gave to him. It is good and right to remember Abraham and all of the blessings God bestowed upon him, all the promises God made to him, and all of the things that God accomplished through Abraham as His instrument. We thus remember and give thanks to God for all the saints who have gone before us.

It is also very good to remember that God has made the same promises to you. The Lord called you to be one of His people, promised to you that the kingdom of heaven is yours. It’s a faraway land—you haven’t seen it yet, can’t even spot it on a map. But it’s yours because the Lord says it is so for the sake of Christ. You’re already sons and daughters of the King and citizens of His kingdom.

But, just as the Canaanites didn.t recognize Abram as their lord in Canaan, the world isn’t going to recognize you as a child of Christ the King—especially since the world didn’t recognize Christ as King in the first place, but crucified Him instead. But despite the evil of man, that death had a purpose: your redemption.

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

Because of Jesus’ death for you, do not doubt: like Abraham, a Promised Land is yours—but yours is far better, because it is no less than the kingdom of heaven. The Lord has promised to you that you are part of a great nation, a large family. In Galatians 3, St. Paul says, "Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham" (Galatians 3:7).

It is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham: whether or not you’re descended from Abraham by blood, you are part of his family because all who believe in Christ are „sons of Abraham. and heirs of the kingdom. As sons of the kingdom, you are brothers and sisters in Christ with one another and with all Christians throughout time and around the world.

That’s why Jesus says in Matthew 19, "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for My name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life" (Matthew 19:29): even if following Christ means estrangement from your family, Jesus declares that the Church is now your family. You don’t see this family in a portrait yet, and you won’t until heaven—just as Abraham did not see the nation of his descendants, but believed it to be true.

In the meantime, you run into your family in Christ as you go about your daily lives. Take care, then, how you treat your brothers and sisters who are in need, whether it be need of food or help or correction; for they are your family for the sake of Jesus.

All of this is for the sake of Jesus, for God’s promise to Abraham that "in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" is for you. You are among all the families of the earth, or else you wouldn’t be on the earth; and the Savior who was born among the descendants of Abraham was born to be a blessing for you.

You haven’t seen Him either, but you know He is your Savior and you know He is near: He tells you so in His Word, and He feeds you with His Supper. By the grace that He gives, He keeps you in the kingdom and the family. It’s all for His sake. And for His sake, this promise is also true: Jesus says to you, "I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse."

Those who seek to dishonor you are those who would rob you of the honor of being a child of Christ—this would include first of all sin, death and devil. While all may make it seem that you are under the curse of these enemies, you know better because of Christ. He declares that He has defeated sin and death, that the ruler of the world is judged. Their end is coming, but the Lord blesses you with eternal life.

As for other people who would dishonor you as God’s child, the Lord’s promise of wrath remains: but because Christ has died for them, too, He gives them time so that they might repent and be blessed with salvation and saved from the curse of hell. All of these promises are yours, and they are all yours for the sake of Christ Jesus, crucified for you.

The devil will tempt you to doubt all of these promises and blessings. He’ll tempt you to believe that these blessings are yours because of something about you—your courage, your humility, your steadfast love for God, whatever. He’ll tempt you to say, "Like Abram, there’s something special about me that has made God notice me, made Him choose me."

But remember: Abram was an idolater. There was nothing about him that earned God’s favor. God gave it freely by His Word, and Abram simply believed. So it is for you: all of these blessings are for you because God gives them freely to you for Christ’s sake; and if it is for Christ’s sake, then the blessings are sure.

Rejoice, dear friends: for the Lord guarantees these promises to you by His Word that you are forgiven for all of your sins. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.

Amen

Luther Rose

 

Christ Is Risen
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