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2023 Lenten Preaching Series 2: Caring for God's Creation

In this second week of Lent, we continue to hear the Word of God from the book of Genesis, and Genesis 12 is a story of new beginnings.

In this short chapter, we meet Abraham, who will become in subsequent pages, the father of a large nation. But here, one only sees the uncertain beginnings of a family who find themselves at the threshold of a new tomorrow. This short passage begins with God’s command to Abraham to go from his country, from his family, from his father’s house to the land that God will show him. This divine command implies leaving all that is familiar behind to face an uncertain future.

The call to Abraham though does not come alone. It is important to note that God’s command is accompanied with a fivefold promise presented in five 1st person statements: God says:

· I will make of you a great nation,

· I will bless you,

· I will magnify your name,

· I will bless those who bless you and

· I will curse those who curse you.

But, what's with all this "blessing?" The Hebrew word for bless is berak, it means to bless or to kneel. Blessing, in Hebrew, is to bring a gift to another while kneeling out of respect; to do or give something of value to another. So not only will Abraham be given something of value (a blessing) he will also, while showing and living and kneeling in respect to God, give to all the people of the earth, a gift. Further, God says in no unclear terms that there is a future waiting for Abraham and Sarah. And God is making some big promises: land to a landless people and offspring to a barren couple.

The story of Abraham and Sarah’s family is perfused with work. Their work encompasses nearly every facet of the work of seminomadic peoples in the ancient Near East. At every point, they face crucial questions about how to live and work in faithful observance of God’s covenant. They struggle to make a living, endure social upheaval, raise children in safety, and remain faithful to God amid a broken world, much as we do today. They find that God is faithful to his promise to bless them in all circumstances, although they themselves prove faithless again and again.

But the purpose of God’s covenant is not merely to bless Abraham’s family in a hostile world. Instead, he intends to bless the whole world through these people. This task is beyond the abilities of Abraham’s family, who fall again and again into pride, self-centeredness, foolhardiness, anger, and every other malady to which fallen people are apt. We recognize ourselves in them in this aspect too … despite our best efforts, even the best amongst us falls from time to time. Yet by God’s grace, they retain a core of faithfulness to the covenant, and God works through the work of these people, beset with faults, to bring unimaginable blessings to the world. Much like them, our work also brings blessings to those around us because in our work we participate in God’s work in the world. Through Abraham and Sarah all the families of the earth shall be blessed. They will have an impact on people everywhere.

Genesis 12 speaks a powerful word for us too today, certainly in those instances when we are called to leave all that is known behind; to relinquish all our comforts and securities; to follow God with closed eyes; to depart on a journey without a map. And much like Abraham and Sarah, our lifestyles will have an impact on people everywhere, today and in future generations.

This Lent we have been trying our best to focus on how to better care for our planet, to leave the earth enjoyable for future generations. Much like Abraham and Sarah, our little individual families, and all of our families collectively will have an impact on people everywhere in the ways that we care for the earth. And while we surely do not have all the answers, the time has come to have the conversation, to raise awareness, to develop a plan to try and restore the earth to its original beauty and resourcefulness.