09/16/18 – JV – Blessed to be a Blessing


September 16, 2018
Jazz Vespers
Genesis 12:1-9, Matthew 28:19-20
Rev. Denise Clark-Jones


Back in the dark ages when I was in elementary school, teams were picked by the team leaders’ choice. I was always one of the last ones picked because I was small and not well-coordinated. I just didn’t have the natural ability or skill set to be an asset in a kickball or dodgeball game. God didn’t call me to be an athlete.  – of that I am certain. Thankfully, the Bible tells us God doesn’t operate on the merit system when it comes to calling people for service. The bible doesn’t tell us any of the qualifications Abraham had that merited his being chosen as the founder of a chosen people. This is a trend we see repeatedly in the bible – God calling unlikely people to be the instrument through which God fulfills a particular mission in the world.

God called Abraham to take his wife and nephew to a land they had never seen. He wasn’t given a destination or a roadmap. What the bible tells us leads me to imagine having a GPS tell me when to turn left or right, but never letting me stop. In the whole saga of Abraham and Sarah taking the long journey from their home in Ur to the Promised land, we forget that Abraham never lived in the land he was promised. He passed through the land of Canaan, which was populated by other people. He was in the Promised Land, but God did not let him stay. He was sent onward but never returned until he bought a burial plot for Sarah. God promised Abraham his descendants would live in the Promised Land. Of course, that was what Abraham and Sarah had worried about the most – there was no heir. God fulfilled the promise that Abraham and Sarah would have a child, despite their advanced years.

God gave Abraham two sons.  At first, Abraham and Sarah began to doubt God would come through with an heir; so, they hedged their bets on the covenant promise by turning to Hagar, Sarah’s maid, to produce an heir, Abraham’s son, Ishmael.

Being called doesn’t mean the end of fear. We read in the bible about prophets who took a lot of convincing before they accepted God’s call. Think about Jesus and his call—Jesus felt called to go from Galilee to Jerusalem and confront the priests and scribes. He knew what it would cost him. Indeed, the night he was arrested, he prayed in anguish:

               “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible. Take this cup of suffering away from me. However—not what I want, but what you want.” (Lk.22:42)

Jesus didn’t feel peaceful about what was to come. But, he was certain of what he should do.  This clarity didn’t strike him out of the blue. It came from a lifetime of prayer, of listening for God’s wisdom rather than praying for his own personal desires.

When we create God in our own image, we feel called to our own hearts’ desires. Claiming that God wants this group of people dead, that group of people ostracized, another group ignored, another group blessed with reward, or another group denied – this is not letting God be God, this is trying to act in place of God for the benefit of self or the group to which the self-pledges allegiance.  In the protection and enhancement of the self, some can even deceive themselves to believe that God gives divine approval for their actions.  God becomes the ultimate “yes man” at the service of the master human. This is the foolish rebellion that we as individuals engage in personally –to excuse our lack of trust or our self-righteous enmity toward others. Claiming to be God’s chosen for blessing only is missing the point in the story of Father Abraham.

God did not call Abraham to be blessed.  That was a by-product of God’s use of Abraham.  God chose Abraham to serve God’s purposes.  God called Abraham to be the father of a faithful nation that would be a witness to all nations, bringing them together in service of God’s kingdom.  The ultimate plan of God was redemption for the world he had already promised Noah would not be destroyed.  The promise of an heir for Abraham, a son, was to serve God’s purpose in creating a faithful nation.  The covenantal promise of the land that was to become the nation of Israel was made to serve God’s purpose, not the nationalistic goals of the nation Israel.

Abraham was chosen, blessed, a gift, and to be a blessing to others, a commandment. Abraham’s family would serve as a blessing to all the families of the earth.  Is that not the message God sent Jesus to deliver? Is this not the message Jesus revealed with his life and death? Abraham’s name is invoked nearly 50 times in the New Testament.  Jesus spoke of Abraham, so did Paul, and the authors of Hebrews and James.  It is in Hebrews that we have the most extensive reference to Abraham.  (Hebrews 11:8-20).  It is in Hebrews that Abraham’s journey is compared with the Christian faith journey. Being faithful to God is humbly accepting God’s blessings and using them to be a blessing to others.

Like Abraham, we sometimes doubt God’s promises.  We sometimes try to act for God when we become afraid for ourselves – afraid we won’t get the blessings we think we deserve.  And, when we do that, we do harm to others. We take and hoard rather than give from our abundance. Like Abraham, we are called to God’s service; and, we are promised a place we will not inhabit on earth. Jesus instructed his disciples, whom he chose to walk with him, to teach others to be disciples. The disciples were blessed to be a blessing. Christ commissioned them to serve. The church is called to be Christ’s body in the world. We are called out of our homes, out of our comfort zones, to walk with God and our sisters and brothers, on the journey of a lifetime.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Amen.


© Rev. Denise Clark-Jones, 2018, All Rights Reserved
Westminster Presbyterian Church
1420 W. Moss Avenue – Peoria Illinois 61606
WestminsterPeoria.org   |   309.673.8501