Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: “Who’s Your Daddy?”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Through the Written Word,
And the spoken word,
May we know Your Living Word,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
After Leslie brought home her fiancé to meet her parents, her father invited the young man into his study to find out more about him.
“What are your plans?” he asked Joseph.
“I’m a scholar of the Bible,” Joseph replied.
“Well, that’s admirable,” Leslie’s father replied. “But what will you do to provide a nice house for my daughter?”
“I will study, and God will surely provide for us,” Joseph explained.
“And how will you buy her a nice engagement ring?”
“”I will study hard, and God will provide for us.”
“And children?” asked the father. “How will you support children?”
“Don’t worry, sir, God will provide,” replied the fiancé.
The conversation continued in much the same fashion. After Joseph and Leslie had left, her mother asked her father what he found out.
The father answered, “Well, he has no job and no plans, but the good news is that he thinks I’m God.”
Today we begin a new series, for the Summer, where we will be addressing our favorite VBS and Sunday School lessons – so, if you have a favorite Bible lesson, or a story that you’ve always wondered about or had questions about, bring them to me and we’ll get at it sometime this Summer.
Today we start with the story where Abraham is called by God. You’ll see why we’re starting here in a minute.
This is a short, three-verse passage that introduces a 15-chapter story. We’re just going to read these three verses today: Genesis 12:1-3 (pages 8 in the pew Bibles), hear the Word of God …. —-
1 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
2 “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. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
We are starting this series with this story, not because it’s the first VBS story (it’s not – Creation, Adam & Eve, Cain & Abel, Noah and the Flood, all come in the chapters before Genesis 12). But we are starting here because, in some ways, this is where the Gospel story that leads to Jesus really begins.
We meet Abram in chapter 11, but just barely, at the end of a genealogy of generations after the Flood. And suddenly, Genesis 12 jumps in with, “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go ….’”
We know nothing of Abram’s background, or childhood, or even his adult-life (other than the names of his forebears), and suddenly “the Lord had said to Abram …” when he was 75-years old, in an established community, getting ready for a retirement home, with no children to take care of his stuff while he might be away!
“Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you….” What destination does he log into his Google Maps for a navigation guide? “To the land I will show you!”
And what does Abram do? He does not simply consider how inconvenient this directive is, or complain that it’s not what he wants to do, or decide that what would make him happiest is if he could just do what felt good to him – what he does do is do what God says! And the book of Hebrews tells us that Abraham is credited as faithful – he is saved by grace, through faith, in doing what God wants him to do!
Let me stop here for just a quick second: what do you think God might be calling you to do? Does it seem bigger than what you can do on your own? That’s a sign that means it might actually be from God. Does it mean you might have to change directions? Or that what makes you “happy” is different? Abram heard God’s voice in a way we may seldom know for sure it is actually God speaking, but when he heard it, he did it.
But, before we assume how easy that must’ve been for one of the Old Testament heroes of the faith, please take note that he does not simply obey without hearing some guarantees – and these guarantees are also bigger than life: listen again to verses 2 & 3:
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; [later this is further detailed as receiving a “land” – this is part of the whole Middle East unrest over to whom the Holy Land really belongs – and as many offspring as there are stars in the sky or grains of sand on the beach (in other words, an uncountable number of offspring) – but, how many children does Abram and Sarai have at the time of this call and promise? (Zero) and how old is Abram and Sarai at this time (75 and 50? – too big to do all on their own? Uncomfortable? Happy – probably, but now when does retirement happen?) – and the guarantee continues:
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Today is Father’s Day, and we will be praying for fathers and fatherhood is a few minutes, we will have the chance to express the greatest joy of being a father and the greatest challenges, to confess where we goof it all up as fathers and celebrate where our offspring make up for our goof-ups in ways we could never imagine – THAT’s the story of Abraham!
In VBS, when I was a kid, we leaned the song “Father Abraham … had many sons … many sons had Father Abraham … and I am one of them … and so are you … so let’s just praise the Lord … right arm! …” – this is the point of the cartoon on the front of our bulletins today… [He’s bragging about how many children he has ….]
Is Abraham really MY father? And yours? He is the Father of what became known as God’s Chosen People, the Jewish nation, the Hebrews, the Israelites (named after Abraham’s grandson Jacob who after wrestling with an angel became known as Israel), but I’m not Jewish – is he MY father? Am I numbered among his offspring? Are you?
That’s the last line of this promise – that’s where the Gospel message of salvation through grace by faith in Jesus Christ commences)!
Both in Matthew and Luke (the only Gospels that contain Jesus’ genealogies) show us how Jesus is a direct descendent of Abraham– through both His mother Mary and His human father Joseph!
And, therefore, to use Paul’s words, “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law (Jewish by blood or marriage or conversion to Judaism, people of the Old Testament covenant) but also to those who have the faith of Abraham (who are of the all peoples on earth who will be blessed through Abraham’s ultimate offspring, the final fulfillment of this promise, God’s Son – Jesus who was given because God so loved the world!). He is the father of us all.” (Romans 4:16)
God still calls His chosen people to BE His chosen people – how is God calling you today? Will you be able to say, “O God, You are my God, and I will ever praise You. I will seek You in the morning; I will learn to walk in Your ways. Step by step You’ll lead me. And I will follow You all of my days.”?
Because in Christ, we can all sing, “Father Abraham had many sons; many sons had Father Abraham. And I am one of them; and so are you. So let’s just praise the Lord.”
Thank You, our heavenly Father, for the gift of our earthly fathers, for their love and protection and providence, and perhaps for how they helped in bringing us closer to You (whether purposefully or unwittingly). And thank You, especially, for calling us Your children and calling us into Your Kingdom purposes, even when our own hopes and dreams need some transformation. O God, You are our God, and we will ever praise You! Amen.