Ninth Sunday in Pentecost – 8.13.19

Which word do you prefer – TRUST or PROMISES?

Trusting can be hard.

Sometimes we have to wonder, who can we trust?


  • We may have feelings and memories about promises.

People let us down . . .


Promises made. Promises broken.


Today we have the promise God made to Abram that he would not just have a child, but “Look toward heaven and count the stars . . . so shall your descendants be.” God promises.

A God PROMISE is different from a human promise.

God’s promises are SOLID and LOVING.


Abram would get not just ONE child, but descendants in the millions and billions.


Such an EXTRAVAGANT promise!



All Abram has to do is – TRUST.


Imagine you are Abram looking up at the night sky. The stars are uncountable. They POP out at you and God is letting you know your descendants will outnumber them. What an amazing promise!

Abram was the FIRST

As wonderful as this promise is, Abram has it hard.

He’s the very FIRST person who’s responded to God like this.


He doesn’t have 5000 years of tradition and scripture to fall back on. He can’t look something up in scripture to give himself courage. There are no psalms to comfort him.


He’s going it ALONE TRUSTING this God who makes a PROMISE of his HEART’s DESIRE.

Here in Genesis we have the BEGINNINGS of TRUST in a GOOD God.

A God who you could have a conversation with.


A God you could have a relationship with. That was NEW!



Here we SEE FAITH springing out of Abram. To EXPECT an HEIR when some translations say “HE was nearly DEAD.”

Abram was so old! God had him wait and wait, just so God could do something really spectacular. God gave the promise to Abram when he was 75 years old and had him WAIT.

Two old people producing a baby boy. Only a SUPREME Being could do that!


TRUST is the word of the day. Abraham and Sarah were to TRUST in God’s promises.



Abram had an heir, a kinsman Eliezer. But that was not acceptable. Abram had a SLAVE boy, Ismael as an heir, but that was NOT acceptable.

God RESPONDS that Abram should trust some more.

Sara doesn’t immediately become pregnant.

In time, these two old people will get what they want.


Abram WANTED what he wanted from the BOTTOM of his HEART.

NOTHING could satisfy this itch of his. Only a son of his flesh from his WIFE would do.


All Abram had to do was TRUST God.


And so it says in GENESIS, “He believed the Lord, and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness.”


St. Paul goes on to credit Abram as the BEGINNING. A figure BIGGER than Moses.

Because Abram was the FIRST. The FIRST of anything can be hard. You’re the ground breaker.

The pioneer.


St. Paul says, “By FAITH, Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out not knowing where he was going.”

Ancient sources also give SARAH credit for believing and having faith too. The CEV translation say: “ Even when Sarah was too old to have children, she had faith that God would do what he had promised, and she had a son.” 

A life of faith is demanding but also SATISFYING.

And we are WISE when we FOLLOW the leadings of our faith to TAKE us to places we wouldn’t choose.


Abram and Sara were wealthy in herds and animals.

Abraham was RICH in flocks and possessions, but by GRACE he understood YAHWEH is the SOURCE of ALL GOODNESS.

Maybe Abram and Sarah wondered, “Is that all there is? . . . We’ve got wealth.

What ELSE could there be in life? There MUST be something MORE.”

And perhaps that’s was when they heard God speaking to their hearts.


When I was in seminary, I met a man around my age.

He said he should be dead, because he’d gotten AIDS back before there was AZT.

And he said, “he made millions of dollars, and lost millions and got millions back.”

The whole thing with the AIDS and the millions of dollars made him wonder.


He wondered WHAT ELSE God might want from him.

So he just threw himself on God’s mercy.

He threw himself OPEN  

to really LISTENING to a response from God. It took TRUST on his part.

And he got a response from God was, enter seminary. So he did.

While in school he was a chaplain to the fire dep’t.

His story touched me so much, that I just wept to hear it.

This is the BEST kind of prayer you can make – God what do you want from me?

And then TRUST God and DO it.


Abram heard God’s call.

This seminary student heard God’s call.

Have YOU heard God’s CALL in your life? To take a different path?

To ALLOW God to lead you? To REALLY LISTEN and let your life be CHANGED by this listening.


PRAYER is a lot of listening. Prayer is not just us saying this is what I want, God.

It’s LISTENING to hear what God wants from US.

It’s saying to God, not MY way, but YOUR way, Lord.


The apostles heard Jesus’ call to them and it was irresistible!

They couldn’t turn away.

They heard the CALL of something bigger than themselves in Jesus’ call to FOLLOW ME.

They heard echoes of a KINGDOM.

He asked once, ‘Will you go away too?’ They said, Where can we go?  “You have the words of eternal life.”

Abram heard in God’s PROMISE ETERNAL life for himself.

Eternal life would be his baby boy, and God was promising MORE than just flesh.

Abram’s posterity would be endless.

I would tell this to my high school students and say, YOU! YOU! Are God’s promise to Abram. You, a student sitting at a desk, learning your faith. You are Abram’s descendants.

Look around at your neighbors in the pews. Count them.

Think how many people are in church today and in the past.

We are Abraham’s descendants, and YES, we outnumber the STARS in the heavens.



St. Paul says that “By faith Abraham OBEYED.” We don’t like that word OBEY.

We save that word for children. Yet, in God’s eyes we are all large children.

WE ALL need to continue to listen and OBEY God. NOT that God wants onerous things for us, but that OBEYING GOD gives us GOOD things.


WAITING, TRUSTING, having FAITH. LOOK at what obedience got Abraham.


Putting aside his own ideas to follow GOD’S got him EXACTLY what he wanted.

Abram put his feet on a path was unpredictable, that was NOT SAFE, or SECURE.


Remember last week’s story of the RICH FOOL.

The parable’s lesson was that if we put GOD FIRST, we will receive EVERYTHING else.

EVERYTHING that can fit into your heart.


That was what Abram and Sara did. They had an imagination that God could give them BIGGER LIVES. Bigger than anything they could imagine. God made a mind-boggling PROMISE



Jesus says in the gospel today, “Do not be afraid little flock, for it is your Father’s good PLEASURE to give you the kingdom.”

The kingdom Jesus wants to give you is about getting you a BIGGER HEART, a BIGGER FAITH.

The kingdom Jesus wants to give you is to give you a bigger LOVE to SEE how God sees.


We have “faith as the assurance of things HOPED for, the conviction of things NOT SEEN.”

There are times when we are like pilots being directed through fog and clouds by the air traffic controller.

We can’t SEE where we are, but the air traffic controller is trustworthy so we FOLLOW the directions.

It takes a lot of TRUST for the pilots, to put their lives into a VOICE directing them.


“In trust Abraham traveled, lived in a foreign land, and bore a son.” St. Paul repeats the phrase by faith, by faith, by faith by faith. Faith gets us bigger lives than we could dream for ourselves.

FAITH got Abraham the son he desired.


Faith is not an intellectual thing. It’s a GUT thing. It’s a thinking from the gut that is divinely inspired.

Faith is trusting an unseen, invisible being who communicates with us with Scripture and the bread and wine, and with the community of believers.


Faith, hope and love combat our INERTIA that wants us to keep things the way they are.

Keep things FAMILIAR, even if the familiar things are destructive.

INERTIA wants us to look away, don’t LOOK at the road the NEW PATH that Christ unfurls before us, and invites us to walk with him.


And WHY do all this TRUSTING?

GOD’s WORK is to bring NEWNESS into our lives.[1] We can’t do this kind of work, only a SUPREME BEING who LOVES us PASSIONATELY can bring newness.




Trusting in God sets our feet on a new path like Abraham and Sarah.

Some of you left one church and found your way here.

TRUSTING God led you to a better place, RENEWED your faith as you found a place of welcome here. Following the Holy Spirit.


GOD’S LOVE never deserts us.

We follow a path, into a DEEPER relationship with God, where God loves and forgives us into NEWNESS. A new hope. A renewed FAITH.


And for that we are ALL grateful.

Loving God, we do not trust in our own righteousness, but in your abundant mercy as you lead and guide us. Thank you for all that has been, and thank you for all that will be.

We pray in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, who loves us into NEW LIFE, our paths FIRMLY leading to YOU.