12th Sunday after Pentecost—Lectionary 19C—August 11, 2013
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Which came first? The chicken or the egg?
Genesis tells us that God said “let the birds fly above the earth” but it does not tell us whether exactly how God did it. Did God place a fully formed chicken on the earth, and the first egg came along with the instruction to “be fruitful and multiply”? Or did God place a chicken egg on the earth, which led to the first chicken or creation?
We do not know for sure, and philosophers and scientists, I’m sure, will continue to contemplate and argue about it for the rest of time.
But this is not really a sermon about creation, evolution, and science.
Instead of chickens and eggs, I want to think about knowledge, trust, and promise.
Which comes first? Knowledge, trust, or promise? Do you always have know a person before you trust the promise they make? Do you have to see a promise fulfilled before you trust a person? Does trust develop in the midst of the making and reiterating of a promise?
Think about it…which comes first? Knowledge, trust, or promise making or promise keeping or promise fulfilling?
The Holy Spirit works to bring each of us to faith everyday in a variety of ways.
For Abram, trust and knowledge came from promise…not a promise fulfilled, but a promise made and continually assured. Over and over again, God reiterated the promise to Abram, and even added to it. For Abram, God’s promise of the kingdom meant land and offspring. But the older that Abram got, the more far-fetched the promise seemed. Abram had faith; he trusted God’s promise, but it was not always consistent, sometimes doubt crept in and made itself at home along side Abram’s faith.
We see this happen once in this morning’s reading from Genesis. Abram has already showed that he trusts God—he got up and went when he was told—but he seems to have some doubts about the offspring part of the promise. He is insecure about the promise because it is not happening on his timetable, according to his expectations. But with a simple reiteration of the promise, he comes to know God in a new way and consequently knows God in a deeper way.
And in the end of verse 6, we read that “the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness” (the “it” being belief), but the Hebrew is somewhat ambiguous, and could also be translated as “Abram reckoned it to God as righteousness” (the “it” being promise). In other words, through the reiteration of a promise already made, Abram comes to know God as righteous—as trustworthy.
Maybe YOU came to know God’s righteousness through hearing and trusting God’s promise.
Maybe it was through experiencing a glimpse of the promise fulfilled.
Or maybe you came to experience the promise because of your knowledge of God.
Maybe at some point in your life, you have—or will—experience all of these possibilities. There is no one way to belief, no one thing to look out for and expect, no one way to faith, no one way to experience God’s promise and “good pleasure” to give us the kingdom—eternal life after death AND the glimpses that we can see in all kinds of different circumstances all throughout our lives.
But whatever way you have come, are coming, or will come to believe God’s promise as righteous and trustworthy—“do not be afraid, little flock, for it is God’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
For if you do not yet know it in deep in your bones, or you do, but some doubt might have crept in to accompany your trust, let me tell you—God is good, God loves you as you are, and wants only good things for you. It is not always the reality, but it is God’s hope for each of us and it is God’s promise that you will experience glimpses of that goodness throughout your life and then totally throughout eternity.
We cannot see the kingdom perfectly clear right now, so it can be hard to feel like we know God and trust in God’s promises, but that does not mean that God’s promise is any less real. In the end God’s kingdom of love, justice, quality, and peace wins! Amen.