2023-09-17 - 15. Sonntag nach Trinitatis - (EN) - Pfarrerin Nicole Otte-Kempf

( Genisis 15,1-6 ) - [ Deutsch ]

Starry skies are fascinating.

When no other source of light is visible other than the stars and the moon above you.

And you sit outside trying to figure out the constellations.

You have no choice but to marvel at the sky in awe. You can't comprehend it with your mind.

Our minds cannot see and understand such things.

Just as well that God finds other ways to address us.

The text for today’s sermon is taken from Gen 15,1-6:

1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”

2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”

3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.”

4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.”

5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.”

Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

Abram, father of many nations, is considered one of the three patriarchs of the people of Israel, along with his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob.

He is an important person in the Bible, to whom there are many references in later texts. Abram had followed God's instructions and had left his land and his relatives and his father's house.

Anyone who has read the Abram story from the beginning also knows that he had become a rich man in a short time. In the story, when he is in Egypt with his wife Sara, it also becomes obvious that he did not act nobly throughout, but that there were also moments when he had an eye to his own interests. So, he passed off his wife as his sister because he hoped thereby not to be killed by Pharaoh.

The exemplary and the fallible Abram ... that's why it's a character you can identify with. We all have strengths and weaknesses in what we do and don't do.  

Up to now Abram was obedient to God and did what God expected him to do. But in today’s text, we hear of an Abram who is disappointed, perhaps even depressed. However, he then has a nocturnal apparition. "Do not be afraid." This is how God speaks to him. 

It's usually at night when I get scared or worry becomes overwhelming. The entire Sunday today is dedicated to this theme of "worry". 

Abram doubts God's promise to him:

God wants to be a shield to me and protect me? He wants to give me wealth? What will remain of it when I die one day?

And so there is a conversation between God and Abram.

Abram is a rich man who now feels that he actually has nothing. And that what he has, seems to have no value. But God does not leave him alone in his doubts.

God leads him out of the tent. God is his companion, a father, a friend who knows what Abram needs. Abram needs his closeness at this moment when he is in danger of being completely fixated on himself, slipping into a mood that pulls him down even further. 

God knows that people need images to better understand.

Scientists have found that awesome wonder and amazement increase the likelihood that we will be less selfish and self-centred, that material things lose their importance, that we will feel more empathy and are more likely to devote our energies to others.

It is medically proven that the vagus nerve, the largest nerve of our parasympathetic nervous system, is activated when we are astounded. At the same time this nerve is responsible for ensuring that we are able to experience peace and tranquillity.

I must say, dear congregation, whenever I make such a discovery in the midst of preparing a sermon, I am truly amazed.

In verse 6 it says: Abram believed the Lord, he trusted in him, and he counted this as righteousness for him.

A person is considered to be righteous, dear congregation, when he acts righteously or does justice to others through his actions. But Abram is not doing anything yet. He is merely trusting God and this trust is rewarded. His faith in God will carry him in future.

At the beginning of God's history with mankind, even before the Exodus from Egypt, there is a relationship between God and Abram that is based solely on a righteous faith. Faith alone is enough; this Paul will later take up in his letter to the Romans. God's grace cannot be earned. And this is also a profoundly Lutheran idea. What an impact it has on our lives, when we trust God.

Worry, doubt and fear are part of our lives. We read about this in the biblical stories and experience it today. Abram leaves his sorrows with God. Please, God, take notice of how I'm doing. I feel empty. I can't quite believe in your promise.  And God knows that more than just words are needed here. 

He leads Abram outside, changes his perspective, and then re-promises his promise. Your descendants shall be as numerous as the stars.

That's what this Sunday is all about.

God says: I see what drives you and what worries you.

I want to be close to you in your life. I want to be your friend and companion.

In Jesus Christ he renews his promise and includes us all. Jesus leads us out of our confusion of worries and shows us the world around us. The lilies and the birds. Take an example from them. Don't worry. Your Heavenly Father knows what you need. Seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all things will come to you.

That's what I want to believe.


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