This weeks Sabbath School lesson provides a look at the father of the faithful and what we can learn from such a look. One thing that we can learn from Sunday’s and Monday’s lesson is that this father of the faithful wasn’t always pictured as exactly our idea of what is faithful in the text.
The Promise to Abraham
Sunday’s lesson gives us the promise of God to Abraham found in Genesis 12:2. Abraham would be a great nation. However, the problem was that Abraham didn’t have a child. And Abraham was getting up in age. So Abraham came to God and offered to adopt Eliezar to be the son of that promise. (Gen 15:2-3). Here Abraham looked at his circumstances and realized that it was not exactly in line with the promise that God had given to him. Certainly God didn’t mean that he would have a son at his age. How often do we look at the promise that God has for our own lives and see that they don’t make sense? How often do we begin to seek to find ways to fulfill that promise? I don’t really blame Abraham. Abraham simply realized that he best do something now. But God wasn’t with that plan. Genesis 15:4-5 has God saying that Abraham would be the natural father through birth.
Taking Advantage of the Weak to Fulfill God’s Promise
So Abraham and Sarah once again sought to fulfill this promise. They did it by giving the slave Hagar to Abraham. (Genesis 16:1-3) While supposedly this was a custom of the area, it is still just as despicable as it would be today. That act caused the creation of problems between two sons both who have right to be called the son of Abraham. That act caused problems in the home that would never be resolved. Here both Sarah and Abraham took advantage of their status as “slave masters” over the slave to fulfill the “promise of God.” It is easy to be so caught up in attempting to do what God has promised that we don’t take time to think about who we hurt? Perhaps the greatest evils in the world have been done in the name of God or for God’s glory. When God’s promise comes, we cannot take advantage of others to fulfill that promise.
Sarah will be the Mother
Finally, God said “Sarah will be the Mother!” Genesis 17:16, 19. As I read this text, I begin to wonder why God didn’t just say that up front? Why did God go so slow? If God, in this narrative, had said totally up front, “Abraham, you and Sarah will have a child and through that child there will be a great nation. If God had done that, Abraham may have done the same thing that he did in this case. Maybe not. But in any case, the story reveals something that is often the case. Sometimes we learn God’s will in life. Sometimes we learn God’s will by trying and failing. Sometimes it is only after a misstep that God reveals more of God’s plan.
At the very least, all of these missteps didn’t stand in the way of Abraham still being called the father of the faithful. While gives me hope. Even when I have not done as I should have done. God does not cast us off.
As the preacher, congregation, and the Spirit interact to create the preaching event the core beliefs of the Christian community are reaffirmed. The preacher presents a word that at times calls for radical confrontation with the powers of this world that are against GodÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s way. The preacher also presents a word that strengthens the resolve of an oppressed people reminding them that God is on their side and they can make it through. Thus the preacher is not speaking of ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œpie in the sky when you dieÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚? but empowerment in this world to take whatever the world gives and yet still work for GodÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s ideal on this earth keeping in mind that there is a judgement to which all must stand.
This perspective does not deny the future that God has promised. This perspective recognizes that the future promise is important to living today and it actually can guide us in present living. God’s future is a great compass that provides us with guidance. To quote Kendra Heloviak:
* Because God’s future will be an earth full of justice, worshippers seek justice now.
* Because God’s future will bring peace on earth worshippers act for peace now.
* Because God’s future will be an earth with plenty for all, worshippers act to end hunger now.
* Because God’s future will be existence without tears, worshippers act to comfort and to heal now.
* Because God’s future will be life without death, worshippers act to fight disease and death now.Peacemaking Remnant, pg 69
The preacher facilitates this understanding of making the future present in this world among the congregants.
Keep it Real
My homiletics professor encouraged us to “Keep it real!” When he first told me that a story came to my mind. A zealous elder was “teaching the Sanctuary Message” in Sabbath School. The church was discussing the Sanctuary becuause it was the study of the day in the Sabbath school lesson.
The elder wanted to make it simple so he created a drawing to supplement the lesson. The elder began talking about the geography of the wilderness tabernacle and from the beginning lost the people. He described the importance of the color of the curtains. He described the different pieces of furniture. He then asked the question, “Was the ark of the covenant God the Father’s throne or God the Son’s throne?” One sister in the audience had had enough. She yelled out “What does this have to do with my salvation?” The elder stumbled and then ignored the answer going right back to his discussion of the minutia of the geography of the Sanctuary.
The Sanctuary So-What!
I then fully realized why the Sanctuary is sat aside by many. It is the same reason why no one preaches on the liniage of Jesus Christ. (I have heard a very good sermon on this by Henry Wright, but it is the only one I have every heard that did not degenerate into a lecture.) Our teaching of the Sanctuary is limited by the fact that we either ignore it or we don’t answer the question of that Sister, What difference does this make? Am I better off for knowing this? Why even bring it up? No wonder it is only trotted out during Revlation Seminars when we are trying to prove that Adventism is true by resorting to a mathmatical calculation.
In the end like many of our doctrines, we have not passed the so-what test. Without passing the “so-what test”, a teaching is unprofitable and useless. When we preach Advnetism we must stop making it useless either by our disuse or by our faulty use of it.