Sermon - 8/10/19
2019.08.12 17:39:41

Proper 14/C [Pent. 9] (2019): Genesis 15:1-6; Hebrews 11:1-16; Luke 12:22-34.   


Counted,     And [Abram] believed the LORD, and [God] counted it to him as righteousness (v. 6). 


By this singular sentence we have the essence of the Christian religion, salvation by faith alone—but “what kind” of faith?


God called Abram at age seventy-five out of his familiar homeland, Ur of the Chaldees, in today’s southern Iraq. Ur was an advanced civilization.  No doubt Abram’s family were wealthy, influential members of that community. 


At God’s word, Abram packed up his family to walk with God, to where God alone knew. This is the point, by the time of today’s OT Reading, Abram had been on journey with the Lord twenty-four years, a wandering stranger in alien lands; which is to say, Abram and God had a history.  


Today we might call Abram’s quarter century Bedouin association with God, a time of faith formation; during which Abram came to know and take the measure of the Lord in his life. What resulted, by today’s Reading, was a dual “accounting”; Abram toward God, and by Abram’s belief, the Lord “counting” him righteous. 


Faithfulness in relationships is a two-way street; by the power of God’s word Abram “counted” God his faithful God whose word was bond in which there existed no greater security.


Now the Lord promised 99-year-old Abram that he and his barren septuagenarian wife, Sarah would sexually conceive a child and heir from their bodies. By faith’s formation Abram responded in unqualified belief of a promise that in human terms was impossible, even laughable.  “This kind” of faith acknowledges that God is our present God, from whom alone we seek and trust his promised rewards.    


God promised Abram more than an heir; his promise was an heir in whom his new creation would result; not unlike the first creation by the invisible Word. The promise of an heir to Abram was of a resurrection out of his and Sarah’s “good as dead” bodies.  On “account” of Abram believing this word, God “counted” to him and his heirs forever his very own Righteousness. 


God would formalize his Covenant in the rite (sacrament) of Circumcision and bestowing on Abram a new name co-ordinate with his promise. “Abraham” had sought an heir, but by his faith God would make him “father of a multitude of nations” (Gen. 17:5, 6). 


For those of us with eyes to see by faith the invisible things of God’s promises, this assembly, baptized into Christ, is the fulfillment of God’s abundance to Abraham. By faith in Christ we are inheritors of God’s righteousness.  In this ecclesia, we, as Abraham seek and trust God in his presence to provide his gifts, most especially merciful forgiveness. 


Through Abraham’s faith, and now ours in Christ, God is building from a sin scorched earth, a new City.  Before his name change Abraham could have returned to Ur of the Chaldees, his old hometown (Heb. 11:15) where he would no longer been “a wandering Aramean” through strange lands (Deut. 26:5). 


Had Abraham returned to Ur of the Chaldees he and his family certainly have regained earthly security, familiarity, and society; still Abraham continued to place his faith in the promise of God’s unseen future promise of a “better homeland” which foundation is God himself (Heb. 11:15, 16). 


We, the church trusting in the promise of Christ’s full atonement for sin are enrolled, by Baptism, into God’s new City counted as a population already as numerous as heaven’s uncountable stars (Rev. 7:9).


We, who hear God’s word, see as Abraham saw—by faith, the invisible things of God’s promise. By faith we are “counted” righteous for Christ’s sake.  Jesus crucified and resurrected is the laid foundation for our inheritance in the City of God. 


Today’s Gospel follows-on from Jesus’ parable of the Rich Fool. We, like Abraham, are urged to take the measure of God’s promises in Christ against a homeland in the world; to coin a phrase, “What does the kingdom of God have to do with the city of Ur?”


Jesus chides his disciples’ poverty of faith (Lk. 12:28c) who see their security in earthly possessions apart from God (Eccl. 2:24, 25).  The Rich Fool of Jesus’ parable could find no higher security and gratification than through “his” earthly possessions.


The Fool built new storage barns, as it were new temple construction for that which dominated “his” life; a place he might idolatrously visit to worship the creation than the Creator. From the Fool’s perspective rebuilding inadequate barns made perfect sense;


except that God, millennia earlier, already located a different site for a “better homeland” than the Fool’s barns to store perishable fruit from a cursed earth.  From the foundation of the cosmos God already ordained his only begotten Son new and eternal Temple for a new Jerusalem of which God is architect, builder, and foundation. 


Jesus chastised his followers for love of money and possessions as foolishness causing some to look back, rather than ahead to God’s ordained construction site, the cross. Earlier Jesus had made this precise point saying, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Lk. 9:62). 


Of God’s new construction the author of Hebrews remarks, “By faith we perceive that the worlds have been outfitted by God’s spoken utterance, so that what is seen has come to be from things that are invisible” (Heb. 11:3). 


We, the church, are gathered into God’s “granary” where he is pleased to make us one loaf in Jesus crucified, the Foundation stone of our faith in whom we are fashioned by our NT faith.


Like the old creation, God’s New Temple comes into existence by proclamation of the invisible word, hidden under the common things of the first creation; water, bread, and wine. By faith in God’s invisible word, we participate with Abraham’s faith and “counted” in Christ’s perfect faith on the cross, righteous (Mt. 5:48).  


Having heard the preached word for “this kind” of faith by the church’s catholic confession, we believe we have been made fit for the kingdom of God. In “this kind” of faith, we await God’s visual of his City, already invisibly among us as the place of God’s treasure, we who possess and worship his Son’s sacrificial flesh in faith.  Amen. 





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