Sermon November 22, 2020

Honey, We’re Moving 

Genesis 12:1-9; November 22 2020 
    Abram and Sarah are moving.  That’s what the story is about which we just read in Genesis 12.  He walks into their tent one day and says, “Honey, we’re moving.” 
    “Who says?” she replies.  
    Pointing skyward he answers, “The Boss.”  Here’s the text: “Now the Lord said to Abrahm, “Go from your country and your father’s house to a land which I will show you.”   
        And this move by a bedouin family sets into motion a series of events which will change Abram and Sarah forever, not to mention change the course of human history.  
    Barbara and I are in the process of getting ready to move.  So this passage from Genesis 12 resonates with me in many ways.  I realize that soon all the familiar moorings of my life will  be taken away.  All that has given my life coherence is about to be thrown into a centrifuge and spun out in different pieces. 
     We are never told how Sarah felt, although we can imagine the welter of emotions that coursed through her as they packed up all their belongings, loaded them on camels and donkeys and headed for the land of Canaan.  She was angry and frightened and a  little disoriented.   
     I can remember a day when we first moved from Illinois to Charlotte, NC and there I was  sitting in a room full of boxes to be unpacked and there was so much to do that I literally felt paralyzed knowing where to start.  It was overwhelming even to one who usually is confident 
and decisive.      
    Moving is hard for any of us.  There’s something within us that wants to stay put, build a nest, and roost there forever.  We don’t like to give up what’s known and familiar.   
     However, there’s an unseen cost is staying put.  There is the danger of damage to the psyche and soul in staying put.  A great sailing ship was never meant to sit in port, but to sail out to sea.   
     So there is a benefit and an opportunity in moving, or moving on.  It isn’t necessarily a benefit and opportunity that we relish.  But it is a benefit nevertheless–the benefit of being stretched, the benefit of finding new depth and goals as a human being, the benefit of knowing that, finally, in this life that nothing is certain except the constancy of God’s love for us. 
     And this is precisely what Abram and Sarah discover.  The first thing they do when they come to Canaan is to build an altar to God.  They are reminded of the real source of their strength and courage, so they build an altar to God.  Whenever they feel anxious in this new place, whenever they waver about the rightness of their decision to move, they look at that altar and 
remember that God has called them to a new place in their lives. 
      Judith Viorst has written a wonderful book that I commend to all of you.  It’s called “Necessary Losses,” and subtitled “The loves, illusions, dependencies and impossible expectations that all of us have to give up in order to grow.”  Viorst has listed the inevitable, lifelong losses that each of us must face.  Her list includes life’s inescapable facts:  
     –that our mother is going to leave us , and we will leave 
     –that our mother’s love can never be ours alone; 
     –that what hurts us cannot always be kissed and made 
     –that we are essentially out here on our own; 
     –that we will have to accept–in other people and 
ourselves–the mingling of love with hate, of the good with the 
     –that our options are constricted by anatomy… 
     –that there are flaws in every human connection; 
     –that our status of this planet is implacably impermanent 
and that we are utterly powerless to offer ourselves or those we love protection–protecting from danger and pain, from the inroads of time, from the coming of age, from the coming of 
death; protection from our necessary losses. 
     These losses, Judith Viorst claims, are part of life– universal, unavoidable, inexorable.  And these losses are necessary because we always have to give something up in order to grow. 
     Abram and Sarah experienced pain and a sense of dislocation as they moved from one place to another.  That’s the way it always is.  But our willingness to move to one stage in life to another is a sign of our willingness to accept the abundant life God offers us.  If we don’t change, we don’t grow.  I remember the epitaph of a man that read: “Born a man, he died a grocer.” 
     Whenever change comes upon us, whether we have chosen it or not always means  surrender of security.  It may mean giving up  
     –familiar, but limiting patterns, 
     –safe but unrewarding work, 
     –values no longer believed in, 
     –relationships that have lost their meaning,  
As Dostoevski put it, “Taking a new step, uttering a new word is what people fear most.”  
        There was a middle aged woman married to a successful newspaper publisher.  She was painfully shy and uncertain of herself, and her life revolved around her dynamic husband, her home and family.  Then her husband committed suicide, and she didn’t know what to do and where to turn.  Since she had no business experience and no business sense, she turned her husband’s newspaper over to other managers.  Slowly, she gathered the force of her own dormant talents and decided to run the paper herself.  She was astonished to learn that she had the right stuff.  She became one of the most  powerful and respected women in this country.  She is Katherine Graham, publisher of the “Washington Post.” from 1962-2001.    
     Sometimes life forces change and movement upon us, as is the case of Katherine Graham.  And sometimes an inner restlessness prompts change and movement.  Whatever it is, we know that we cannot stay where we are, and must move on. 
     We may resist that knowledge, but the voice keeps speaking to us, “You must move on.”  
     We must move on because we feel less and less satisfied with the daily routines of our lives that leave us increasingly empty; 
     We must move on because we have a belief system that has lost its meaning for us; 
     We must move on because we have an occupation that has more minuses and pluses. 
     We know that we must move on, but frankly, we don’t know whether we have the courage or energy or money to make the change.  On many occasions, we knew we should move on, but we have stayed back there in Haran rather than venturing out to Canaan, the promised land.    
    I am at the same time apprehensive and expectant about our move. As I look back Barbara and I have moved a grand total of 10 times across the years.  In every case but one these turned out to be positive, soul-stretching experiences.
    Every time we move I look at a poster we have placed on the door of our refrigerator, the place we put important sayings and family photos.      The poster is a picture of a red wood forest, and a path wandering through the forest and disappearing out into the distance.  The caption reads: “We can trust an unknown future to a known God.”