July 10 Sermon

“Star’s Promise” 
A reflection by Rev. Dr. Thom Bower
For July 10, 2016, 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Based on Genesis 15:1-5

‘The Lord’s word came to Abram in a vision, “Don’t be afraid, Abram. I am your protector. Your reward will be very great.”

But Abram said, “Lord God, what can you possibly give me, since I still have no children? The head of my household is Eliezer, a man from Damascus. Since you haven’t given me any children, the head of my household will be my heir.”

The Lord’s word came immediately to him, “This man will not be your heir. Your heir will definitely be your very own biological child.” Then {God} brought Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars if you think you can count them. This is how many children you will have.” (Common English Bible)

Abram and Sarai wanted children. In their culture, children represented God’s blessing. God created all that lives; to be part of bringing life into the world is to take part in God’s creative work. To not have children was thought of as a curse, as God withholding blessing, as God preventing this couple from participating in bringing life to the world. They did not have a scientific understanding of infertility.

I have chosen to not have children: it was a choice I made while I was in my 20’s, before there was a serious life-partner. That choice would be incomprehensible to Abraham and Sarah and the people they knew. They did not think having children was a choice: it was an obligation – an obligation to be part of God’s ongoing creative work of bringing love into the world.

For participating in this, God’s promise was that through children a legacy would be established. A legacy of love, a legacy of faith, a legacy of hope. A legacy that one’s name would be remembered by future generations. A legacy that a people of faith would be established

Legacies reach forward and backward. In our lifetimes we are in between legacies. We have received from those who have gone before us: parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, a long line of ancestors: biological ancestors and spiritual ancestors. That heritage we have received shapes our lives, shapes the way we look at the world, shapes the way we love one another, shapes our families, our church life, our neighborhoods.

Because of the legacies we have received, we hope to pass that on to future generations: children and grandchildren if we have them, but also those whom we mentor, those who are affected by our actions, those to whom we are giving the world. We hope our lives will help them to love one another, to give shape to their families, their church life, their neighborhoods.

Legacies are something we receive, and legacies are something we give. Some legacies are about the way a certain thing is done, but the longer-lasting legacies are about why we do certain things. For example, my grandmother was a short woman – 4’10” at her tallest, and by the time I really knew her she was shrinking. Whenever we saw her, she greeted us with a hug. When she hugged someone, it was usually around the waist. It became a family joke: a “Mam-mam hug” was when someone put both their arms underneath the arms of someone else. That’s sort of a legacy. The more important legacy was giving a hug when we meet family members. An even more important legacy was why we hug when we see one another: to let them know they are welcome, they are safe, they are loved.

I think Abram’s concern for having children is a concern for his legacy. God says to Abram: “your descendants will number as many as the stars in the sky.” What a legacy: to have influences the lives and faith of so many people.

Lyonsville is at a time of greater attention to its purposeful identity. This is a time for identifying what has been essential to making Lyonsville a place of faith, what needs to continue as the heritage of Lyonsville, and what needs to be passed on to the next generation of believers who will be known as Lyonsville church. What is your legacy?

I want to start by focusing on the legacies you have received. What is something important at Lyonsville that you did not start but rather something you continued because it was important to being part of Lyonsville? Think about how that may have changed over time – the specifics change, but the intention has remained. What’s the value of that legacy? Can you get to the “why we do that”? I find it helps me to think of this as the beginning of a thank you letter: “Thank you, ancestors of faith, for passing along this legacy.” Write that legacy on the paper star you have received.

Now, what kind of legacy are we leaving. What is something that you feel is absolutely essential to Lyonsville? What are those things you hope the next generation of believers who are Lyonsville will continue to do? Maybe you want to think of this as a letter to the future church, the church that will be here in 5, 10, 20 years: Dear Lyonsville congregational church of 2021, 2026, or 2036: I pray that you are able to sustain and are sustained by this particular practice of faith.

Holy One, in this time of discernment, Lyonsville is considering its identity, its heritage, its legacy. We are scanning the past for glimpses of the future to help us know what to do at this time. Help us to examine the patterns of this congregation in order to better understand your presence, your promises, your calling.

Prepare us for new ministries, new ways of gathering as a people of faith, new ways of serving our neighbors. Prepare us for new ways to communicate with one another about the deep faith pulling us to this fellowship, and to speak the truth in love so we may move closer to your ways of living in the world.

In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.

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