Blessed to Be a Blessing

Genesis 12:1-9

On this Worldwide Communion Sunday, the highlight of our worship will be our celebration of the Lord’s Supper. But in order to prepare us for that, I want to invite you to think for a few minutes about what it is that we are called to do. Now I realize that there are 1,000 ways to answer that question, there are as many ways to answer that question as there are individuals who follow Jesus, because we all have a unique vocation. But as the gathered people of God together, there are some big ways that we can talk about our calling. One way is found at the very beginning of the story of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis chapter 12. The first 11 chapters of Genesis are the origin stories of basically everyone: stories that imagine how the world as know it began and stories that describe some of the consistent weaknesses of humans, how we keep getting ourselves into trouble. The Noah story sets the stage for God’s ongoing plan to deal with human evil without destroying humanity, because God tried that with the flood and it didn’t work. Evil and violence must be addressed, and since God can’t do by acting on humans from the outside, God decides to address evil through humans, using humans as the solution. God decides to try to solve the problem from within. And so God chooses one human couple to be the beginning of a family that will lead God’s resistance movement against evil. Let us listen in the reading of scripture for the word and wisdom of God. 

Genesis chapter 12, verses 1 through 9. “Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot and all the possessions that they had gathered and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran, and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east, and there he built an altar to the Lord and invoked the name of the Lord. And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.” 

This is the Word of God, which is for all people. Thanks be to God.

Abram and Sarai, whose names God later changes to Abraham and Sarah, were blessed to be a blessing. The New Testament book of Galatians chapter 3 verse 9 says that all who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed. We know that word believe also means trust, so everyone who trusts God are blessed along with Abraham and Sarah who also trusted God. We too are blessed to be a blessing. That is one way to describe our calling. We are blessed to be a blessing. 

Which may not be news to some of you. I’m pretty sure I’ve preached on this every single fall I’ve been your pastor, which means that a few of you are hearing this sermon for the sixth time. Which is fine with me. I have absolutely no problem telling you over and over and over again that your identity as followers of Christ is that you are people who are blessed to be a blessing. I hope that’s a foundational way that you think about yourself in the world. You are blessed to be a blessing.

So, what does that mean? As Americans, it is really easy for us to think about blessing as something related to money. The prosperity gospel, which teaches that the blessing of God is experienced in this life and material possessions, that idea is strong in this country. And in some other countries too. So if you don’t have money, you’re not blessed. And if you’re not blessed with lots of money, how are you supposed to be a blessing to others?

Friends, that is a lie from the devil. First of all, the blessing of God is not measured in dollars and cents. There’s a lot of folks with a lot of money who are not living according to the wisdom of the Bible and there are a lot of people who are loving and serving God and have very little when it comes to worldly wealth and power. Many religious lifestyles still include a vow of poverty and for good reason because we know wealth is a trap. The blessing of God is not measured in dollars and cents.

In 1937 Harvard began a study of “successful living” following 268 individuals and then their spouses and children for over 70 years, charting their experiences and their perceptions of their experiences and guess what the big takeaway is: relationships are what matter most in life. Our health and happiness at the end of our lives is directly related to the warmth of our relationships. Another study released in March of this year charted the responses of 1,000 Americans to ranking which values in their lives are important. This same study was done 25 years ago, and guess what the changes are: money is now ranked as more important than religion, community involvement, patriotism, and having children. Money is more important. Money is more valued than these other things which are relational and yet relationships are what really give our life meaning. No wonder we feel isolated and lonely.

What kind of blessings do you have and are you blessing others with those things? Later in the book of Galatians the apostle Paul gives a list of things that are evident in the lives of people who follow Jesus. They are the fruits of the Spirit. These are the blessings we have with which we can bless others. 

Love and joy. Peace and patience. Kindness and generosity. Faithfulness and gentleness and self-control. These are the qualities that grow in our life through the Holy Spirit. This is who we become as we follow Jesus more closely. These are the blessings we have, with which God wants to bless the world. Those are the qualities of God, which are the antidotes to strife and enmities, jealousy and envy, anger and quarrels, addictions and cynicism. God’s resistance movement against evil is alive in us when we live like Jesus, like God, in the world, as channels of God’s goodness, living into God’s blessing in our homes and businesses and schools and communities. 

So as we come to the Communion table this morning, I believe God is asking us, “What are you doing?” Are we living out of a fear of scarcity, telling ourselves that we don’t have enough to share? Or are we paying attention to all the many kinds of blessings we have that and finding ways to channel those blessings to the world?

This table is such a great example because it is big enough for everyone and it is open to everyone. You are welcome to commune at this table this morning regardless of your spiritual background or beliefs. This is our symbol of God’s abundant blessing. We have no need to hoard at this table because in God’s Kingdom there is always more than enough for everyone. 

Especially on this Worldwide Communion Sunday we remember that this meal of communion with Christ is also a meal of Communion within Christ. The sharing of Christ through one bread and one cup in this one place connects us through Christ to all who share bread and cup in Christ in all times and places. Christ connects his Church, his body, together everywhere throughout history. Because of this the whole Church is involved in each local celebration. Which is why we join our ancestors in the faith insisting that this is the joyful feast of the people of God, where people of all ages, races, and sexes—people in every type of body — come from the north, south, east, and west, and are welcomed by Christ, the true host at this table. Amen.

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