Journey with Faith
Lenten Sermon on Genesis 12:1-4
March 14, 2018
Good evening, as you notice, I am not Father Pete although I am wearing the clergy collar and so often people call me, “Father.” I am Pastor Jun of Trinity, and I am very grateful to my colleagues for allowing me to preach tonight because I was supposed to preach last Wednesday, but the service was cancelled due to another Nor’easter. I am leaving the U.S for Japan on Palm Sunday and become a chaplain and professor of Christianity at a Christian Women’s University.
Sometimes, people ask me “Why are you, Methodist pastors, moving from one church to another while the pastors of the Lutheran Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Reformed Church, the Baptist Church, the UCC and many other churches stay at one church for centuries?” That is because we, Methodists, honor and respect Itinerancy; that means wherever we are called, we go. We believe that we are called by God and sent by God to a church, a hospital, government organizations, such as the army, the navy, the air force, and coast guard, or a university. Well actually we are appointed by Bishop and District Superintendents, so sometime we are reluctant to move, but we obey the order from the cabinet.
I got a call from the United Church of Christ in Japan; they asked me if I would come back to Japan to teach at a Christian Women’s University. I prayed for this call for a while because it would be a big change. I have been in the U.S since the end of 1979. I came to study fine arts in New York. Since then, I have lived in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut for thirty nine years, married with a daughter who just became five years old yesterday. I confess that I am a fan of New York sport teams, such as the Yankees, the Mets, the Giants, the Jets, and the Knicks, definitely not the Eagles or the Phillies.
Anyhow, going to Japan means to leave the current church and start a completely new life. If I were a young man, it would not be difficult. When I came to New York, I was twenty years old; I was not afraid of anything but filled with hopes and ambitions. But, now, I will be sixty years old next month, my wife Izumi and I have established a good life here with Sara our daughter. I knew that going back to Japan would not be easy.
In this time of transition, I have thought of the life of Abraham so often. I see some interesting similarities between Abraham and me. Of course, Abraham was the greatest ancestor of the Jews, the Christians, and the Muslims, so I am far from him. But, I still feel closer to Abraham. Abraham became the father of Isaac when he was one hundred years old. I was not that old, but when my daughter Sara was born, I was about to become fifty five years old. Abraham departed from his hometown Haran when he was seventy five years old while I am almost sixty to start a new life. Abraham was a sojourner on earth. And I believe we Christians are the sojourners because our citizenship is in heaven as Apostle Paul said. The Philippians 3:20 says, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” In Christ there is no Greek or Jew, no American or Japanese, no Mexican or Canadian, but we are all children of God. Amen!
Now, let us take a look at Genesis chapter 12, verses 1,“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.” It is nothing but God’s order for Abraham. God did not explain any reasons why Abraham had to leave his father and families.
Then, God said from verse 2 and 3, “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. 3 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.”
God promised that God would make a great nation out of Abraham and bless Abraham and his offspring, but curse whoever against Abraham. God promised that God would be with Abraham all the time. And my friends, we Christians received the same promise when Jesus was born. Emmanuel God is with us. What a blessing it is! Amen!
However, someone like me, a man of little faith still becomes anxious about the unknown future. Perhaps, I am not the only one, but many people are so worried about tomorrow. That is human nature. But, Abraham was not worried about the unknown future. He did not argue with God. He did not ask God’s blessings in visible manners. Verse 4, “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.” He just obeyed God and left his home.
If you continue reading the book of Genesis, you may find that Abraham’s life was not always easy. He, Sarah, their nephew Lot and his family faced the destruction of the city of Sodom in chapter 13. Abraham went to the battle against the Amorites because his nephew Lot was captured by them. He won the battle and regained Lot in chapter 14. Abraham was involved in a serious family issue and struggle between Sarah and Hagar. Eventually, he gave up on his son, Ishmael and Hagar. He was ordered by God to kill his promised son, Isaac. Of course God stopped it, but I cannot imagine how sad and difficult it was for Abraham. His beloved wife Sarah, who was ten years younger than Abraham, died before him, so Abraham had to bury her.
Although God promised Abraham great prosperity, in reality, Abraham had ups and downs just like all of us. But, one thing for sure, he never gave up on his faith. He always walked with God. Jesus always walked with the Father. Likewise, let us live with faith. We are the sojourners on earth; our journey continues. Let us walk with God. My friends, let us focus on Jesus on the Cross for next two weeks, and celebrate Easter, the day of resurrection. I will pray for you from Japan. May God guide you and keep you well as long as you live! Amen.