This sermon was given at Resurrection on March 20, 2011, the Second Sunday of Lent, by Pastor Jim Kniseley. The text is Genesis 12:1-4a. A short video “Simply Being Alive” precedes the sermon.
Video: The video begins at the airport terminal in Chicago with a refugee family being greeted by a staff member of the Interfaith Refugee Service. This staff member, Mayom Ashien, came to the U.S. as a refugee from Sudan about 25 years ago. He left behind his wife, Tereza, and their infant son. He is now a member of St. Luke Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. His work and ministry is working with refugee families as they arrive and helping them with housing and getting a job. The video presents a touching scene at the airport when Tereza arrives after the 25-year separation. Myom shares these insights: “For refugees, it’s not just a matter of simple living, it’s just being alive…If you have the basic things, what else do you need? You don’t need the luxuries…”
Dear Friends in Christ,
Can any of us here today really relate to the folks we’ve just seen in this video? The idea of leaving everything behind and moving halfway around the world is not a part of the experience of most of us. I pray that what Mayom Ashien tells us in this video will not be lost on us who have it so good. Did you hear him at the end of the video, after we’ve seen him greet his wife after their 25 years of being apart: “If you have the basic things, what else do you need? You don’t need the luxuries.” This follows his earlier words when greeting those refugees at the airport: “For refugees it’s not just a matter of simple living, it’s just being alive.”
These videos we get to see each Sunday in Lent are from our ELCA Stewardship Department. The title of this series is “Make It Simple.” Each of these videos makes us pause to ask: what is most important in our lives and how we are more blessed than we know?
I’ve given this sermon a title. It comes from our first lesson today about Abram: “Blessed to be a Blessing.” 1700 years before Jesus, Abram lived in Mesopotamia, in the city of Ur. He was a man of means, owning lots of land and animals. He was respected in his country. Then God came to him and told him to pack up everything he could and leave his country. If he did this, God told him, he would be blessed. Why would God bless him? So that you will be a blessing to others. A most important verse in today’s first lesson is verse 4: So Abram went, as the Lord had told him.
This year’s Resurrection Stewardship Appeal has a wonderful title: “Share God’s Blessings…Imagine the Possibilities.” You and I have the opportunity to take a look at our lives and see how we are being blessed and how we can make a difference if we share those blessings with others. Our stewardship appeal team decided that this year we would avoid talking about money and offerings as we usually do at this time of the year. So, I won’t tell you that 40% of our income at Resurrection these days goes to pay the mortgage. Nor will I tell you that our goal as a congregation is to achieve 10-10-80 or 10% to benevolence, 10% to savings, and 80% for expenses. I really won’t tell you that presently our practice is 4% to benevolence, 5% to savings, and 91% to expenses.
What I will tell you is this:
· You and I are very blessed.
· Each of us has more than enough for our own needs; it’s the luxuries that tempt us with a siren call
· Many of us here would do well to simplify our lifestyles in order to share our blessings with others in satisfying ways
· Sacrifice for the sake of others and in thanksgiving to God is a very good thing
· Just as Abram of old was blessed to be a blessing, we at Resurrection also have a high calling from God: we too are blessed in order to be a blessing to others
What Resurrection Guiding Principle have we lifted up today? It’s #5: Share God’s blessings generously as we are generously blessed. All that we have…everything…is a blessing from God. As we have been blessed, so we are called to be a blessing to others. We do this in the name of Jesus Christ.