We all know that God’s story started with these words: “In the beginning, when God created.” In Genesis 12:1, it could read something like: “Near the beginning, God started again.”
In the first eleven chapters of Genesis, God struggled again and again with a violent, corrupt and rebellious people. It was God who took a risk in creating humankind in the first place, and up to this point in the narrative, all bets were off on how it was going to work out.
Chapter 12 is the most important turning point of the Hebrew Bible. God takes another risk on humanity. God chooses a new strategy. God provides a new way to be in relationship by appointing Abraham as the father of a Covenant. God’s plan is that through blessing a particular person, Abraham, and a particular people, Israel, all people of the earth would be blessed.
Abraham and Sarah were the first religious seekers and the first spiritual pilgrims in the Hebrew scripture. With only a promise and a vision of a new land and a new family—Abraham, already 75 years old and Sarah, unable to have children– left all they knew to follow the voice of God that called them into the Great Unknown.
Already God has established a reputation for moving people along.
What happened to Adam and Eve after they were banned from the garden?
God clothed them and drove them out of the garden.
What happened after Cain killed Abel?
Cain was marked and sent on his way.
What happened at the end of the Tower of Babel story when God put a halt to the people’s building campaign?
God scattered them over the face of the earth.
This is a God who sends, scatters and moves people along. The doubters in the Noah story unfortunately for them were swept along.
We are only 11 chapters into the biblical narrative, and it is clear that the God of the Hebrew Bible does not sit still. This God is dynamic, in motion, not confined to dwell in any single place.
God also discourages people of faith from getting too settled, too comfortable. God knows, when we become too secure, we can become complacent. Moreover we can be seduced by the illusion that we are self-sufficient; that we actually have control over our lives. When our central goal is to build a secure life, you can bet that we will take less and less risks; we will become more and more afraid that what we have will be taken from us.
Just like the human body needs to be stretched to stay healthy, so God knows our faith needs to be stretched to remain loose and limber and vital.
Priest and poet, Ernesto Cardenal, in Love: A Glimpse of Eternity, wrote,
“God’s call is two sided. God calls us saying, “Come and follow me.”
and then we must follow.
but must go on seeking.
God’s call is a never-ending call, to the unknown, to adventure, to follow [God] in the night, in solitude. It is a call incessantly to go further, and further. For it is not static but dynamic (as creation is also dynamic) and reaching [God] means going on and on. God’s call is like the call to become an explorer; it is an invitation to adventure.
Genesis 12:1-9 is a Torah portion that is read annually by Jews. It is known as the Lech L’cha portion which in Hebrew is the imperative: Go! Get going!
Imagine: the Lord said to Abram, Go! Separate yourself from the community, from the land of your birth, from your people, from your own home, to a new land I will give. You and Sarah, although she is barren now, will be the father and mother of all people. There will be so many grandchildren you won’t be able to count them. More kids than stars in the sky! I will make a great name for you.
By breaking ties with land and kindred to respond to God’s summons into a new world, Abraham and Sarah became the model of faith for all generations. How could they have known that responding to God’s Go! in simple trust –and their willingness to risk a secure life—they would set the whole world on a new trajectory?
Father Henri Nouwen wrote, “If we want to have all our bases covered before we act, nothing exciting will happen. But if we dare to take a few crazy risks because God asks us to do so, many doors, which we didn’t even know existed, will be opened for us.”
Moving out into the unknown doesn’t require of us to have a water tight belief system. If we’re waiting for our doubts to disappear, forget it. We need enough faith to say, Yes, I’ll go.
Jesus did not ask his disciples to subscribe to a set of theological propositions, nor did he want them to “feel” enough faith before the first step. He asked them to follow, to decide to get up from what they were doing and go with him. That’s what faith in God means. That’s what faith in Jesus means.
This portion of the story ends by telling us that Abraham journeyed to the Negev stage by stage. Remember Cardenel’s words:
and then he followed again.
but then went on seeking.
God’s call is a never-ending call . . . God’s call is like the call to become an explorer; it is an invitation to adventure.” Our faith journeys are walked stage by stage.
When did you take the first step on your faith journey? When for you was a “Lech L’cha” moment in your relationship with God?
Maybe it was at your baptism as it was for sweet baby Joshua Koops.’ His parents’ decision to raise him in the Christian faith has set him on his faith journey. Maybe your “Lech L’cha” moment was a decision to own your faith at your Confirmation. Maybe your decision to follow God began on a mission trip or at church camp. Or maybe you weren’t raised in the Christian faith and you’re still seeking. That’s OK. The bible is about people seeking after God and about God seeking after people.
An important “Lech L’cha” moment for me was when I decided to respond to my call as a woman to ordained ministry. For those of you raised Presbyterian, this decision may not carry the same weight as it does for those of us who grew up in churches that openly, and at times aggressively, taught prescribed roles for women. Needless to say, leadership roles were not among the options.
I was eight years old, in a pew, during a Sunday morning service, when I heard an undeniable whisper. While listening to a gentle, very elderly Pentecostal preacher in our little church, the thought popped into my mind: “I want to do that. I want to preach.” Why on earth would a little girl who had never seen a woman in church leadership think she could do such a thing?!
Because God’s call always expands our world! God moves us from the narrow to the immense. God’s call is to the unimaginable, and the Holy One’s invitation is to join in the adventure of faith.
I kept that experience of feeling called to ministry to myself well into my young adulthood. But my Lech L’cha moment came in my senior year of college. I happened to be in a conversation with another young woman who was seriously questioning my “motive” for exploring seminary. She asked me, “What are you trying to prove?”
And in that instant, I heard that familiar voice within me say: “You know what you need to do. Get on with it.“ Lech L’cha.
Bless that girl’s heart, she did not know that her question completely backfired! One never knows through whom God will speak.
I then had to step out into the expanse of the unknown. It meant leaving the church I knew. It meant setting aside much about the Pentecostal/Evangelical church I appreciated. I wandered into Presbyterianism – quite by accident. I will be honest, as a former Pentecostal, sometimes being a Presbyterian still feels like being a stranger in Canaan.
What expanse might you be on the edge of? What moment is it for you?
Is it your Lech Lecha moment to switch jobs or career?
Is it your Get going moment to quit an unhealthy habit?
Is it the Get going moment to finally write that book you’ve been wanting to?
Or is time to go back to school?
Is it your moment to make changes in a relationship?
What is holding you back?
God will not let you get too comfortable.
When Jesus called his disciples, the woman at the well put down her bucket. Peter dropped his net. Matthew got up from his tax collector’s chair. Abraham loaded up the camel.
Whatever it is that you know you need to do, Lech L’cha.
God is inviting you to a new and unimaginable adventure of faith.
Go! Get going!