Can I ask all the men and boys in the congregation to stand up please if you’re able? If you’re 80 years or older then please sit down again. If you’re 69 or younger, then you can sit down too. And if we’ve all got our maths right, that should leave us with men in their seventies. So, can I borrow you up at the front here for a few minutes please?
Abram was 75 at the point that we catch up with him in the story. So, you all need to imagine that one of these fine-looking men is Abram.
Now to all the women here – Are there any of these men that look like they’ve already walked 600 miles? That’s the distance between Ur and Harran. Thank you. The rest can sit down…
And which of those that are left look like they could walk 400 miles more do you think? That’s how far it is from Harran to Shechem in Canaan. I’m more likely to get an honest answer from the Cubs and Scouts so I’m going to ask you to vote. You need to put your hand up and you can only vote for one.
The rest can sit down. You’ve been judged and found wanting!
Now, shall we do exactly the same for women in their sixties? We’ve got our Abram but we need a Sarai… She was 66 at the time. Any volunteers?…
Make a promise
The Scouts have a Promise that you make, don’t you? Can you say it?
On my honour, I promise that I will do my best to do my duty to God and to The Queen, to help other people and to keep the Scout Law.
Really, it’s 4 Promises isn’t it? You promise to do your duty to God, you promise to do your duty to the Queen, you promise to help other people and you promise to keep the 7 Scout Laws.
Abram was later given a new name Abraham and he’s known as the father of 3 faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Muslim Scouts have a slightly different Promise. Do you know what it is?
In the name of Allah the Most Beneficial and the Most Merciful, I promise that I will do my best to do my duty to Allah and to the Queen to help other people and to keep the Scout Law
Bless those who bless
Back to our story, it isn’t Abram that makes a Promise to God but God making a promise to Abram. Actually, God makes 5 promises, one more than the Scouts.
God promises to make Abram into a great nation; He promises to bless Abram; He promises to give Abram a good reputation; He promises to bless those who bless Abram and finally he promises to curse those who curse Abram.
That’s quite a set of promises because at this point Abram and Sarai have no land and no children.
In return God asks Abram and Sarai to leave where they’ve been living, with all the safety and security that they may have felt there and go. We know it’s another 400 miles but God doesn’t tell Abram yet where they’re going. It could be another 10 miles; it could be a 1000. But go.
And Abram does. After 600 miles he knows what the essentials are so he packs his toothbrush, denture cream, emergency chocolate, change of underwear – and his Yorkshire teabags.
There you go ‘Abram’. You can sit down now. There’s a long journey ahead. But take your suitcase with you…
And quite honestly there’s a lot of stories to tell and hundreds of years to go by before all those promises come to pass for Abram & Sarai’s descendants.
We don’t go alone
But so what? Why should we care? Well, I think there are lessons for us all.
- Like contestants on a reality TV show, Abram and Sarai were on a journey. They showed they were open to a new future with new possibilities. That’s a good way of thinking for all of us, isn’t it?
- For the Israelites, those promises to Abram became really important when years later they were in exile, forcibly moved far away from home. They clung on to those promises when it was really bleak. Sometimes we’ll have rough times too and we need to remember the promises that God makes to us. At some point you Cubs & Scouts will get older and leave or maybe you’ll stop coming to church. But something that you learned when you were younger might be really important to you later in life.
- Abram is told that he will be a blessing to everyone. The nation of Israel was later told that they were to be a light to the nations. We too have a responsibility to live in such a way that we draw and attract people to God. To be a blessing and a light. It’s what we spoke about here last month. Do you remember the well-watered garden in the desert and the 7 Scout Laws?
- Sooner or later we’re all called to do something new and different. We might be uncertain about the future, no map, no clear idea about the destination or how long it will take to get there. The passage tells us to go. But we don’t go alone. We take with us the many promises of God and his presence to show us the way. Amen
“We don’t go alone” was given by Ian Banks at a Parade and Family Service at Christ Church Walmersley on Sunday 8th March 2020. It’s based on Genesis 12:1-5. For more by Ian please look in the Archive. Ian’s talk followed Nigel’s reflection on Psalm 121 “Be curious”.