Göttinger Predigten

deutsch English español
português dansk Schweiz


Aktuelle Predigten


Besondere Gelegenheiten





Unsere Autoren weltweit

ISSN 2195-3171

Göttinger Predigten im Internet hg. von U. Nembach
Donations for Sermons from Goettingen

The twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, 08/07/2016

Sermon on Genesis (1. Buch Mose) 15:1-6, by Ryan Mills

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” 4But the word of the Lord came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” 5He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.


In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Some of you may know that the annual Perseid Meteor Shower begins this week, one of the most beautiful shooting-star shows all year long. Every year I try and stay up late (it gets harder and harder!) and sit outside looking up into the night sky for the streaks of light to shoot across the sky. You sort of sit there in the dark; in the silence; kind of looking like a fool; waiting in expectation for what you think you know is coming; waiting for those ribbons of light. And as beautiful as it can be, as exciting as it is to see one, you also begin to get that feeling of how little you are and of how big the universe is. You begin to look at yourself and to slowly think how much there is to be afraid of! As Calvin and Hobbes once said in their comic strip after looking up at the stars, “Let’s go inside and turn on all the lights!”

Today in our Old Testament lesson we find Abram in a vision at night. The Word of Lord comes to Abram, telling him, “Do not be afraid, Abram.” “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield, your reward shall be very great.” Which is a funny kind of word for Abram to receive; if you look at Abram’s life up ‘til now he hasn’t needed to be afraid, in fact Abram’s life has been very successful; he’s accomplished great things, gained great victories, received great honor, he hasn’t needed a shield at all, he’s conquered, he’s defended himself, and from the outside it looks like Abram is doing just fine. But he’s not doing fine, as we hear in Abram’s response to God’s Word, “O Lord God, what will you give me? For I continue childless, and my heir is Eliezer of Damascus,” his servant. Do you hear the heartache in Abram’s voice? “O Lord, What will you give me?” “This can’t be how it all ends?! This can’t be how it all turns out!”

How about you and I in our own lives? How often do we seem on the outside to be doing ok? Getting up every morning, putting one foot in front of the other, keeping on keeping on, and maybe in the eyes of others, or to ourselves on good days we appear successful, happy, and fulfilled. But there’s some deep hole in our hearts, a deep hunger gnawing at us, a deep longing not fulfilled, a real sense of our own failure despite ourselves, and so at first God’s Word to us--his promise--seems irrelevant, or unnecessary, it seems like it’s not enough.

For Abram, it’s the fact that he is childless, that he has no heir, that there is no future for him, and that when he looks up at the night sky he sees just darkness and no future. And then you can begin to hear the anger in Abram’s voice, as he thinks more about his, “You, Lord, have given me no offspring, so a slave from my house--this Eliezer guy--is to be my heir?!” Anger is a part of faith. “You, Lord, have not acted in the way I need. You Lord, have not kept us from sorrow and heartache. You Lord, have not opened the future that I once imagined.” Abram gives us all space to be upset with God sometimes.

And if we were God, we would back off at this point and say, “Well, Eliezer’s not that bad; look on the bright side!” But this is not God’s character. God’s character is that when he makes a promise, he sticks to it, he even doubles down, God even doubles up the promise to show how serious he is towards us.

And so at that moment the Lord brings Abram outside and invites him, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you can. So shall your descendants be.” God tells you and I this morning, “If you doubt my care for you; if you doubt the future I have in store for you; if you doubt the breadth and depth of my love for you; if you doubt the immensity of my care for even the littlest hair on your head; if you doubt my promises to you, then look up at the stars; how many can you see?” Not from New Haven, 1,2,3,4,5 stars; but go out to the woods, imagine the stars 5000 years ago without one electric light, how many stars are in the Milky Way? How many in the universe? “That’s how strong my love is for you; that’s how much I’ll be there for you; that’s how committed I am to you; count them if you can.” And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted it, judged it to Abram as righteousness.

As Christians we call Abraham the father of all believers of all the faithful, and this is the moment when this all begins: when hope against hope, when against all the evidence, when against experience, when despite it all, despite what he was going through, despite his doubts, despite his anger, despite it all Abram heard God’s promise, and clung to it. He saw God’s hand stretched out to him, and grabbed on. He looked at the sky above and despite all that darkness, trusted in the light. Five-thousand years later Martin Luther would tell us what Abram discovered: that we’re saved by God not for the good things we do, not by our successes, neither are we abandoned because of our failures, but we’re saved as Abram was, simply by faith alone, by trust in a God who is trustworthy, and who says: “I promise you,” and makes good on his promise.

This doesn’t mean we believe in a God whose timing matches ours. According to Genesis it’s at least another 14 years before Abram and Sara have this child of faith, Isaac, that’s promised to them today--there are 14 years left for them to wait! And yet even in that time of waiting the future is already theirs; when we wait in trust towards God; when we wait in faith what we wait for is already ours.

For as Christians, as people who trust in Jesus Christ, we wait for him who is already ours. For we too have received Abraham and Sarah’s promise, we have received the child long awaited. The child waited for by the Stargazers, by those Wise Men from the East, who found that God had kept and will keep every promise to us all, when they found the child by the light of the star, lying in a manger. That child of promise, in whom all God’s promises are “YES”, Jesus promises us again today, “Don’t be afraid, little flock, don’t be afraid, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” God is for you, and he promises you not only a future this morning, but his Kingdom, so what are we all afraid of? Won’t he keep his promise to you? Isn’t it his pleasure to keep his Word, to give you his Kingdom? So instead of living in fear that manifests itself in greed and apathy, Jesus tells us live in faith, live in trust towards me, he says, in a life that manifests itself not in greed but in generosity, not in apathy but in anticipation. We don’t need to hoard up rusty treasures for the future when we know we can already have the priceless treasures of the Kingdom. We can’t live lives of sleepy apathy, letting the lights of faith burn out, when we know that our Master will return to us at the first light of dawn!

But maybe we need convincing this morning, like Abram did. Maybe the grandeur of a trillion stars isn’t enough to convince us any more, maybe they’re too big, too distant, too un-mysterious to us now. Well how about this proof: on the night, on the dark night in which he surrendered to betrayal and death, on the night when he gave himself up for you on the Cross, he took bread, saying “This is my body, given for you.” And took a cup saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” Once more this morning, like Abram of old, we come face to face with a trustworthy God who makes and keeps his promises, and to prove it shows us simple, earthly gifts, signs of the heavenly vastness of his love: This bread is my body, this cup is my blood, given for you!

And in faith, in trust, despite it all, we grab on, we grasp tight to him, we say “Yes, Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief, but I believe.” And as with Abram of old, God counts it to you as righteousness. In the midst of your every fear this morning, God relights in you the light of faith, for he is trustworthy and he will keep his promise. Number the stars, if you can--so great is his love towards you.

And the Peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Amen.

Pfarrer Dr. Ryan Mills
New Haven, Connecticut
E-Mail: Pastor@TrinityLutheranNH.org