The Second Sunday in Lent
Text: Genesis 12:1-8
Sean C. Kim
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
5 March 2023
When I read today’s Old Testament lesson about Abraham and his family leaving behind their home to journey to a foreign land, I find myself drawing parallels with the story of my own family. Like Abraham, my parents left behind their native, ancestral land – in our case, Korea – to move to the United States in 1971. At the time, I was only a little kid, so I didn’t fully appreciate the challenges and sacrifices that my parents experienced as they became immigrants. Like Abraham, my parents left behind not only their family and friends but also a life of comfort and privilege. From our history books, we read about the European immigrants who fled poverty, hunger, political unrest, and religious persecution to arrive on crowded, dirty ships to Ellis Island. In contrast, our family traveled by jumbo jet with layovers in Hawaii and Los Angeles. And where is the first place we went when we landed in the continental U.S.? Disneyland, of course.
My parents left Korea for two major reasons. The first was education. For all its faults, the American educational system, especially higher education, is the best in the world. Just look at all the foreign students on our college campuses today. The second reason was security. Having been refugees during the Korean War, my parents didn’t want us kids to suffer what they had to go through in the case of another war. As you know, even today, North Korea poses a major threat not only to South Korea but to the world. So, in short, it was for us kids that my parents made the move.
As I get older, I realize more and more what a bold, risky move it was for them to pull up their roots and move to a foreign country. But like Abraham, my parents turned to their faith in God for strength and guidance. And in all the years that they lived in their new, adopted land, never once did they have any regrets or complaints.
If I had been my parents, I’m not so sure that I would have had the courage to do what they did. It would have been so much easier for them to stay in Korea. Being risk-averse and a creature of habit, I avoid situations that pose unknown risks and challenges. I need a sense of control and don’t want to leave anything to chance. Sound familiar? I’m sure that I’m not alone in having this kind of personality. This past week, I just found out that I might be moving to a different part of town, and it unleashed all sorts of anxieties. I can’t imagine moving to a different country. So, I feel a bit hypocritical preaching this sermon. Of course, you know that it is always easier to preach than to practice what you preach.
In today’s text from Genesis, we read “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. 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” (Genesis 12:1-2). We have no record of Abraham questioning or doubting the Lord’s command; he simply trusts and obeys. He gathers his entire family, packs up all his possessions, and heads to Canaan, the Land of Promise.
Abraham’s journeys will many twists and turns, but whatever challenges and problems he encounters, he trusts and obeys God. We read in today’s Epistle reading that “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3). It is his faith – his willingness to trust and obey – that made him just and right with God. It is for his faith that we remember and honor Abraham. And it is not just us Christians; Jews and Muslims also look up to him as their progenitor. In fact, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are known as the Abrahamic religions.
But Abraham was far from perfect. In fact, by our standards, he falls short in many ways. For instance, when he is in Egypt during a famine, he becomes afraid that because his wife Sarah is so beautiful that the people there will kill him to take her. So, what does he do? He lies and says that she is his sister (Genesis 12:10-20). And he does this not just once but a second time, when he is the land of the Philistines (Genesis 20:1-16). Like almost all the heroes in scripture, Abraham is flawed. He is human, just like us.
And yet whatever his failures and shortcomings, Abraham had a deep and abiding faith in God. He trusted God to safely lead him to the Promised Land. He trusted God to be with him every step of the way. He trusted God to grant him courage, strength, and guidance.
Abraham holds up for us the kind of life we are to live as Christians. There’s an old hymn that some of you may know. It goes like this:
When we walk with the Lord in the light of his Word
What a glory he sheds on our way!
While we do his good will, he abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, there is no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
Trust and obey. That is the life of faith in a nutshell. Trust in God, not in ourselves.
Obey his calling, wherever that may lead us. And he will be with us every step of the way.
Where is God calling you today? He may not be calling you to pack up your bags and move to a foreign land, as he did Abraham. Or perhaps he is. What are the areas in your life in which God is calling you to something new and different? Where in your life is God calling you out of your comfort zone and into uncertain territory? Perhaps a new job. A new ministry. A new relationship. A new community. God may be calling you with an inspiring vision or perhaps a gentle nudge. Take the risk. Let go of the need to control. Open yourself to God. Trust and obey. The Promised Land awaits.
The sermons preached at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Kansas City, are posted here!