something from nothing
2nd Sunday in Lent – A LSB #’s 422, 918, 447:16-21
Text – Genesis 12:3
I will bless those who bless you, & him who dishonors you I will curse, & in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
SOMETHING FROM NOTHING
Going on vacation can be quite an undertaking if you leave for any length of time, or with an entire family. Moving to a different city or state is a larger task. Moving to a completely different country is a complicated operation. How many of you, right now, are actively planning to leave the United States?
In spite of all our problems, it is still a fairly good place to live. In the reading from Genesis, Abram is called by God to leave – his country, his kindred, his father’s house. It is a massive undertaking, & God is not telling him to which country He wants him to move: “Just go! Somewhere along the way I will show you.”
You may be thinking that is drastically different from the life you are living. You have your routine, when you set your alarm, what time you get up each day, when you drink your coffee, what time you leave for work or the doctor, when do the children have to be at school, how often you do laundry, when you need to go grocery shopping or order your food online.
There are an endless number of tasks to each & every day, & yet, you have no idea what is going to happen even three minutes from now. But, when something changes our plans, we are often not very pleased with it. Imagine God showing up this afternoon & calling you to move, maybe to Ukraine, maybe to South Africa or to Argentina. Would you go?
In the Gospel reading, “…there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus…” (John 3:1 ESV) He was on a journey & he began his next move at night. He was going to see this new teacher named Jesus. Now, Nicodemus wasn’t moving physically so much as he was moving mentally from a place where he was very comfortable. This new teacher was stirring the pot with all kinds of new-fangled teaching that was awkward & confusing. It was riling up the people & creating a lot of confusion. Against his will, Nicodemus found himself on a journey to someplace new, & he was trying to make sense of it.
Abraham & Nicodemus & you. You had to suspect that this sermon might be leading to that point. Whether you are aware of it or not, the season of Lent is often thought of as a journey. It is an expedition to the cross of Jesus Christ. It’s a journey meant to open our eyes to God’s active rule in the daily affairs of our lives, & the lives of all people in this world.
Whether people follow Yahweh or not, whether they believe He exists, or deny it, He created all of us & has a defined plan for each of us. It is not simply Abram that has been called to be a blessing to the world. So have you, been called, by the almighty God, to follow Him, to serve & obey Him, & most of all to receive His blessings, as He makes something from nothing.
The Creator of the entire universe wants to work with you to make something from nothing. So Yahweh has placed you on a journey. Like Abraham, you may have no idea to where our Lord is calling you. On the other hand, you may know exactly what journey you are on. If you are a father or mother, God has called you to be so.
You don’t become a parent by accident & you don’t become a parent solely by your own will. Yahweh creates that life in the womb with its own unique DNA. Without the Creator there is no life. Without Him there is nothing. With Yahweh? You’ve already heard Jesus tell you what life is like with God:
“And [Jesus] said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me (& where does Jesus say they will be?) in paradise.’” And to whom does Jesus say that? He says it to a criminal being crucified on a cross. How much worse can your life be? The first 11 chapters of Genesis contain a terrifying record of how the sinful will of man repeatedly blocks his own way to God. Adam & Eve fall into sin bringing the entire universe with them. Cain kills his brother Abel. Lamech brags of the vengeance he will bring upon anyone who dares to defy him. Human beings end up so corrupt that God destroys the world in a flood. Then – the tower of Babel.
On their own, mankind can do nothing but wrong. The human race can only run away from its Creator. Genesis 12 begins with the absolute miracle of the grace of God creating a way, a journey, that no man can find – or even desires to find:
“Go from your country & your kindred & your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, & I will bless you & make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, & him who dishonors you I will curse, & in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Abram is given but one command “Go!” The Lord’s much greater part is expressed four times with the phrase, “I will.” And what God’s “I will” means is that He will create something from nothing. Abram was not a nation, yet God would create one. Abram’s name was unknown yet God would make it great. You & I were not born, yet Abram would be a blessing to us.
Still, God’s “I will” speaks of the future, which emphasizes the need for faith on the part of Abram. He must exchange the known for the unknown, & find his reward in what he could not live to see during his life on earth. Abram will fully see & know that reward at the resurrection from the dead in life everlasting.
The same is true for you & me. We long to live by sight in this journey of life. We’d love to see all of God’s blessing unfold right before our eyes. We certainly see all the trials & challenges of life unfold in our face. Abram did as well. Some of them were of his own doing, just like some of the trials that we endure. Some time after the call of Abram, Yahweh promises him a son, but after years of waiting, Abram & Sarai devise their own way, their own plan, & it leads to nothing but misery, right in their face. You see, even before they were called by God, Abram & Sarai were unable to have children. As God’s Word puts it, Sarai was barren. In their culture effectively it meant that she was nothing.
Yahweh promised Abram & Sarai that He would make something from nothing, but the tantalizing delay, 25 years worth, then dominates chapters 12-20 of Genesis. In the OT, Rebekah, Rachel & Hannah also experienced the same nothingness in order that God might demonstrate His power in bringing forth something from nothing.
These trials & tribulations were right in their face while the promise of God was for a time only by faith. Yet, when the fullness of time had come God overcame the barrenness of human will. He worked His saving will among those who had no hope.
Genesis 12:1-4 are a paradigm for the resurrection of Jesus. Where there was nothing, God brought forth something, where there was death God brought forth life. St. Paul highlights that when he writes to the church at Rome: “…in the presence of the God …who gives life to the dead & calls into existence the things that do not exist.” (4:17 ESV)
In this sinful & broken world, there is no such thing as luck. Good things do not arrive by accident or by human will. Blessings come only at the will, & from the hand, of God. If you struggle to accept that, look at the world before the flood. Look at the Tower of Babel. Look at the world around you today. Think of how hard you work to accomplish things.
Yahweh called the entire universe into being out of nothing, & it was good. After the fall into sin, He took the initiative & put mankind on a journey back home to paradise. It is a long & difficult journey with many forks in the road placed there by Satan to deceive us, & to mislead us. Yet, Jesus did not just promise, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” He actually was born in human flesh & joined us on that journey. He traveled it – all the way – even to death on a cross. Never once did He take a detour or bypass the temptations, trials & sorrows. He made the entire journey in perfection & through our baptism He gives us the credit. He made something beautiful & perfect from the nothingness of this corrupt & evil world.
Jesus has re-created the perfect & holy human flesh that Adam was originally created with. At the resurrection from the dead all who believe in Jesus as their Savior will be raised with that perfect & holy human flesh. And they will live in a perfect & holy world. The journey there is the one Abram & Sarai were on. It’s the one Nicodemus was on.
Are you on that journey? At the beginning of this sermon I asked, “How many of you, right now, are actively planning to leave the United States?” You may not have realized it at the time, but if you are following Jesus, your answer should be “Yes.”
The Holy Spirit is calling you today, to leave this country, your earthly kindred & father’s house. He’s calling you to a better country, to your spiritual kindred & to your heavenly Father’s house. Though you & I are nothing, from us God is making something – something eternal & holy & beautiful.
O God, You see that of ourselves we have no strength. By Your mighty power defend us from all adversities that may happen to the body & from all evil thoughts that may assault & hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives & reigns with You & the Holy Spirit, one God, now & forever. Amen.
Guide me, O Thou great Redeemer, pilgrim through this barren land. I am weak, but Thou art mighty; hold me with Thy powerful hand. Bread of heaven, bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more; feed me till I want no more. Open now the crystal fountain whence the healing stream doth flow; let the fiery, cloudy pillar lead me all my journey through. Strong deliverer, strong deliverer, be Thou still my strength & shield; be Thou still my strength & shield. Amen. LSB 918:1-2.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet