2017 has us historically minded. We’re celebrating 150 years of Canada and 175 years of Little Trinity. As Christians, however, we’re also participants in a history of faith that dwarfs both of these anniversaries. In a very real way, that history begins with Abraham, whom Scripture names “the man of faith” and “God’s friend” (Galatians 3:9, James 2:23), and whose life is the focus of our summer sermon series.
By learning more about Abraham and family we learn about our DNA as believers, as it were – about the life of faith, in its highs and lows. We see that God’s grace and faithfulness are not contingent on the wanderings of those who follow his call. We appreciate more the vastness of God’s purposes and the patience of God’s timing. And we understand how our life as a church today is caught up in the work of restoration and salvation that God initiates in Abraham.
The story of Abraham recounts the life of a man, born in what is modern-day Iraq, near the dawn of recorded human history (c. 1900 BC). God called Abraham, and Abraham went. And, as we’ll see, the entire Biblical story – including the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus – flows through that call and response, the special relationship of divine faithfulness and human faith.
Abraham’s story, rightly considered, isn’t just the story of one man. It’s the story of a family: of this man, born Abram, whom God re-names as Abraham; of his wife, born Sarai, whom God re-names as Sarah; of their miraculous, long-awaited son, Isaac. It’s the story of Hagar, Sarai’s maid and Abraham’s concubine, and her beloved son with Abraham, Ishmael. It’s the story of Lot, Abraham’s complicated nephew. And it’s the story, implicitly, of the extended family that Abraham left behind to follow God’s call.
Most of all, however, the story of Abraham is the story of the family of faith that God makes through him. That family begins with the Jewish people, who trace both a physical and spiritual genealogy back to Abraham. And, as Christians, we believe that that family continues – and has been radically expanded – through Jesus Christ, “the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1).
As “the son of Abraham,” Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise that he would make Abraham into a great nation, and in him bless all the families of the earth. The universal scope of this promise has been accomplished in Jesus, whose death on the cross “takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) and whose church is sent to proclaim this good news into “all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Christians recognize that we have been made children of Abraham by God’s grace (Luke 3:8), adopted into a family of faith that stretches back four thousand years.