The Way Forward
“Now the Lord said to Abram …”
A casual reading of these words does not reveal their force. They are the opening line of Genesis chapter 12. They are the momentous words that begin the saga of Abraham and Sarah.
Up to this point things have been going pretty badly among the people on earth. After Adam and Eve’s failure of trust in Eden, after Cain murders his own brother, after the catastrophic flood, after the calamity of the Tower of Babel, human beings were “scattered abroad over the face of all the earth” — divided and hostile to one another.
“Now the Lord said …” is an intentional re-statement of God’s act of creation in the first chapter: “And God said, ‘Let there be light!’ ” God persists in the divine purpose of creation: “God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good.”
“Now the Lord said to Abram …” is the forceful declaration that God is about to take a new initiative for the good of humankind. In order to do this, God calls people to be partners in the endeavor, in this case, Abram and Sarai (better known by their later-given names, Abraham and Sarah).
So what did God say to them? “Move out!” (Our English translation reads, “Go!” but it lacks the impact of the original Hebrew.) “Move out! Leave your country and your kindred and your ancestors’ home and go to the land that I will show you.”
God sends them off with nothing but a promise: “I will bless you so that you will be a blessing; in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Remember this? You shall be my people, and I will be your God.) Our God never gives up.
Move out! means it’s time for a change. Move out! means leave behind your former ways, your former habits, your former mindset. Move out! means “I am taking you in a new direction.”
God didn’t provide Sarah and Abraham with any specifics, only a promise that they would be “blessed to be a blessing.” Somehow they mustered up the faith to get up and go. They moved out into the uncharted future that God was preparing for them.
What if God showed up in our sanctuary on a Sunday morning and bellowed, “Move out!”? What future could God possibly have in mind for us? Where would God want to take us? What new ways of being a church would God want us to try? What new moves might God already be initiating in our lives?
I don’t have the answers to these questions. These are things we have to ask God as we seek our way forward. There is, though, one question God has for us:
Do you trust me?
Together in Christ,
Rick Neale, Pastor
Pastor Rick Neale
Rick is serving as our contract-call pastor. He is a Teaching Elder in the PCUSA, and he has pastored churches in upstate New York and Miami, FL. After coming to Atlanta, he served as Chaplain for Oncology at Northside Hospital. His previous pastorate was at Church of the New Covenant in Doraville, GA.