Hello, I’m Paul Lawlor, the Area Dean of Redditch and Bromsgrove based at St Stephen’s in Redditch Town Centre. Let’s look at related lectionary readings for Trinity 8 from Genesis 15 & Luke 12.
Firstly, how you relate to the words God speaks to Abram (spoiler - soon to be renamed Abraham) and Abrams response? God’s speaks words of assurance and promise, “Do not be afraid, I am your shield your very great reward.”
BUT Abram does what we can all do so easily; he looks at the logic of his situation, he analyses the facts, he examines his context and reviews all the available resources. His conclusion is that his line is doomed, “I have no children [and, by the way, we are old]”. Abram’s only heir a servant. Basically he is saying, “That’s lovely God but how will I be rewarded?” 
How does God respond to this logical attitude? Albeit one that ignores the resources available to the one who is giving the promise! God simply re-enforces the promise – clarifies it and raises the bar!
He doesn’t say, “you will have a son,” and this is how it will play out. He doesn’t make the promise more attainable, “you will have a few children”. He declares that Abram will have an uncountable number of offspring. God points to the night sky. A night sky without city nights, no light pollution to diminish the spectacle. The Milky Way alone a cloud of light, innumerable stars barely discernible.
So many offspring – this is a ridiculous promise given the situation.
We know how the story Abram (soon to be Abraham) will pan out. He will become the father of many nations; the patriarch of the Jews, a foundation within Christian faith throughout the world. But in this moment he struggled to hold onto the promise of God.
How do we respond to the promise of God? Firstly can we accept that God DOES speak to His church today. To his people individually and corporately.
Do you feel God has spoken to you, promised something to you?
Does it feel ridiculous to speak of God communicating with us, or more specifically you or me?
Clearly God speaks to people throughout the Biblical Narrative, the text can be a little lacking in detail of precisely how God does this , but speak He does, people’s lives are changed and transformed by hearing from God. So is it that God spoke back then but no longer. Are we living in a time when God is silent.
In those days the word of the LORD was rare and prophetic visions were not widespread. 1 Sam 3:1
In Biblical Narrative and the life of the Church, past and present we see God speaking by the Holy Spirit. We see the Spirit at work in us directly AND by moulding our reactions to tradition and reason.
If this is the case, and we still are uncertain about God speaking to US, where is the issue? Are we too insignificant, too sinful, or are we not faithful enough? Is it that God not want to speak to us or are we struggling to listen or are we not expecting God to speak?
We know God is faithful and loves His Church.
Firstly are we even listening? Is it that we don’t expect to hear from God, so we don’t make space for Him.
We can do this with the best of intentions, I am an activist and so I easily make myself so busy doing there is little time for hearing what God wants. Or, do we keep returning to an old dried up well and expecting to find water there when God has moved on. Are we making space, creative space, to hear from God, corporately and individually?
Or, are we stuck in Abram mode. We look at the current situation and reply with our equivalent of “We have no children”. Perhaps, we are hearing but like Abram, struggling to see how that vision can possibly come to fruition. Are we feeling too small or lacking in resources and power?
Remember what does God does with Abram? He does not address the practical question. He re-enforces the promise and the vastness of that promise and says look at who I AM, Look at MY HANDYWORK, this is MY promise to you. Then, “Abram Believed the Lord, and it was credited to him as righteousness.
For Abram, this was just the start, the ongoing story has many twists and turns God dealing with us when we wander away from Him. The unfurling of God’s purposes take time and is still unfurling, we have to act and also wait on Him. We need to seek after the heart of God? Make ourselves available? Waiting patiently on the Lord that we may be driven onward by the breath of the Holy Spirit?
As we reflect on this call re-read Jesus’ words from Luke 12.32-40 Are we dressed, ready, lamps burning. Let us be the ones “watching when he comes.” The promise of God is so huge, Jesus speaks of the Master tending his servants. How incomprehensible is that? God tending us out of his infinite power. BUT that IS the father heart of God. That He will bless his faithful people, that’s His faithful people not his perfect people, thanks be to God.
Ask God to speak to you again, no time like the present. The promise continues and grows. What is your part in that?
- When has God spoken to you? How did God break through to you?
- Do you still make space for God in the same way? How does this feel, is that the right place or is God calling you to a new place, a new way to listen?
- Are there practical obstacles getting in the way of what God has for you or the church you are part of? Can we view these issues from God’s perspective rather than our own?
 It is interesting that the NIV points to God as the reward, I am…your very great reward” vs the NRSV which renders this “Your reward will be very great”. Either way, Abram is thinking, I cannot see how this works our well.