“Facing an Uncertain Future”

Lent 2

March 12, 2017


Text:  Genesis 12:1-4a; John 3:1-17; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17


    We are all in a time of transition.  I am transitioning into retirement, and although some things are becoming clearer, there are still a lot of unknowns about what my life is going to look like starting July 1.  Meanwhile, at that point you will be welcoming a new pastor, and that event always brings a lot of uncertainty as the church waits to discover what the path forward looks like under different leadership.

    It so happens that today’s Scripture lessons present us with a situation of transition and with wisdom about how to respond to an uncertain future.  Let’s begin with Genesis (since the word “Genesis” means “beginning”, that seems a very good place to start).

    Listen again to what God told Abram (who later was renamed Abraham) in Genesis:  “Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you.  I will make of you a great nation and will bless you.  I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, those who curse you I will curse; all the families of earth will be blessed because of you.”

    God asked Abram to leave his home, his kinfolks, and everything that was familiar to him.  God did not even tell Abram where he was going.  All God said was, “I’ll show you.”  Talk about an uncertain future!  Abram had no idea what this land was like, who the existing inhabitants were, or how he would fare among them.  Yet Abram’s response was simple:  “Abram left just as the Lord had told him.”  All Abram had to go on was God’s promise to bless him and make of him a great nation that would bless others.  That was enough.  Abram trusted God and his promise.  When the future is uncertain, trust in God.

    Nicodemus came to Jesus one night to visit with him.  Jesus promptly confounded this Jewish leader by telling him that in order to see God’s kingdom, a person must be reborn.  Nicodemus took what Jesus said literally as he questioned it:  “Are you serious?  A person can’t crawl back inside one’s mother and be reborn!”  But Jesus was talking about a different kind of birth.  He was talking about a spiritual rebirth, about being born of God.  When Jesus describes what this kind of life is like, here is what he says:  “God’s wind, God’s Spirit (wind and spirit are represented by the same word in both Biblical languages, Hebrew and Greek), blows wherever it wishes.  You hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going.  It’s the same with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  Hearing Jesus say this, it would seem that an uncertain future comes with the territory of being born anew, born of God, born of the Spirit.  Just like Abram, we don’t really know where God is leading us.  But like Abram, we can also trust in God’s promise to bless us and make us a blessing.  When the future is uncertain, trust in God.

    In Romans, the Apostle Paul reflects on Abraham’s faith and trust in God.  He points out that Abraham is our spiritual ancestor, not because of the good deeds he did, not because of any blood relationship, not because of his observance of the Law (which had not yet been given in Abraham’s time), but because he trusted in God.  This trust is the reason the promise that he would inherit the world was given to him.  He trusted God even though his future was uncertain.  “In this way,” Paul wrote, “the promise is secure for all of Abraham’s descendants, not just for those who are related by Law but also for those who are related by the faith of Abraham, who is the father of all of us.”  Abraham trusted in God, Paul reminds us, “who gives life to the dead and calls things that don’t exist into existence.”  

    This brings us to that well known and much loved verse of Scripture, John 3:16:  “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life.”  Though our future life on this earth is fraught with uncertainty, we know that our future beyond this life comes with the marvelous promise of life forever with God if we trust in Christ.  Although we do not really know with any certainty what life forever with God will be like, we can be sure that in the love, mercy, and greatness of God that it will be far better than anything our finite minds can possibly imagine or comprehend.  When the future is uncertain, trust in God.

    We do not know what lies ahead in our earthly lives.  But we can trust these things:

  • God will show us the way.  We don’t have to know ahead of time where we are going.

  • God seeks to bless us.  God wants what is best for his children and for the fulfillment of God’s purposes on earth as in heaven.

  • God wants us to be a blessing.  God wants our lives to help bring about what is best and to fulfill God’s purposes in the lives of others.

  • God desires our spiritual rebirth so that we are better able to trust him.

  • God’s ultimate desire for all humankind is eternal life with God.

  • God is faithful and can be trusted.

    When the future is uncertain (and in truth, the future is always uncertain, isn’t it?), trust in God.  Let us trust God in these days of transition and in all the days to come as we seek to follow God’s leading and live in harmony with God’s purposes.  Amen.

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