Heroes On A Journey – A Sermon On Genesis 12:1-4

Have you ever considered yourself to be a hero? George, have you? No? Sharron, have you ever thought of yourself as a heroine? No? Judy? Anna? You either, huh? Nano, what about you? Are you a hero? No? Okay. Emily, Mickey, Barbara? Anyone? No one? No one sees herself or himself as a heroine or hero.

Here’s why I’m asking those questions. I think today’s Old Testament reading (Genesis 12:1-4) about Abram leaving his country, kindred, and father’s house is a story about the hero’s journey and Abram is the hero. But I also think it would be a mistake to let Abram’s journey distract or divert us from our own journey. God’s call to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you,” is meant to remind us of our own calling, our heroic journey. (Hollis, Tracking the Gods, 73)

When I asked whether you thought of yourself as a hero most of you probably thought of and compared yourself to the name brand heroes; celebrities, sports stars, military and political leaders, the church’s saints, or those who do something extraordinary and often dangerous. We tend to associate heroes with action, accomplishments, and things done by particular people. That’s one way of thinking of heroes but maybe there’s another way.

What if the hero’s journey is less about what you and I do and more about who we are becoming? What if heroism is less about a specific action or event and more about a way of being? What if the real measure of our life isn’t what we’ve done but “the degree to which we’ve heard and responded to the imperative to become ourselves in the face of what would hold us back”? (Ibid.) 

Becoming more fully ourselves is the hero’s journey and it takes strength, courage, and endurance. It’s our faith journey and our lenten journey. God is always calling us into a greater fullness of ourselves and life. 

I wonder what it would look like and mean for you and me to more fully become ourselves. And what is keeping us from that today? In today’s Old Testament reading country, kindred, and father’s house are holding Abram back from becoming more fully himself. Now don’t literalize those things. They are metaphors. 

You remember that God will change Abram’s name to Abraham, right? (Genesis 17:5) It’s more than just a name change. Abram will be changed and become more fully himself. He will be made a great nation. He will be blessed. His name will be great. He will be a blessing. In him all the families of the earth will be blessed. 

This journey will change who Abram is and how he sees himself. It will connect him to something larger than and beyond himself. None of that, however, will or can happen until Abram leaves his country, kindred, and father’s house. And that’s true for you and me as well. 

Abram is seventy-five years old (Genesis 12:4) when the Lord says to him, “Go.” “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house.” For seventy-five years country, kindred, and father’s house have defined and identified Abram. They are familiar and predictable. They are a known quantity. They are easy and comfortable. They have shaped his life. They provide his life routine, rhythm, and security. They set the expectations, norms, and values for his life. They establish his view and understanding of himself and the world. They are the voices in his head. They’re all he knows. He has never left or ventured beyond them. And today God tells Abram to leave them behind. 

If Abram is to grow up, become more fully himself, take responsibility for himself, and live the life waiting to be lived through him he will have to leave his country, kindred, and father’s house. So must we. 

We all have our country, kindred, and father’s house. Who or what are yours? In what ways have you settled for and become comfortable with the life you have rather than opening yourself to and moving toward the life that is waiting to be yours? What country, kindred, and father’s house do you need to leave today? And what keeps you from leaving?

Here’s what strikes me about leaving. Our leaving begins with saying, “No.” Abram will say no to where he is so that he might say yes to where he is going. He will say no to his country, kindred, and father’s house in order to say yes to himself and the one who has called him. This isn’t a rejection of those things. It’s the recognition that they’ve taken him as far as they can. It is the recognition that there is more to Abram and his life than country, kindred, and father’s house.

You know what that’s like, right? Haven’t there been times when you felt a restlessness, a longing, a sense that there’s more to you and your life than what is? Haven’t there been times when you had to say no to where you were in order to say yes to where you might go? Haven’t there been times when you felt stuck, stifled, or dulled? You had to say no to a life that was too small before you could say yes to a next size larger life. Haven’t there been times you when you said no to a job, place, or relationship because it was in some way holding you back or keeping your life small? Or maybe you had to make a change and get your life turned around and headed in a new direction. 

It’s not enough to just say no; to resist, protest, or object. Your no also needs a yes. It’s the yes to leave and open yourself to something new and different even if you don’t know where it will take you, what it will offer you, or what it will ask of you. That’s what is was like for Abram. 

And just like Abram we all come to moments in our lives when for whatever reason we must reconsider who we are apart from our history, our roles, and our commitments. (Hollis, Living An Examined Life, 20) 

“Go.” That’s the very first word God speaks to Abram. And what if it’s the first word God speaks to you and me? “Go George. Go Sharron. Go Judy and Anna. Go Nano. Go Emily, Mickey, Barbara. Go be the hero I know you to be.”

Image Credit: Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Unsplash


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