Invited to be Transformed
August 16, 2015
Is anyone here a particularly avid reader? If you are one, I have a question for you. Of the books you have have read, which one has the most spectacular beginning? The one that every time you read it makes you unbelievably ready to dive into the words and story that you have read countless times before. Can anyone recall the words from memory? Every time that I read the line, “it was a pleasure to burn,” out of Fahrenheit 451, my palms get sweaty with excitement. It is one of my favorite books and one of my favorite opening lines but not the one that really makes my heart soar. That distinction goes to the line, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” Ever since reading The Hobbit once, I encounter those letters on paper and my heart skips a beat because I know what follows them is a spectacular story. It is a story of a journey filled with courage and hope in unexpected places.
With this passage in Genesis we find ourselves at the beginning of another magnificent story. One that at least a number of us are familiar with in part. Now there are stories in Genesis before this one and they are significant, but this one marks a particular point where God, Abram, and Sarai begin a journey together. This is the specific point in scripture where Abram goes from simply being a name in a rather lengthy list of descendants to being a central figure in the story of God’s relationship with humanity; but, it starts with God, Abram, and Sarai in this beginning. God tells Abram to leave all that is known and comfortable, his land and home, in favor of new land and home that God desires to guide him to. This story begins with an invitation to leave certainty for a space of uncertainty that for Abram and Sarai means rather than relying on the known possibilities of where they call home they must rely on the promise of God and the unknown possibilities that lie in that journey from what they now call home to where God desires to lead them.
The ending point of the land that is promised is important but it is essential to remember that Abram and Sarai do not simply arrive in the new land God has promised. It comes within their vision but the process to get there is one that will take far more time than either of them has to spend upon the Earth. Nevertheless they begin the journey with each other and with God taking time to remember God as they go recognizing that they do not journey alone but instead they journey with the one who invited them to leave for a new realm of possibilities. It is the invitation that ultimately drew them from complacency into a life-journey with God. That particular journey saw them transformed from Abram and Sarai into Abraham and Sarah, it continued for them and their children into spaces of joy and sorrow. It saw them wholly changed from the people who once heard God call them from that comfortable, recognizable, and understandable place.
Stories like Fahrenheit 451, The Hobbit, or that of Abram and Sarai are not magnificent stories solely because of the way they are written. The stories are not solely wondrous and powerful because of the beginning and the end. These stories are spectacular, wondrous, magnificent, and powerful because of the way that the journey transforms and reshapes the people within them. The endings are important and should not be ignored; however, there is real significance in the way that the journey reshapes and recreates the people who endeavor along the way. The situations surrounding them may change and shift, there may be joy one moment and sorrow the next, but no matter what happens they continue. Stories like these are powerful in significant part not only because Abram and Sarai transform into Abraham and Sarah by the end but because these stories tell how they are transformed.
Sisters and Brothers, our church is a community of people in the midst of this journey of life with God and with one another. Continually God invites us out of complacency and into something better. God invites us to participate in the process of hope that opens us to the endless wonder and possibilities of God. We are invited to that journey where we are not shaped by the world but rather by an ongoing encounter and relationship with God. It is where we dive into the life of Christ and participate in the audacity of sharing a powerfully intimate relationship with God as we feed and grow not off of food from the world but upon the body and blood of Christ. It is an invitation that offers us the opportunity to hope and if we are to accept it we must understand that resting in hope, feasting upon the sacraments, journeying with God will mean that we cannot and will not remain the same. It means that as we journey we will encounter great moments of joy and great moments of despair but through it all God invites us into the process of hoping while we cling to the knowledge that we journey with God and one another.
So today, in this particular moment, there is at least one question. Where are you in your journey? Are you in the midst of complacency? Have you set out? Are you awash in joy or feel like you are drowning in despair? Does the presence of God seem overwhelmingly clear or painfully convoluted? Wherever you may be this day, whatever situation you are in during this particular moment remember that you are part of a story where God is continually offering an invitation to a transformative journey. Wherever you may be in that particular journey know that you are not alone that you journey with God and with a community of faith filled with others who continue journey through sorrow and joy. Friends, if you haven’t begun this particular journey yet know that all of us are invited into this journey of transformation.