Genesis 25:7-11; Hebrews 11:8-12
Sunday, October 29, 2017
If I asked the question, “what do Cooperstown, New York, Canton, Ohio, Springfield, Massachusetts and Charlotte, North Carolina all have in common?” I suspect that many of you would immediately know the answer. Those cities are the homes of the Halls of Fame of four major American sports. Cooperstown is where you would find the Baseball Hall of Fame. Canton is the home of the Football Hall of Fame. Springfield is the location of the Basketball Hall of Fame. And Charlotte is the newest addition to the list as the residence of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
But, if I asked, “what do Euclid, Ohio, Elkhart, Indiana, Rochester, New York and Hebrews Chapter 11 in the Bible have in common?” Would you know that those are also the homes of Halls of Fame too? That’s right, in Euclid you would find the Polka Hall of Fame. In Elkhart, we could visit the RV and Motorhome Hall of Fame. And, in Rochester, we could all go to the National Toy Hall of Fame. But, Hebrews 11 is the most important of them all, for it is there that we read about the Hall of Fame of Faith. Perhaps not surprisingly, at the top of the list of inductees is none other than Abraham himself.
But why? Why does Abraham make it into the Hall of Fame of Faith as a unanimous pick on the first ballot? Is it because he was perfect? No. Is it because he always followed God without any reservation? No. Is it because he and Sarah always saw eye to eye and had the perfect marriage? No. Then, why?
Personally, I think Abraham is in the Hall of Fame of Faith because in spite of his mistakes and despite his impatience, Abraham, by and large, trusted and had faith in God over the long haul of his life which, according to Genesis 25, lasted for 175 years. Thats it. Abraham made the Hall of Fame because he was faithful. He didn’t give up, he didn’t quit, he didn’t let his frustrations get the best of him but rather in both the high holy moments and more importantly in the mundane moments he continued to trust God and to exhibit faith in God. Abraham wasn’t flashy, he wasn’t charismatic, he wasn’t overly talented. No, he was faithful. In the end, this was enough.
What is interesting is that based on what we know of Abraham from the Bible, there were only a few rather amazing moments in Abraham’s life. Among those incredible occasions, we could list Abraham’s decision to follow God to Canaan, his willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac and maybe his devotion to his nephew Lot. At the same time, we can name almost as many failures from Abraham like his struggle to be patient, the decision to go to Egypt during the famine while attempting to pass off Sarah as his sister and his poor treatment of both the servant Hagar and her son Ishmael. Beyond those half dozen or so moments, the bulk of Abraham’s 175 days were lived out much like ours in the attempt to be obedient, faithful and to trust God in the minutia and mundaneness of life. So, did those few sterling moments not contribute to Abraham’s induction into the Hall of Fame? Of course they did! But, it was also the good decisions in life’s daily grind that were equally if not more telling of who Abraham was and what was most important to him.
Today, is Reformation Sunday in Protestant Churches all over the world. Now this doesn’t mean much to lots of folks but it should. On Tuesday, October 31, the world will mark the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s delivering the 95 thesis to the church in Wittenberg, Germany. In other words, on that day, Martin Luther, offered 95 complaints against the Catholic Church and it was those complaints that set in motion what would ultimately become almost every expression of Christianity in the Western World other than Catholicism. Protestants like Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, Disciples and many others all have our beginnings in Martin Luther’s protest against the Catholic Church.
About ten years ago, I was in Germany with a group from our church in Johns Creek. We were there on a mission trip and had some time one day for some touring. That afternoon, we went to the town of Efurt, Germany and stumbled upon the monastery where Luther originally took his vows for ministry and preached his first sermon. What I found interesting was the vast difference between this historic site in the life of Luther compared to the historic site in Wittenberg, Germany where Luther is said to have nailed his 95 complaints to the church door. People from all over the world come to Wittenberg to see the place where Luther had his big moment and changed world history. But, hardly anyone goes to Efurt to see where Luther quietly lived out his daily faith. Why in Efurt, they didn’t even have information on Luther available in English because so few people from the outside world come to visit there. Yet, I would argue that what happened in Efurt was every bit as important as what happened in Wittenberg. We simply don’t remember it or treat as being of equal importance.
My point is simply this – what makes us great cannot be boiled down to those two or three moments that everyone remembers from our lives. What makes us great is what we do with all of the days of our lives. Yes, what we do when the spotlight is on us is incredible telling about our character. But, so is what we do when no one is looking and when no one apparently cares.
Abraham, became Father Abraham in our song and memories because of what he did with all of his life not just with a few days of it.
May we recognize that faithfulness in the ordinary will define us too. Amen.