Messiah Lutheran Church :: SHINE ALL THE TIME!


Dear Christian friends,

            Yogi Berra was a hall of fame catcher who played for the New York Yankees.  He was one of the greatest catchers of all time.  He was also a manager of the New York Yankees after his playing days were over.  He was also a character.   He was famous for the Yogi Berraisms that came out of his mouth.  People wondered if he purposely said what he said or if they just came out by accident.  He once said to a reporter about baseball, "Ninety percent of this game is half mental." He advised people always to go to other people’s funerals so that one day they would come to yours.  During the early 1960’s teammates Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle were having terrific years.  Maris hit 61 home runs while Mantle hit 54.   Many of them were back to back.  He said that it was like déjà vu all over again. 

            Needless to say that was a redundancy.  Déjà vu, is French, and literally means "already seen". Like I said to say déjà vu all over again is unnecessary because it is a redundancy. 

Déjà vu is also a phenomenon when you have a strong sensation that your current experience has also been experienced in the past.  Perhaps you are in a place and you stop and have the feeling you have been there some time before.  I have had those feelings of déjà vu.  Sometimes they are pleasant and sometimes they are creepy.   

As I was reading this story of Abraham today, did anyone wonder, “Hey we have heard this before?”  Is this déjà vu?  In fact, you are absolutely right.  Twice Abraham tried to pass off his wife as his sister instead of admitting that he was also married to her.  Twenty five years prior he did the same to Pharaoh.  It blew up in his face that time, and it did again.  Let’s learn something today about Letting Our Light Shine All the Time. Yet it is a fact that our sin is déjà vu.  We have been there before.  God’s grace is déjà vu too.  Thank God we keep experiencing that too.     

            When someone is ninety nine years old one would think that he has experienced all he wants to experience in life.  He would want some peace and quiet. That was certainly not true of Abraham.  At ninety nine he had just experienced some life changing events.  First, the Lord himself came knocking at this tent’s door with two angels and told him that a son that he had promised for decades was no longer just a promise but reality. 

He also experienced the mighty power of God.  They are saying the recent floods inColoradoare a once in a thousand year event.  Abraham witnessed a once in a world’s lifetime event when he witnessed the destruction the four cities ofSodomandGomorrahand Admah and Zeboiim when God rained down fire and brimstone for the sinful perversion that took place there.  What a bunch of commotion in his life, but it wasn’t done.

Now at the age of 99, with the promise of family in front of him, he picked up his tents and considerable wealth and moved south from under the shade of the trees of Mamre to a place near Kadesh and Shur.  New surroundings! New neighbors! A new king! His name was Abimelek. 

While there were many things that were new, there are some things that never change.  On this side of the grave, the sinful heart remains.  That applies to everyone we meet too.  Abimelek had plenty of evidence he too was a sinner.

The rich and powerful often have a problem with being discreet.  Abimelek seemed to need to prove how rich and powerful he was and why he deserved to be king. 

As a kid I took an interest in current events. I had a teacher who got me interested in that.  I remember on May Day every year, there was a parade in Red Square inMoscowpart of the oldSoviet Union. The parade didn’t have flowery floats but strutted their military might of theSoviet Unionbefore a watching world.  TodayNorth Koreadoes it as if to say the world needs to show respect. .

In ancient days kings felt they needed to impress too.  Wealth was tied to power.  People were supposed to be impressed with kings who had large harems.  If they could afford all those wives and the children, they were wealthy enough and powerful enough to rule.   

Money and power connected?  Nothing has changed.  What happened 2100 years before Christ takes place 2013 years after Christ.  Déjà vu, isn’t it?   Has anybody had similar thoughts?  Have you ever daydreamed of things like that and asked what if?  It is so amazing how this book written 3500 years ago can speak to us so plainly today, isn’t it?    

Let’s talk Abraham.  A hero of faith, but that’s why he needed faith in a Savior to come.  He was a sinner and proved it.  Abraham and Sarah had made a pact that they would refer to each other as brother and sister which we find out was technically true, but they were much more than that.  When they met Abimelek, our Scripture says, ‘“She is my sister.’ Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.”          

Perhaps some of you are saying, “Did I hear that right?”  Wasn’t Sarah 89 years old and Abimelek made her part of his harem?  No offense ladies who are on Social Security and pensions, but doesn’t it seem a little strange that she would have been chosen as part of the harem at her age?  Remember Abraham was a new resident. It was very evident that he was wealthy and influential.  He had large flocks and herds.  Abimelek played the political game.  He wanted to be connected with the wealthy man that moved into town.  This was about connections.  

But the connection that really matters is the connection that everyone needs with the Lord.  We brag about connections.  My relative is….  I went to school with…  I work with someone who is related to…. I have so and so’s autograph. We even can recite connections like so and so was Jennifer Garner’s sixteenth boyfriend, or so and so played four years for the Green Bay Packers and then was traded for a second round draft pick.  But how many know Abraham’s wife’s name?  How many even know Abraham?  How many know that it is Jesus who connects us to the Father…the one connection that makes all the difference in the world.

But let’s talk about repeated sin.  This was no mere weakness when he told Abimelek that Sarah was his sister.  This was a plan.  This was premeditated.   Yet, doesn’t this show to us the extraordinary grace of God?  The good Lord didn’t let this go any farther but intervened. 

Abimelek was warned in a dream that if he touched Sarah he was as good as dead.  Because of that dream Abimelek confronted Abraham.  Rightfully so!  Abraham had all kinds of excuses.  None of them were any good.  There are no good and acceptable excuses for sin.  “Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’  That’s excuse one.  They don’t know God.  They don’t have any morals.  They have no respect for life.  Hey Abraham, God is in the heavens.  In fact, he resides in what he made.  If he made the heavens he can protect you.

            Do you find yourself doubting God’s power and presence and promise to protect you in your life?  Do you find yourself saying “What’s this world coming to when people start shooting at each other in a Chicagopark?”  When a man starts shooting in the Naval Shipyards and takes out so many?  That all happened just this week!  Do you find yourself asking, “God, are you really paying attention?”  Just like Abraham it is easy to say, “Surely there is no fear of God in this world!” Remember the promise of Jesus “I am with you always, even to the end of the ages.”  Remember the promise of Jesus, “Never will I leave you! Never will I forsake you!”  God’s grace, his undeserved love trumps all every time.  God’s grace déjà vu, isn’t it?    

            Excuse two from Abraham.  “Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife.”  While visiting my brothers and their wives this week, we had our annual fishing derby.  Catie, our three year old granddaughter, was there.  She went fishing too. Humbly I admit that she saw me land a nice sized brook trout.  The next day we went to a store to do some looking and shopping.  A woman employee started a conversation with her.  She said, “My Papa caught a big fish!” The lady, who was so nice, asked, “How big was it?” She spread her arms as far as they would go and said, “This big!”  There is a saying that goes, “I fish, therefore I lie.”  Catie welcome to the world of fishing.   

Luther said that there are three types of lies.  First is when you are just joking and saying things in fun.  You aren’t trying to hurt anyone.  It is obvious to anyone that it is an exaggeration.  The second is when you are trying to protect someone from danger.  You are showing love to someone.  Luther says that they are not sin.  Remember this is Luther saying that.  God has to be the judge. 

Here Abraham was telling the truth when he said that Sarah was his sister. His father, Terah, had her by a different wife than Abraham.  Sarah was his half sister.  Remember that God prohibited that kind of relationship 600 years later during time of Moses.  While he was telling the truth, he was also withholding the truth.  Abraham was withholding the whole truth for the sole purpose of deception.

A famous theologian once said, What upsets me is not that you lied to me, but that from now on I can no longer believe you.”  While Abimelek forgave Abraham and treated Abraham far more graciously than he deserved, one wonders if this was a blight on their relationship in the future.  See, sin has consequences on this earth. That is one of those consequences.  Another consequence is that unbelievers wonder if God permits people to lie and it is all right with him.     

Here was Abraham, a man who supposed to be a great example of God’s people not letting his light shine too well.  He got a raking over the coals as he deserved from a man who barely know the Lord. 

One thing you have to say about Abimelek is that he distinguished between the Lord and his sinful people.  He knew Abraham was being used by the Lord for a greater purpose.  “Then Abimelek brought sheep and cattle and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham, and he returned Sarah his wife to him. And Abimelek said, “My land is before you; live wherever you like.”  To Sarah he said, “I am giving your brother a thousand shekels of silver. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated.”  He returned Sarah to Abraham.  He gave him more cattle and sheep and servants to care for them.  He gave Abraham land in which to graze them.  Abraham certainly got what he DIDN’T deserve.  But God in his grace gave to him anyway.   

When a person works an eight-hour day and receives a fair day's pay for his time, we call that a wage. When a person competes with an opponent and receives a trophy for his performance, we call that a prize. When a person receives appropriate recognition for his long service or high achievements, we call that is an award. But when a person is not capable of earning a wage, can win no prize, and deserves no award--yet receives such a gift anyway--that is a good picture of God's unmerited favor.  That’s where Abraham comes into the picture.  That where we do too.  Grace déjà vu.  We need it every day.  We need to keep our light shining every day.

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