The call to God's people (Gen 12:1-4)             by Zandra Lomas

This is the second talk of a series based on great Mission Statements of the Bible. Today’s statement is found in Ch.12 of the book of Genesis.

 “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you: I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

So what is a Mission Statement?  Wikkepedia defines it as a statement of the purpose of a company or organisation – its reason for existing.

Here are a few lighthearted ones that made me giggle.

“We the willing led by the unknowing are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much for so long with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.”

“Our mission will be accomplished by pursuing a strategy of crisis management – lurching randomly from one predictable near calamity to another.”

“We are upgrading to bacon rolls in the Friday morning Senior Management Team meeting.”

But, seriously, reverting to Wikkepedia, mission statements should guide the actions of the organisation, spell out its overall goal, provide a path and guide decision making. It is the framework or context within which the company’s strategies are formulated.

Last Sunday’s great Mission Statement was that we “the organisation” should love, care for and nurture all of creation.  “our overall goal that guides our decision making.”

In today’s Mission Statement, (above in red,) “I” refers to God speaking and the “you” refers to  a man called Abram who was being asked to leave his extended family and home to go to a land as yet unrevealed. It contains a promise and a framework for action.

Firstly, the promise to Abram– “I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you!” What a promise for an elderly, childless couple, that from them a whole nation will evolve, in spite of his wife, Sarah, being already past childbearing age. The promise continues with the amazing announcement that the whole world will reap the benefit. “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” The consequences, therefore, of this MS will spread like ripples on a pond. This statement is a promise of purpose – a reason for existence.

It is said V 2-3, the MS,  sum up the theology of the book of Genesis and they are key to its interpretation.(New Bible Commentary)

As well as the promise and blessing, this MS, also provides a guide to decision making and a pathway for action. Abram, soon to be known as Abraham , had already made the decision to leave his former home Ur, in southern Iraq, with his extended family, and they had all settled after a long journey in Haran, in Eastern Syria. Now Abraham begins the framework for further action because this MS urges him to leave Haran, to begin this formation of a new nation, in a new land, in order that this nation will be “a blessing to the whole world.”

So having received the promise, Abraham makes the big decision to leave Haran and his extended family and head into the unknown, thus beginning the work of creation that will bless the whole world.

This MS is like an artisits triptych – 3 paintings hinged together,


Now we know that the promise came true, because Abraham was indeed the founding father of the nation of Israel, but as centuries passed and the nation formed and grew, its spiritual journey wobbled to and fro, with the prophets desperately trying to keep the nation on its spiritual track. In the sermon series we have had over this Summer on Isaiah, we saw how the nation of Israel was expected to be a blessing and a servant to the world, but running alongside this concept was that of an individual  servant who would fulfil the job description on behalf of the nation – the real action of being a blessing to the world would fall to him – to Jesus.

There is a delightful children’s story that tells of a number of mice living comfortably in an old house – that is until the advent of THE CAT. The cat was clever and cunning and life for the mice became one of fear and harassment. So the mice called a meeting to decide what to do about the cat. After discussion, it was agreed that a bell would be tied round the cat’s neck, so they would be warned when it approached. The problem was – who was going to do that. The moral of the story is, that is easy to decide what to do, but not easy to decide who is going to do it or how it is going to be done.

So it was with Israel. They were to be a blessing to the world but how they understood this that was very differentdifferent to God’s plan revealed in the suffering servant. So the act of Israel blessing the world came in the form of one man, born of the chosen nation, whose ministry, death and resurrection would fulfil the task allotted to Israel, to be a blessing to the whole world. Unlike the mice who didn’t know who and how the job was going to be done, Jesus knew that he was the one, and he knew how to accomplish the task.

So the promise of this MS of Genesis 12 began its fulfilment in Abram but the action part of it came to fruition in and through Jesus –and we are meant to carry on the action. We, too, carry that blessing for ourselves and in the way we serve others.

When my  children were all in their teens, we decided to holiday in the Arctic Circle, such a long, long drive through Scandinavia, up through Norway, and on the way we decided to stop to find the Svartisan Glacier and this proved to be one of the most memorable and awesome moments of all  our lives. The first sight of it took our breath away in wonder, its breadth and depth, great craggy, deep folds of radiant blue, and then as we sat staring at the tongue of this immense glacier, hanging in great folds over a large lake, there was an ear splitting, thunderous crack and a massive chunk broke off the end and plunged into the water. A towering plume of spray was hurled into the air and we sat mesmorised as we watched the ripples emanating bigger, wider and further across the lake, until they reached the shore where we were sitting.

In a way, Jesus represents that great chunk of ice, separated from God, to come and be one with us, here on earth, and the awesome splash of his arrival was his amazing ministry culminating in his sacrificial death and glorious resurrection. We are meant to catch some of the drops of the great spray of his life and ministry, so we can spiritually water our own lives and the lives of others in joyful service and in the care and nurture of creation.

It’s comforting to know that God’s blessing rests on each one of us and on all people as well as all creation and we are here to share that knowledge around, like the ripples on that lake.

If we were to redefine This MS in terms similar to Wikkepedia, it might go something like this…

“We (the organisation/or people) are blessed by God and our principle and guiding philosophy and action is inherent in the teaching of Jesus and it is to be a blessing in service to others.”

© St Bartholomew's PCC 2011