Rev. Rosemary Webb
27th September 2015
Our Promise to God

I think all leaders will tell you that to be successful as a country, business, sports team everyone must pull together, work as one. You know the common aim and must work to achieve it.

The passage from Genesis is God’s second great covenant with his people Israel. The chapter begins with God appearing again to Abram, telling him he is God Almighty and that Abram will follow and obey him and change his name to Abraham. A covenant isn’t dissimilar is some ways to a contract, but the one great difference is that God sets it all up, he makes the ground rules, he ensure it works and he delivers the promises for eternity.

God knows we are weak, that we make mistakes, but his promise is that he will never break his promises and our part of the bargain is that we will try hard to keep our promises, we will work with him.

The promise he made to Abraham is that he will be the father of many nations that his name will be great, and that God will give him the land of Canaan, and Abraham’s promise is that he will make sure that every male is circumcised, a sign of their relationship with God.

This covenant is in many ways not unlike the promises made in Baptism. Promises are made either by the person or on behalf of the child and then a Cross is made on their forehead as a sign of their covenant with God, the raising to new life through Jesus Christ. Circumcism was the sign of the old covenant reminding God’s people of what God would do. Baptism is the new covenant, God’s final covenant, to remind us of what he has done for us through Jesus Christ.

There is something else which makes this passage really special for me, firstly, that Sarah will bear him a son, to be called Isaac – that God will make an everlasting covenant with him and his descendants. That one of Isaacs’s descendants would be the Messiah, Jesus Christ. God said he would also bless Ishmael; he would be the father of twelve rulers and would become a great nation, and as we know, one of his descendants was Mohammed.

Rather like when I preached the other week, when I said who but God could know that humans were made from dust, now in this passage, who but God could have known that Isaac’s line would produce the Messiah, and Ishmael’s line Mohammed. I may be a bit dense but how can people not see there must be a God, who else could have prophesied that would happen. Christian, Jew and Moslem our faiths are descended from Abraham, he is, as God told him, the father of many nations.

In the Gospel reading the disciples had just stopped a man casting out demons, not because he wasn’t truly casting them out but because he was doing it in Jesus’ name and they didn’t know him. He wasn’t one of their group. So what was Christ’s reaction to that – he told the disciples to stop, he didn’t like it – for he knows that whoever does good in his name is not against him, shares in Christ’s aim. Just as today different churches like to score points over each other, they cannot see that we may differ but we are still one in Christ.

This section of Mark’s Gospel is concerned with discipleship, and what is expected of those of us who call ourselves Christian. Jesus is calling us to be reconciled with each other – ‘whoever is not against us is for us’. We may not feel comfortable with the way another church worships or dresses, but that doesn’t mean they are not also working for the kingdom. Sometimes it seems as if which church has the most members is the most important thing, but surely the most important thing is how we work in our community to spread the Gospel.

Christ was teaching the disciples that they could not fence themselves off from those who followed him in different ways. But why were the disciples against the man, was it that they felt threatened, that there position was being challenged? Or worse than that did they think he wasn’t as good as them – if so let us always remember Jesus’ answer, none is better than the other.

But there are tragically still many in the church who think that you are only a real Christian if you fit in with their ideals, there are still people who reject women and homosexuals, and others, who surely like the disciples are saying they don’t agree with what Jesus said; although I am sure they wouldn’t admit it. They seem to see faith as a place of judgement rather than a place of reconciliation; they forget Christ’s command that we should love one another.

But Jesus is pointing out that our lifestyles; attitudes do make a difference to our pilgrimage through life. He knows we cannot be perfect, that we will sin, but we must be will to repent to seek God’s forgiveness. And I believe it is not just in our attitude towards each other but in our attitude to God’s creation.

One of the most pressing things in society today, is I believe, the need to be aware of God’s creation, not to just take it for granted but to protect it. We must work to stop people not just being selfish in their attitude to each other but in their attitude to God’s creation. We do not own the world; during our lives we are its protector to ensure that future generations may inherit it.

The contribution of Christians to the health of the world depends on our own attitudes. The life of the world depends on us.

Just as Abraham was called by God to ensure the Jewish faith through circumcism so are we called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and to work as one for Christ’s kingdom here on earth. By calling people to seek forgiveness and to come to Baptism through the church’s teaching of the Gospel, that is what God seeks of us, that is the promise he wants us to make.

Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.

Genesis 17 Mark 9