Fancy Titles & Big Gestures

Originally preached on 2/28/2021

Message Title: Fancy Titles & Big Gestures
Theme: Record Breakers & Redemption
Season: Lent
Main Text: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Scripture Reading: Mark 8:31-38
RCL Scripture: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Psalm 22:23-31; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38 or Mark 9:2-9
Focus: God makes a covenant with Abram & Sarai and seals it with a sign.
Function: To return God’s commitment with a commitment of our own.
Other Notes: Guinness Records in Indiana https://www.indystar.com/story/life/2014/10/09/guiness-book-world-records-hoosiers/16960841/

SCRIPTURE READING: Mark 8:31-38 31 Then Jesus began to teach his disciples: “The Human One must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and the legal experts, and be killed, and then, after three days, rise from the dead.” 32 He said this plainly. But Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him. 33 Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, then sternly corrected Peter: “Get behind me, Satan. You are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.” 34 After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. 35 All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them. 36 Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? 37 What will people give in exchange for their lives? 38 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this unfaithful and sinful generation, the Human One will be ashamed of that person when he comes in the Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

WORLD RECORD: Michael Jackson—King of Pop –Michael Joseph Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana in 1958. You would have to live under a rock to have not heard of the King of Pop.Though his story is full of controversy, scandal, and pain, there is no denying the musical talent he contained.

At one point in time, Michael Jackson held 24 world records. Some have since been broken by new artists. As of 2020, Jackson currently holds 16 Guinness World Records, including best-selling album of all time and most expensive music video.

YearNominee / workAward
1984ThrillerBest-selling album of all time
1984Michael JacksonMost Grammy wins in one night
1996Scream” (Shared with Janet Jackson)Most expensive short film[52]
1997ThrillerBest-selling album by a male soloist in the UK
1999Michael Jackson and Janet JacksonMost successful siblings[53][54]
2000Michael JacksonMost charities supported by a pop star[55][56][57]
2002Making Michael Jackson’s ThrillerBest-selling music video
2006You Are Not AloneFirst vocalist to enter the US single chart at No. 1  
2009Michael JacksonMost simultaneous charted singles in the UK charts in a year 
2002Michael JacksonMost American Music Awards won by a male artist[59][h]
2010Michael JacksonHighest-earning deceased artist[60]
2011Michael Jackson’s This Is ItHighest-grossing concert film of all time
2011Michael JacksonLongest span of US top 40 singles[63][j]
2015Black or WhiteLargest TV audience for a video premiere[k]
2015 Michael JacksonHighest annual earnings for a celebrity ever [64]
2016Michael JacksonHighest-earning dead celebrity [65]
source: wiki (yes i realize that’s not really a scholarly source)

AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: What is your favorite Michael Jackson song? Even if you have to reach back to the Jackson 5.

TRANSITION: Michael Jackson may be the “King of Pop” but in our text for today, Abram is given the title of “Father of Many Nations” by God. Let’s dive into the covenant between Abram & God.

SCRIPTURE READING: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 When Abram was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am El Shaddai. Walk with me and be trustworthy. I will make a covenant between us and I will give you many, many descendants.” Abram fell on his face, and God said to him, “But me, my covenant is with you; you will be the ancestor of many nations. And because I have made you the ancestor of many nations, your name will no longer be Abram but Abraham. I will make you very fertile. I will produce nations from you, and kings will come from youI will set up my covenant with you and your descendants after you in every generation as an enduring covenant. I will be your God and your descendants’ God after you. … 15 God said to Abraham, “As for your wife Sarai, you will no longer call her Sarai. Her name will now be Sarah16 I will bless her and even give you a son from her. I will bless her so that she will become nations, and kings of peoples will come from her.”

EXPLAINATION: God makes a covenant with Abram & Sarai and seals it with a sign.

  1. Abram was 99 when this covenant was established.
  2. God tells Abram God’s name is El Shaddai (some translate this as Almighty God but it could also be God on the Mountain.)
  3. Covenant details:
    1. Abram’s Covenant responsibilities to commit to God and be trustworthy.
      1. Sign of the covenant: circumcising all the males in his household. Any male committing to this covenant will have that sign on their body.
    2. Reward: Abram will have many descendants (in a time when a family tree was basically a sign of wealth & prosperity.)
      1. God promises Abram that he will be a great nation & changes his name to Abraham.
        1. Kings will come from the line of Abraham.
      2. God commits not just to Abraham, but to Sarah and their offspring for generations.
        1. Kings will come from Sarah’s line.
        2. This covenant description is different from God’s previous mention of this promise to Abram in Genesis 12 and 15.
        3. This promise isn’t just for Abram/Abraham, but for Sarai/Sarah too. (WP)

INTERPRETATION: God makes a covenant with Abram & Sarai and seals it with a sign.

  1. God is claiming to be Abraham & Sarah’s God and the God of their future generations.
    1. God is changing religion for that time era. Much has changed from Adam & Eve to Noah to Abram & Sarai. Humans did not walk with God as Adam and Eve. Humans didn’t listen to God. And then, during the time of Abram & Sarai, deities were tribal or national.
      1. Your family gods were yours and not the same as the other tribes’ family gods. Your gods protected you and their gods protected them. Sometimes they would even have to fight it out to see who was the stronger family god.
        1. Think Egyptians, Greeks, or Romans as national gods.
        2. Think Chinese Dynasties as family gods that become national gods.
        3. Think of indigenous tribes and their gods.
    2. God takes this moment and promises Abraham & Sarah will be ancestors of NATIONS and that God will be the God of their ancestors. God is shifting things from a tribal religion. God is bringing creation back to God’s intentions.
  2. Previous portions of the Covenant:
    1. Genesis 12: 1-3 The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you. 2I will make of you a great nation and will bless you. I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, those who curse you I will curse; all the families of the earth will be blessed because of you.”
      1. They go but Abram struggles with trusting God and regularly does things his own way (or his wife’s way). I.e., Egypt & Pharaoh.
    2. Genesis 15: 4-6, 18-21 4The Lord’s word came immediately to him, “This man will not be your heir. Your heir will definitely be your very own biological child.” 5Then he brought Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars if you think you can count them.” He continued, “This is how many children you will have.” 6Abram trusted the Lord, and the Lord recognized Abram’s high moral character. … 18That day the Lord cut a covenant with Abram: “To your descendants I give this land, from Egypt’s river to the great Euphrates, 19together with the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”
      1. God promises Abram & Sarai off spring & land. Sarai is barren, so they take advantage of their slave Hagar to provide Abram a son. Once again trying to take things into their own hands to fulfill God’s promises.
  3. This third time speaking the covenant to Abram, God changes Abram’s name and says that Sarai is part of the promise. She, too, will have a biological child.
    1. Abraham pleads that Ishmael, his son by Hagar, would count as the heir but God’s redemption story includes Sarai and does not include taking advantage of Hagar. However, God doesn’t abandon Hagar or Ishmael and they receive a blessing to become a great nation as well.
  4. God’s redemption plan will be done in God’s holy and righteous way. God once again reestablishes this covenant with Abraham, explicitly including Sarah this time, and calls Abraham to walk with God and live a trustworthy life.
    1. The sign that Abraham is committing to the covenant is circumcision.
  5. God asked for a mutual commitment from Abraham. There was an event to signal the commitment and a behavior that changed permanently as a result of that commitment.
    1. At one point in time, it was easy to see by looking at a group of people what tribe, religion, or political group they affiliated with.
      1. In Jesus’ time, well after Abram & Sarai, you could see a person’s loyalties based on their dress.
      2. A modern-day example would be the headdress worn by Arabic men. This headdress goes by different names depending on the region you are from but the meaning remains the same. The pattern of the fabric and the way it is tied signifies where you are from and sometimes even your political party.
        1. Example: Palestine, Yemen, Jordan
  6. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: How do we show our loyalties?
    1. Examples: Sports teams;Coke, soda, pop; Firefly or lightning bug
      1. I joke that drawing the lines for the Midwest would be a good divisive activity.
    2. Those are all fun loyalties to consider; it gets less fun when we talk about religion, politics, or economic status.
  7. When Abram’s name was changed to Abraham, God was not just changing his name but changing his will. God was saying, “I know you’ve got a plan Abram, but mine is even more fulfilling.”

APPLICATION: To return God’s commitment with a commitment of our own.

  1. Much like Abraham shifted his plans to meet God’s, Being children of Abraham & followers of Christ means joining the covenant. We aren’t getting God to join our plans, rather we are joining God’s plans.
    1. Think about the fact that the Lord’s prayer doesn’t say “My will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It says “Thy will be done.” – God’s will.
  2. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: If we were to designate a covenantal sign for Christ followers, what would it be?
    1. No longer is circumcision necessary as a sign of the covenant. If you’re curious, that was discussed in Acts 15. Also, only God would know about that commitment…. I mean we aren’t checking.
    2. The reality is that the Christian faith is a large spectrum of humans. It’s not as easy to get us to agree on how to perform baptism much less design a universal symbol of our faith. Plus, so many signs have baggage or connotations behind them.
    3. I.e.—have you ever thought what Jesus would think if he came back and saw that we use crosses in our worship décor? You know, the thing used to sentence him to death? I know that is the point. A brutal thing becomes converted to a symbol of love… but at the same time, I gotta wonder what Jesus would say.
  3. So as we think about it in genuine terms, How do we show our loyalty to God both in publicly visible and invisible ways?
    1. Answer: with our words and our actions. Symbols can be misinterpreted or meanings can change BUT our words and our actions can be a constant testimony to our commitment to God.  
  4. Liberty Commitment Card: deacons pass out and collect after service.
    1. Tangible commitments in current church practice:
      1. Child dedication/ family dedication
      2. Baptism or recommitment to baptism
      3. Membership
      4. Volunteering/committee
      5. Tithing/pledge

CONCLUSION: Even after death, Michael Jackson is still maintaining his title as King of Pop with 16 Guinness World Records. Through life, death, and eternity we are able to claim the title as Children of God. We don’t perform actions as a way to earn that title but we respond to the gift we’ve been given with our life.

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