Worship Service – March 13, 2022

Scriptures; Genesis 15:1-12,17-18, Romans 4:1-8
Message; “Easter’s Grace, Grace Believed”

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

God’s Covenant with Abram

(1) After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward. “
(2) But Abram said, “O Sovereign Lord , what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” (3) And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
(4) Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.” (5) He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars-if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
(6) Abram believed the Lord , and he credited it to him as righteousness.
(7) He also said to him, “I am the Lord , who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”
(8) But Abram said, “O Sovereign Lord , how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”
(9) So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”
(10) Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. (11) Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.
(12) As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.
(17) When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. (18) On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates.

Romans 4:1-8

Abraham Justified by Faith

(1) What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? (2) If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about–but not before God. (3) What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
(4) Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. (5) However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. (6) David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
(7) “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
(8) Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.”

This is the word of God, for the people of God. Thanks be to God.

Our lesson for this second Sunday in Lent concerns a promise. A promise that God made to Abraham. At the time this promise was made, Abraham was still known as Abram. The writer of Genesis begins our story like this, “After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.’”
Now we might rightfully ask, “After what?” When the writer begins by saying “After this . . .” What he is referring to happened immediately before Abram’s vision?
In the preceding chapter we see Abram in a heroic light. His nephew Lot had been kidnapped by a plundering alliance of four kings who had defeated Sodom. Abram raised a small army and set out to rescue Lot. And he did rescue him.
Now in this chapter we see Abram the hero, hearing from God: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” That’s interesting, don’t you think? God is saying, “Don’t be afraid” to a man who just had an incredible military victory over four hostile kings. Abram should be on top of the world. But you see, despite that victory, there is a lingering concern a lingering question in Abram’s heart and mind. Despite the many victories that God has given him, he still has some doubt in his relationship with God. God had promised him that he would father a great people. Yet he and his wife Sarai remained childless.
You certainly can’t blame Abram for his concern. So when God says to Abram, “I am your shield, your very great reward,” Abram responds to God like this: “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus? You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
In his infinite wisdom Abram was trying to say to God, as far as he could tell, this was the only way things could possibly work. God didn’t come through, so Abram says to God, “Look, here’s where things stand. The only possible way out of this situation is for me to choose a slave as my heir.”
Have you ever done that? “Lord, I don’t see any way this can possibly work out. Here’s what you need to do . . .” And we explain to the infinite God what He must do.
In today‘s scripture, God reminds Abram of the wonderful plans he has for him. Instead of saying, “Thanks, Lord,” Abram replies, “O Lord God, what can you give me, since I remain childless, and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus? … You have given me no children; so a servant in my house-hold will be my heir.” (Genesis 15:2-3).
Then the word of the Lord came to Abram: “This man will not be your heir,” God says to him, “but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.” Then the Lord took Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars–if indeed you can count them.” Then God said to Abram, “So shall your offspring be.”
Then the writer of Genesis adds these words, “Abram believed the Lord, and credited it to him as righteousness.” Abram put aside his doubts and believed.
With the victory that God had given Abram over the four kings as a backdrop, we see how shaky Abram’s faith really was. No matter how many times God had been with him in the past, Abram had difficulty trusting God in his present circumstances. And that’s often true of you and me as well. We come to church and sing, “What a friend we have in Jesus” and still have a hard time trusting him in our current circumstances.
We’re like the man who went to a psychiatrist. “I’ve got trouble,” he said. “Every time I get into bed, I think there’s somebody under it. I get under the bed, I think there’s somebody on top of it. All night long, I’m looking under the bed or I’m on the floor peering at the bottom of the bed. It’s awful. You gotta help me, I’m going crazy!”
“Just put yourself in my hands for two years,” said the psychiatrist. “Come to me three times a week, and I’ll cure your fears.”
“How much do you charge?” the man asked.
“A hundred dollars per visit,” answered the psychiatrist.
“I’ll sleep on it,” said the man.
Six months later the psychiatrist met this same man on the street and asked, “Why didn’t you ever come to see me again?”
“For a hundred bucks a visit?” the man said. “My best friend cured me for nothing.”
“Is that so?” asked the psychiatrist. “How?”
The man said, “He cut the legs off my bed!”
I wish it were that easy to deliver people from their fears and discomfort. Life can be so scary.
Surely part of Abram’s discomfort, at this moment was a realization of his own mortality.
Abram was no longer young, and he was troubled. He and his wife, Sarah, had no heirs. And she was far past her child-bearing years. When he was younger, Abram had obeyed what he believed to be God’s leading. He left his prosperous homeland and struck out to where the Lord called him to go. In return he understood that he was to father a great people.
That was a long time ago. And Abram had prospered. God had kept His promises to Abram in every area except one. How could he father a people when his wife Sarah was old and barren? With tired eyes Abram looked into the future and the future looked unpromising. It was a little late to change his course.
He was like a young man who was learning to fly. It was his first flight at night. Looking into the darkness, he asked his instructor what he should do if the engine failed. “Get the plane gliding in a controlled descent,” said the instructor, “then attempt to restart the engine and make a “Mayday” call. The only difference between day and night flying is that the terrain below will not be clearly visible, so you should point the aircraft toward whatever looks like a clear area and it should be pointing into the wind.” “Then what?” the young student pilot asked. “Conserve your battery,” said the instructor, “so don’t turn on your landing lights until you’re close to the ground. If you like what you see, land.” “Okay,” said the student, “but what if I don’t like what I see?” His instructor gave him a compassionate look inside that dim cockpit, then said softly, “Turn off the landing lights.” In that situation, if you don’t like what you see, it is too late to do anything about it. You might as well turn off your lights.
It’s in Gods hands.
Isn’t that like the old joke about the pilot who asked the same sort of question and the instructor said, “If you don’t like what you see, repeat after me: Our Father, who art in Heaven . . .” And sometimes life is like that.
There are many people today who look into the future and the future looks unpromising. Just as it did for Abram. Abram is nearing the end of his life. Abram was not a perfect man by any means. But he was a man who tried to do what God wanted him to do. The scripture tells us that: “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”(Genesis 15:6)
This is the Old Testament verse that is the foundation for so much of the theology of the New Testament. In the Hebrew faith salvation came through righteousness. Only people who did right in the eyes of the Lord could expect to be rewarded. But, says the writer of Genesis, because Abram believed God, it was counted as his being righteous. Believing God was more important than keeping the Law.
I wonder how many of us believe God. Many believe in God, but don’t believe God. They believe that God exists, but they don’t really trust that God is aware when a sparrow falls to the earth, and that we are of infinitely of more value than a sparrow. They believe God exists, but don’t trust that God will always ensure that they are not tested beyond their ability to endure. They believe there is a God, but are not sure about Christ’s promise that, “in my Father’s house are many rooms . . . I go to prepare a place for you that where I am so you may also be.”
During this season of Lent our focus is on “Easter’s Grace”, and we need to understand that,”Easter’s Grace” is only received if we have that, “Grace Believed”!
In our reading in Romans Paul references this all important verse: “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” As a matter of fact he also used that same verse in Galatians 3:6 when he wrote: “ Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Paul tells us that “Easter’s Grace” is ours only when that Grace is Believed! He tells us, when Abraham was credited with righteousness , he was an ungodly man who had no “works” God could reward. God justified the Abraham who believed, not the Abraham who “worked.” This is also true with regard to David, whose sins were forgiven and who was reckoned by God as righteous apart from works, quoting Ps. 32:1–2.
Jesus’ brother James, also used this verse, (James 2:23) writing: “And the scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend.”
To be sure, the problems being dealt with are quite different. Paul is addressing people who think that salvation is tied to keeping the Jewish law. Where as James addresses people who think that salvation brings no responsibility.
James makes clear, that “Easter’s Grace, Grace Believed”, in its very nature, produce those works that will acquit us at the judgment. Paul insisted that faith and works are different things and must be kept separate, when we think about our standing before God; but James likewise insists that faith and works are inseparable.
James’ point is that God will not approve a person just because he or she is very religious or can pass a test in systematic theology. He will declare someone righteous only if this faith is such that the person acts on it and produces the natural result of commitment and obedient action. With such a point Paul would not disagree.
Just as you and I, like Abram, are not perfect by any means. We can receive “Easter’s Grace” and become a friend of God’s when that, “Grace is Believed”.
Do you believe in God or do you believe God ? Can you honestly say to the person sitting next to you,”I believe the Lord, and he credits it to me as righteousness”?
“Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”
In His Service, Pastor Joe
Listen To Audio: Sermon 20220313

Prayer of Confession:    Jesus, often you weep over our sins and our pride; tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgement.  Lord Jesus, in your mercy, heal us; in your love and tenderness, remake us.  In your compassion, bring grace and forgiveness; for the beauty of heaven, may your love prepare us.   In Your name Jesus we pray, Amen.




Pastor Joe will be available at the church on Thursday afternoon from 2 to 4.  If you need to speak to him, contact Pastor Joe at 570-267-4570 (cell) or Email: joe.s.travis@gmail.com

Loose change goes to General Fund.

Sunday School starts at 8:30am

Choir practice will be on Thursday at 1:00!  Please come and join us in singing praises to Jesus! 

One Great Hour of Sharing starts continues.

Men’s Breakfast Wednesday March 16th at 8:00 A.M.

Presbyterian Women will meet on Thursday, March 17th for Cleaning the Community Building 10-11am and meeting 11 to 1.

Pastor Joe and Bonne will be on vacation the last two weeks of March.

Newsletter Deadline – Tuesday, March 29th, 2022.

Please sign up to host one of the social hours on the Sunday after Communion Service on the first Sunday of the month.  

Listen to WPEL 96.5 for church cancellation if your internet is down during a storm this winter.


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