Two In  :  Two Out

Sunday, September 20, 2020
Intern Michael Poeschl

Genesis 15:1-6

Like Abram, I have spent many evenings in a tent.

I enjoy long wilderness canoe trips and sleeping in a tent.

Being far away from the comfort and security of home begins when I ask my wife for permission to go.

Getting a yes from her, year after year, is the result of the understanding we have for each other.  When I am there my heart is filled with joy.

My faith in God is strengthened on these trips, as I absorb the beauty of nature with my friends.  The success of our trips depends on working together and taking care of each other.

Travelling with two doctors also gives added security.

Taking these trips together over twenty years with the same friends also helps me to make sense of my relationship with God. I believe I am claimed by God.

God’s promise of salvation gives me courage everyday.

Courage comes in handy when we encounter new obstacles on our trips.  I have found that relying on the competence of each other has helped us to develop a relationship of trust.  That trust often reveals itself through small events.

If you have ever slept in a tent, then you have probably been startled awake by noises from outside.  With a little imagination, the sounds from a mouse rustling outside your tent can sound like a marauding bear.  Bolting up, you look for an answer in the faces of your tent mates.  With a trembling voice you ask, “What was that?”  That’s when a tent mate provides words of protection and comfort.

They say, “Don’t be afraid- it’s okay,”  and I believe them.

In our reading for today, God comes to Abram in a vision.

God speaks directly to Abram, telling him three things;

“Do not be afraid, Abram,

I am your shield;

your reward shall be very great.”

Abram trusts God and his life in God is a model for us to follow.

God and Abram have a close relationship.  Believing in God gives us courage and we are not afraid, because God is our shield.  Our reward is very great when we are partners with God.

“And he believed the Lord, and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.”

God offers this promise and all we have to do is believe it.  Through faith we know that we are claimed by God.

Like a pebble that starts a ripple moving outward, our faith expands outward as we live into God’s promise for us.

Professor Matt Skinner wrote,

“Faith has an active existential character to it, for it involves commitment of oneself to the reliability of another.”

We trust that God is always for us. God’s promise is true, and we are shaped by this promise over our lifetime.  Abram follows God with complete obedience.

God’s promise has been passed down faithfully through generations.  Our relationship as descendents of Abram include us in that promise.  Paul reminds us of that promise in Romans 3:24,

“Just as Abram received righteousness as a gift, so also we, being justified freely by God’s grace.”  God speaks and we believe.

In Genesis 12, God tells Abram, “Go into a land that I will show you, and I will make you a great nation, I will bless you and in you all families of earth will be blessed.”  Abram hears this and he goes without knowing  what will happen.  He believes in God’s promise.  Once Abram heard the word of God he was all in.  Abram’s faith rises to a level of complete obedience to what God tells him to do.

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I am a volunteer firefighter.  I have experienced this level of trust on a fire scene.  When most people run out of a burning building, firefighters are prepared to go in and put the fire out.  While this is extremely dangerous, there is a partnership between firefighters that relies on faith with complete obedience. Faith between myself and my partner, and complete obedience to;  the Two-In: Two-Out Rule.

When you are going into a burning building your goal is to rescue any victims and put out the fire.  To do this you need the right training, the correct equipment, and a partner who you trust your life with.  Right before entering the burning building you and your partner know that you have a sacred trust.

If two of you go in together, then two of you will be coming out together.  You share in the responsibility of taking that other person’s life into your hands.  If one of you goes down, the other is there to help and call a MAYDAY!

In a fire this bond cannot be broken or you are left alone, possibly to die.  Your relationship in that fire is governed by obedience to the Two-in:Two-Out Rule.  If you are not willing to do that for your partner, then you have no place going into that fire.  You hold their life in trust.

That’s the trust Abram felt with God.  God and Abram are partners; two-in and two-out.  I hear God when he tells me not to be afraid, that he is my shield, and my reward shall be very great.  Upholding your part of the promise is your partnership with God.  Just as I depend on my partner in a fire, I depend on God to be my partner, knowing that I will never be left alone.  Abram models what it means to be with God. I am reminded of a verse from last year’s theme at Augustana, Hebrews 11:1, “… this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living.”

Abram and Sarai trusted God in the face of many unknowns.

God promises to be our shield when we face life challenges and unknowns.

Our obedience to God is threatened when we think that we can do everything by ourselves.  Leaving God out of our decisions and plans only leaves us without help when we might need it most.  God is trustworthy, but that can be difficult to see when you may be facing the loss of a loved one, a difficult medical diagnosis, or any one of life’s challenges.

In partnership with God we need to communicate our needs.   On a fire scene, if I see a hole in the floor, I warn my partner or I  grab them and pull them back, I would expect the same from them.

In the same way, God has a hold of us, to pull us back from danger.  We are safer when we are close to God.  God wants to be with us through  the good and the bad.    Even when Abram and Sarai had been without a child for many years the promise for descendants was still a possibility for God.

God can do what we may think is impossible.  That possibility exists when we say, “I believe you,” to God. Even when we make mistakes, God remains faithful to us.

Abram laments to God that he has given him no offspring.  A great reward is meaningless for Abram if it can’t be passed down to a son he doesn’t have.  God reminds Abram that Eliezer won’t be his heir, no one but your own issue shall be your heir.  God still has a plan for them, even though Abram still doesn’t understand.

To show Abram, God brought him outside.  Imagine the brightness of those stars in the desert night. I have been awed by those same stars in the wilderness.  God says, “Count the stars, if you are able to count them.”  Abram is speechless.  Then God said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”

Abram saw what God meant and he knew that God would never leave him.

That’s what you see in your partner’s eyes before going into a fire.

No words need to be spoken, it is simply understood that you are there for each other.  This partnership is why the Two-In:Two-Out Rule works. No one gets left behind.   Abrams’ belief in God doesn’t need words. God promises and we follow.

Together with God we have each other’s backs.

God won’t leave us behind.

Two-In:Two Out.      Amen

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