Jesus Calls Us
by the Rev. Lee Woofenden

New Year
Bridgewater, Massachusetts, October 11, 1998
Columbus Day


Genesis 12:1-8 The call of Abram

The Lord said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people, and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. 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 whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

So Abram left, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

Abram travelled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

From there he went on towards the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.

Matthew 10:1-13 Jesus sends out the twelve

He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for workers are worth their keep.

"Whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is worthy, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you."

Apocalypse Explained #864 Following the Lord

We cannot follow the Lord from self--only from the Lord. The Lord attracts us to follow him when we wish to follow in freedom. But he cannot attract us if we do not want to follow him. The Lord works with us in such a way that we may follow the Lord as if it were by ourselves, and in this way the Lord flows into our freedom. He does this so that goodness and truth may be received and planted in us, leading to our reformation and spiritual rebirth....

Following the Lord means accepting his Divine Humanity and doing his commandments, because we can be united with the Lord only when we do this. We are united with the Lord according to our acceptance and affirmation of him both from our hearts and in our lives.


The Lord said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people, and your father's household and go to the land I will show you." (Genesis 12:1)

Throughout the ages, humans have been driven to explore new lands and see new worlds.

In mythological times, Jason and the Argonauts went on a quest to find the Golden Fleece. Odysseus was driven by various misfortunes to explore many strange lands on his way back from the Trojan War.

The first explorer known to history was an Egyptian named Hennu, who in 2,007 BC took a sea voyage along the Red Sea coast of Africa, to a rich land that he called Punt. About 1,400 BC, the Phoenicians set out across the Mediterranean Sea. Alexander the Great, a Greek king, explored much of Egypt, Asia Minor, and India late in the fourth century BC, conquering them as he went.

About 1,000 AD the Vikings, led by Leif Erickson, sailed across the North Atlantic and became the first Europeans to discover the North American continent. Nearly 500 years later, Christopher Columbus made his more famous journeys, rediscovering the New World.

In our century, now that the major areas of our earth have been largely mapped and charted, the human urge to explore continues with an ongoing series of probes and human expeditions into space. Also in this century, the exploration of inner space--the human mind and spirit--has gained momentum.

Before any of the explorers recorded in secular history, in the twenty-first century BC, a man named Abram set out on a journey, taking his family with him. Abram's father Terah had already taken the family away from their ancestral home, a city named Ur in the land of Chaldea, known in later Biblical times as Babylon, and today as the nation of Iraq. At the time that Abram began his journey with his own family, he was living with the rest of his extended family in the city of Haran, named after Abram's brother who had died while the family was still living in Ur.

In those days, long before airplanes could carry people directly from one place to another, when people wanted to travel from Babylon to Palestine they did not go straight across the desert. That would have meant certain death. Instead, they followed the Euphrates river northwest, going around the desert, until they could make their way westward to the Orontes river in Syria, travel south parallel to the Mediterranean coast until they reached the Jordan, and then continue into the heart of Palestine. Because of its semicircular shape, this swath of well-watered land around the Arabian Desert became known as the Fertile Crescent. This region forms the backdrop for most of the events of the Bible.

The city of Haran, where Terah's family had settled, was located on the upper curve of the Fertile Crescent, somewhat north of the most commonly traveled route. The little clan apparently did well there, and seemed to be comfortably settled when Abram moved on.

Throughout the history of human exploration, there have been many motives that have caused people to leave their homes in search of new lands. Some have been driven out by hunger or oppression. Some have gone in search of gold and treasure. Some have set out to conquer and subdue. Others have gone simply for the sense of adventure and discovery.

Though some of these motives may have formed a part of Abram's decision to leave the comfort of his family's new home in Haran, our reading from Genesis gives a different reason: Abram was following a call from the Lord. "The Lord said to Abram, 'Leave your country, your people, and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.'" If it had not been for that call from the Lord, Abram may never have pulled up his roots once again and set out for a land that he did not know.

This spiritual motive for Abram's journey sets him apart from so many of the travelers who have journeyed out into the unknown, both over the ages of history and in the present. How many of our great journeys and explorations have been undertaken simply because someone received a call from God? Most of the time, we human beings have been motivated to great and strenuous deeds for far more material motives.

Isn't our own personal experience the same? How often in the history of our lives do we do some major task or set off in some new direction simply because the Lord tells us to?

When we come into this world, our actions are naturally centered around our own wants and needs. In these "prehistoric" times of our infancy, we do not make conscious choices to act one way or another. We simply respond to the demands of our own bodies and minds, and react to the people and things around us. We are then in a stage symbolized by Babylon--a stage of simple absorption in our own selves.

Just as the early chapters of the Bible do not contain literal history, but are a mythological account of the early stages of human culture on this earth, in our infancy and our early childhood years we simply move along from one stage to the next, scarcely aware of the momentous changes that are happening in our lives. When Terah took his family with him and traveled from Ur of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran, halfway to Palestine, there is no record of a call from the Lord to do so. Apparently, Terah simply responded to his circumstances, perhaps moving to Haran in search of a better livelihood.

Our personal journey from the self-absorption of infancy and early childhood to the more socially aware times of our youth and young adulthood is similar. We don't particularly choose to leave behind pure self-centeredness for a more naturally good and thoughtful way of acting toward those around us. We do so because our parents continually drill into us--using both the carrot of reward and the stick of punishment--that we must think of others as well as of ourselves. In this way, most of us become decent and thoughtful young adults, not so much through conscious choice on our part, but because that is what our family and our society expects of us. We also treat others reasonably because we realize that if we want to get along in this world ourselves, we need to go along with those around us.

Like Terah, we make the journey from self-absorption to an awareness of others' needs mostly because of the circumstances of our lives.

This is a good thing. If it weren't for our parents, family members, friends, and many others continually shaping us toward good and decent behavior, most of us would have grown up to be insufferable and even downright nasty adults, always thinking that the world revolves around us just as it did--as far as we were concerned--when we were two years old.

Yet our story tells us that being good and decent people for these outward, material motives is not enough. It was not enough for Abram to move from the Babylon of self-centeredness and settle in the Haran of basic decency from outward motives. No, Abram was called to make a further journey. He was called to move beyond where he had been carried by his life's circumstances, to an entirely new land: the land of Canaan.

However, this time Abram had to make a conscious choice to go on the journey. He heard the call from the Lord; it was now up to him to respond. If he had said no, he could not have carried forward the spiritual story. He would have died in obscurity in Syria instead of becoming one of the best known of the Biblical characters.

There comes a time in our own lives--many times, really--that we also must make a conscious choice to follow a spiritual path. Most of the time we are carried along by our life's circumstances, and we simply do what is in front of us. We work because we need to support ourselves and feed our families. We correct bad physical habits because the doctor orders us to, and we do not want to die early. We deal with those around us in a socially acceptable manner because that is what is expected of us, and we do want to move along in this life.

There is nothing wrong with these motives. They are simply not enough if we wish to reach our full potential as human beings. Our full potential does not lie in the material world at all--as fascinating as it can be to explore its vast reaches. Our full potential lies in an entirely different, relatively unexplored area: it lies in the development of our spiritual life--a life symbolized by the land of Canaan, to which Abram was commanded to travel.

It is in developing our spiritual life--our relationship with the Lord and our devotion to learning and living from deeper truth and goodness--that we break all material barriers. In seeking a spiritually-based way of life, we go beyond the things that separate human beings from each other outwardly. We go beyond race and class, beyond material jealousies and misunderstandings, beyond the continuing self-absorption that keeps us stuck in thinking about how any particular situation or relationship will benefit us.

Jesus called the twelve disciples and sent them out on a journey of healing those who were broken and teaching those who longed for enlightenment. Jesus calls us as well. Jesus calls us to spiritually leave behind the land of our own self-absorption, and travel to a whole new land. It is a land where we are always seeking truth from the Lord, and where we act from warm and genuine love in everything we do. It may be a long journey to get to that land. But if we choose to listen to the Lord's call and to take that journey, the Lord will be with us every step of the way--and we will find our heavenly Canaan. Amen.



The painting is ©Jim Warren
Painting entitled "Nature's Little Helper"

Music: In the Garden
© 1999 Bruce DeBoer

Floating Sparkles Script
Courtesy of: