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Blessing "all the families of the earth"

October 25, 2022

Daily Scripture

Genesis 12:1-3, Jeremiah 29:1-7

Genesis 12

1 The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation and will bless you. I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing.
3 I 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.”

Jeremiah 29

1 The prophet Jeremiah sent a letter from Jerusalem to the few surviving elders among the exiles, to the priests and the prophets, and to all the people Nebuchadnezzar had taken to Babylon from Jerusalem. 2 The letter was sent after King Jeconiah, the queen mother, the court officials, the government leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, and the craftsmen and smiths had left Jerusalem. 3 It was delivered to Babylon by Elasah, Shaphan’s son, and Gemariah, Hilkiah’s son—two men dispatched to Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar by King Zedekiah.
4 The Lord of heavenly forces, the God of Israel, proclaims to all the exiles I have carried off from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and settle down; cultivate gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Get married and have children; then help your sons find wives and your daughters find husbands in order that they too may have children. Increase in number there so that you don’t dwindle away. 7 Promote the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because your future depends on its welfare.


Daily Reflection & Prayer

God promised Abraham “I will make of you a great nation” and “a land I will show you.” That can tempt human nature to think, “God likes me more than anyone else!” But God called Abraham and his heirs to share their blessing widely: “All the families of earth will be blessed because of you.” Even after Babylon’s brutal capture of Jerusalem, the prophet Jeremiah urged the Israelite exiles to pray for the prosperity and peace—of Babylon! As defeated exiles, he urged them to love their neighbors.

  • Just before Abraham’s story, Genesis 11:1-9 told the story of the Tower of Babel. Scholar Theodore Hiebert wrote, “The text itself emphasizes the human wish to preserve one common culture (11:1-4). This wish comes into conflict with God’s aim to create a new world with different cultures (11:5-9).” * Too often people see difference as a threat, something to hate and resist. What (if anything) has helped you learn to value diversity in the human family God created?
  • Jeremiah called exiled Israelites to be generous—and smart. “People aren’t being urged to seek the welfare of their own city but to commit themselves to a city where they don’t belong and that they think they’ll soon leave. They’re to seek the welfare of the city where they’re forced to live because their own welfare is tied up with that city.” ** How does the prophet’s message point to why God calls you and your church family to better love your neighbors, even the difficult ones?

Lord Jesus, you wanted Abraham to care about blessing “all the families of earth.” Plant that kind of heart in me, too, as one of Abraham’s spiritual descendants. Amen.

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Picture of  Denise Mersmann

Denise Mersmann

Denise serves as the Care Coordination Director for the churchwide Care Central department at Resurrection.

“Wealth is not his that has it, but his that enjoys it.” Last week while we were on vacation I saw this quote, credited to Benjamin Franklin, in a museum.

As I read it, I found myself immediately agreeing, but as the week wore on the quote kept coming back to me. And I spent a great deal of time thinking about the various potential interpretations of the statement.

Certainly, not that anyone has to have great wealth to be happy nor that people of modest means are not happy. In fact, I would contend that with a bit of adjustment to Ben’s quote we might actually come closer to one of the true secrets to happiness regardless of your bank balance.

What if, instead of “…but his that enjoys it” the quote read “Wealth is not his that has it, but his that shares it.” I would contend that wealth is not in the having, but in the using.

I know many people who have great wealth and yet, they don’t seem to find joy in sharing it-–even though they could do amazing things without ever changing their lifestyle. Conversely, I am very lucky to be acquainted with many people who give generously and joyfully, some with great assets to their name, but many with very modest resources.

You see, it’s not in the amount that we give, rather in the love that we give with it.

Years ago, the first Christmas after my mom died, I knew that Christmas Day was going to be a lot different. You see, we did a huge Christmas Eve with the family, but then Christmas Day my siblings were with their in laws and my mom spent a quiet perfect day with us. As I considered options to make this first Christmas Day a little brighter without mom, we came up with an idea to put together gift bags on Christmas morning. The bags included snacks, hats, gloves, scarves, warm socks, toiletries, and a couple little treats. We put together 20 bags our first year, adding a blanket and sweatshirt to go with each one.

Christmas Day that year was bitter cold and as we drove around downtown Kansas City we found that there were almost no people on the streets. As we were about to give up, we came upon a bus stop that had a large group of people huddled together to try and stay warm. After some initial doubts, a few people became curious enough to come up to our car and see what we were offering. Within minutes, all of our bags were gone. People were pulling on hoodies and wrapping in blankets.

We had enough bags for everyone and were able to leave the last two with the promise that they would be passed on to someone else who might need a little Christmas cheer.

As we drove home, we were already planning for the next Christmas. We discussed new items we would include and things that we might eliminate.

By many measures, this wasn’t a huge investment and I know many people could have done more or done it better. But from that Christmas on the tradition has continued. We have included others in our delivery, invited friends to help us pack the bags, and shared the story many times.

But the thing that rings most true for me is that I have never felt the Christmas spirit like I do handing out those bags. My mom was one of the most generous people I have ever known. She loved people big and gave her time, resources, and love. I can’t think of a better way to honor her than to give generously, from whatever wealth I might have.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Theodore Hiebert, study note on Genesis 11:1-9 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 20OT. Explored in depth in Dr. Hiebert’s book The Beginning of Difference: Discovering Identity in God’s Diverse World. Nashville, Abingdon Press, 2019.

** John Goldingay, Jeremiah for Everyone. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015, p. 145.