Friday, March 6, 2020

Hebrew Testament Text for 2nd Sunday in Lent 8 March 2020

Genesis 12:1-4a       The Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him.

Reflection   This wisdom tale, probably written about six hundred years before the current era, is the story of the first Jew, Abram, the father of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Abram was part of a culture that found their identity in relation to the land on which they lived and the fathers and grandfathers and great-grand fathers from whom they were descended.

For Abram to leave his land and his father’s house was unimaginable. People of the ancient middle east did not immigrate from place to place. Not only were people tied to their land they depended on the local deities or gods for protection. Every aspect of their lives, food, fertility, culture and family welfare was linked to particular idols or gods which they took great pains never to offend. 

So how was Abram able to take the risk to go where he did not know and never be the same?

The oldest Torah, or Hebrew Testament commentary in existence, the Midrash Rabbah, written some two thousand years ago, has this to to say about Abram.

Abram’s family business was the making of idols. Having observed his father, grandfather and other relatives carve these local deities, even as a child Abram knew they could not speak and they were powerless.  So to walk away from the family business and risk offending gods or idols whom he knew had no power was really not earth shattering. But, to leave his place of origin to follow the voice of an invisible God and be a source of universal blessing, “blessings to all the families of the earth,” was unheard of.

Something inexplicable, something deep within Abram, enabled him to recognize the invisible voice of the One true God, the God of love on whom we can depend to bless us and make us a source of blessing. Abram’s is a story of faith. Which begs the question, What is faith? Faith is trusting or having confidence in someone or something without having concrete evidence. "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11: 1). Faith is what connects us to the unborn, undying something more that we call God, HaShem, Allah.  Faith is what allows us to take risks because we put our faith in God with us.

When we hear the Divine invitation, “Go from your country your kindred and father’s house to a land that I will show you… and  I will bless you so that you will be a blessing to all the families of the earth,” we understand this is an invitation to evolve our faith, to move from a literal and mythic understanding of our relationship with God, take full possession of God’s blessing  and responsibility for delivering God’s blessing “to all the families of the earth.”

Abram’s story is a succinct synthesis of the journey of faith development, from the literal faith of a child to the all inclusive faith of a mature practitioner of Judaism, Christianity or Islam. As the father of all three great religious traditions Abram is a blessing to “all the families of the earth.” As children of Abram we are meant to continue the all inclusive journey of faith by opening our minds, and hearts and lives to be blessed and to pass on the blessing.  

Abram put his entire life on the line to follow God’s great calling. I believe he was able to take the risk because he trusted the voice of the invisible One that stirred something deep within his breast. Abram received God’s blessing which was sufficient for him to take the risk of ruin and ridicule by his neighbors who no doubt saw him as a crazy heathen.

Perhaps this is why the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry calls us to be Crazy Christians, people who refuse to be conformed to the world, instead people who choose to take the risk to step out of our comfortable ruts, allow our lives to be transformed so that we become the source of blessings for all the people on earth. 

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