Readings for 2nd Sunday in Lent, 3/4/07:
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18, Psalm 27, Philippians 3:17-4:1, Luke 13:31-35
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18:
- "Do not be afraid, Abram." How many times does the phrase "do not be afraid" occur in the Bible? I'm sure someone has counted, but whatever the number, it is obviously a huge theme. God is always telling us not to be afraid. Why is that? What does God suspect,know, that we are so afraid of anyway? Are we afraid of God? Afraid of being alone? Afraid of finding out that our lives don't have meaning, or that they do? Whatever it is, God promises to be there in it with us, and to calm our child-like fears.
- In this passage, God promises Abram that it will not be a slave, but a child of Abram's own that will carry on Abram's line, one of his descendants which will be as numerous as the stars, and that they will live in the land that God is promising them. What do we make of this passage? I think about what it means to "carry on the family name", what we understand and feel about childbearing and barrenness today, etc. What does it mean to place so much importance on carrying on of a family line? I'm sure its one of the few ways we humans can convince ourselves that we will at least in that measure have some sense of immortality - someone with our own blood will live on. But where are the stories in the Bible where the family is never blessed with the child? Where there is no Isaac, or Samuel, or John the Baptist that lifts the parents out of despair?
- "Whom shall I fear?" Here it is again, the fear theme, only now asked as a specific: 'who'. The Psalm suggests that we fear no one when God is our light, a theme echoed elsewhere in the scriptures, such as in the NT where we are encouraged to fear only those who can slay the spirit, but not the body.
- What about, though, the 'fear of the Lord'. It's not something we stress much anymore, but to be a God-fearing person used to be a stronger theme. In fact, non-Jewish believers, Gentiles, were called 'God-fearers.' Do we fear God anymore, or have we gotten too cozy? It's great to feel close to God, but have we lost our reverence in the process, the believe that God is actually above and beyond us in many respects?
- Hmm... this sounds like a psalm that literally a soldier would pray during war time: for safety, protection, to be in God's house, to be hidden from enemies...
- Paul speaks about our human physical bodies and our spiritual, transformed bodies, with our 'citizenship in heaven.' This thought that we don't have to take what's holding us down in this life can be very comforting.
- However, we have to be careful, not to enter into a pointless heaven/hell, spirit/body dichotomy that makes us seek to live with one step already in heaven. We're part of God's good creation, which includes this world and all its craziness. We just have to seek to 'transform' it with God's grace.
- "Go and tell that fox for me" - I just love it when Jesus gets sassy - you can almost see the expression on his face as he says this. It's good to know Jesus can have a good time, a sense of humor, in the midst of all his profundity. Seriously.
- "How often I have desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!" What a verse! What emotion! Yay for feminine imagery, of course, since it is so rare - we must 'gather it in' where we can find it. But beyond: hear Jesus' extreme sorrow that he can't make us get it. Jesus wants to protect and save, but the truth can't be compromised just to make us feel better. I'm reminded of the movie Ghost, at the end, when the bad-guy (can't remember the character's name) doesn't realize that he's going to be taken by the demons yet. Sam (Patrick Swayze) just looks at him with such pity, despite how much his former friend has done to hurt him. I think that's how Jesus would be looking here. We just don't get it.