Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who searches for us even in our sin. Amen.
Put yourself in Eden, just for a moment. Imagine being our first parents in the Garden.
Up until just a few moments ago, everything was beautiful and nothing hurt. All of creation was perfect, just as it was meant to be. The cosmos were very good.
Then the serpent came along and made some empty promises. It started out with a bite – it was only a bite! – how did it end up like this? Perfection is starting to unravel. You and your spouse had literally been made for each other – book ends of creation, crafted from soil and bone in the likeness of God. But now suspicion and blame is creeping in. And even though you’ve never covered your body before, you’re suddenly filled with a sense of shame and an urge to get dressed – if only someone would invent clothing!
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who fulfills the everlasting covenant. Amen.
Do you remember the song “Father Abraham”? It was a mainstay of both Sunday school and VBS for decades – and though the language is a bit dated, it goes something like this:
Father Abraham Had many sons Many sons had father Abraham I am one of them And so are you So let’s just praise the Lord.
It’s a song about the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abram that we read today:
As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.
The “many sons” (though it might better be understood as “many descendants” or, to fit the cadence of the song, “many heirs”) are the multitude of nations, including the family lines of Moses, Joshua, David, and through David, our Lord Jesus Christ.
But the song, short as it is, leaves out a lot of the story, so here are a few extra verses:
The Lord God fashioned the human, humus from the soil, and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the human became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden…and He placed there the human he had fashioned. And the Lord God caused to sprout from the soil every tree lovely to look at and good for food, and the tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge…. Now a river runs out of Eden to water the garden…. And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the human to be alone, I shall make him a sustainer beside him.’ And the Lord God fashioned from the soil each beast of the field and each fowl of the heavens and brought each to the human to see what he would call it…but for the human no sustainer beside him was found.
The human is put to sleep for a quick operation in which the Lord takes out one of his ribs and uses it to fashion a woman, a fellow human to be the sustainer beside him. Life in this very good garden had only one rule: Eat from any tree except the three of knowledge of good and evil; if you eat that tree, you will be doomed to die.
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.
And at the time, it seemed like a ridiculous thing to say. Both Abram and Sarai were advanced in age, past their child-bearing years. More than that, they were homeless nomads; who were they that the Lord should take account of them?
As time passed, the divine promise was long-delayed, enough so that Abram and Sarai had reason to doubt. More than that, Abram’s many shortcomings became readily apparent. The family ended up in Egypt, where the Pharaoh took notice of Sarai. Fearing for his own life, Abram asked his wife to pose as his sister; for his own safety, he sent her to live in Pharaoh’s palace as a royal spouse. (Oddly, this part of their story didn’t make it into that old VBS song or the Sunday school felt board, and I don’t think I’ve seen that episode of Veggie Tales.) Continue reading “Look to the Heaven and Count the Stars, If You Are Able”→
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who teaches us to pray boldly. Amen.
Many of us may recall the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. It’s one of those Bible stories that, were it adapted for film, would likely be rated R for its mature subject matter. We read the set-up today, in which the Lord has taken notice of those two cities for their wickedness, remarking “How grave is their sin!” The Almighty determines to send an angelic away team to investigate and take divine action. Meanwhile, Abraham pleads with the Lord, asking that They spare the cities for the sake of the righteous who live there – even if it’s only fifty people.
If only ten righteous people may be found, would God Almighty set aside Their anger?
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who sends the Holy Spirit upon us that we may be one. Amen.
Confession time: I’m not good with languages. My pronunciation is terrible, I have no ear for accents, and, worst of all, I don’t devote the time to studying them that proficiency demands. It’s a shame, too, because I’ve always actually really liked languages, especially the history of how they evolve and borrow from one another. Over the past twenty years, I’ve studied French in middle school, Spanish in high school, German in college, and Greek and Hebrew in seminary.
In fact, I took a full two years of German in college. When my parents were stationed there my senior year, I excitedly went to visit them in Heidelberg, and I was confident that my semesters of anguish would producing stunning results. First night in country, we went out to eat at a local restaurant; I placed my order in my most polished Deutsch:
Ich moechte einmal Radler und ein Jaegerschnitzel bitte.
Three chapters before today’s lection, the Lord calls to Abram, telling him to take his nephew and his wife and move across the barren desert to Canaan. God pledges, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great….”
Shortly thereafter, Abram – having left Canaan for Egypt to avoid a famine and fearful for his own life – gives his wife Sarai to Pharaoh. Abram didn’t even make it a full chapter before he decided to sell someone out to save his own skin; he’s not exactly a stand-up guy. Nevertheless, Melchizedek, the priest-king of Salem, delivers God’s blessing to Abram. Today, as we read, the Lord again appears to Abram and promises that Abram and Sarai, who are aging rapidly, childless, and anxious about their legacy, will produce a family that outnumbers the stars in the heavens.
This blessing reassured, Abram and Sarai settle down, trust in the Lord, and live happily ever after.
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord, through whom all things were made. Amen.
Saint Francis was born to into a wealthy merchant’s family in the Umbrian region of what is today Italy. In his youth, he was known for lavish spending, but after a very public falling out with his father, Francis renounced his family name and his inheritance for a life of poverty.
In 1209, Francis founded the Order of the Friars Minor, a group of wandering preachers known for their devotion to poverty and the poor that continues his ministry across the world today. This group of men and women became fools for Christ, living lives of radical reliance on the alms of stranger and deep trust that God would provide. And yeah, at times their actions seemed incredibly foolish. Not only did Francis give up a fortune, he was also known for his preaching – to people, to birds, to a wolf. That’s why we remember him by blessing animals – Francis taught about the interdependence of all creation.
Texts: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Romans 4:13-25;* St. Mark 8:31-38
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who brings us into the everlasting covenant. Amen.
Pretend for a moment that you get to enact your plan change the world.
Who do pick to put things in motion? Close your eyes for just a moment and try to envision this person: Is it a general? A queen of royal and ancient blood? Perhaps a superhero? What’s this person’s character like? Are they honest, intelligent, humble, a perfectionist?
Texts: Genesis 9:8-17, 1 Peter 3:18-22, St. Mark 1:9-15
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who saves us in the waters of the deep. Amen.
Who has been to the Grand Canyon?
How about Niagara Falls?
Or maybe closer to home, who’s visited Tallullah Gorge?
What do these places have in common? They are geological wonders that show the awesome power of water. The Grand Canyon is, at its max, 18 miles wide, up to a mile deep, and over 200 miles long, all carved out by the Colorado River over the course millions of years – and still growing wider and deeper to this very day as the Colorado continues to eat away at solid rock.