Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lenten Journey Isn't Convenient or Comfortable

The Very Rev. Dr. G. Richard Lobs III

Abram, whose name would in due course be changed to Abraham, heard in an undefined way a call by God to leave Haran and go to an unspecified location. He was called to leave the predictable for the unpredictable; the comfortable for the discomfort of the journey.

He was economically well to do as evidenced by his flocks that grew from few to many. He had friends, and even more importantly, family in Haran. He and Sari, her name before it was changed to Sarah, had a home and a valued place in the community.

Abram could be excused if he concluded in his self sufficiency that he had no need of God. He seemed to have it all. Perhaps he knew he needed God but surely not a disruptive God. God called Abram to journey from home in search of an abstract - a blessing. Surely, Abram must have thought, there is an easier way to obtain God's blessing.

This is a passage about beginning a journey with God without knowing the end result. It is about living with what most humans shrink from - not knowing the end result. It is about living with unpredictability and unanswered questions. It is about risking losses in exchange for promised gain.

What do you suppose it was like in their home?

Did Sari try to talk Abram out of this apparently foolish idea? Given his age she could not chalk it up to a mid-life crisis - perhaps she accused him of having a "late-life crisis"? What emotions rose to the surface in Abram and Sari: joy, anxiety, fear, anticipation or all of the above? What is certain is that their common life was suddenly problematical.

We do not want to lose sight of the point of origin of this disruption - it was the Holy God, the Creator and Sustainer of all that is.

Who knows how long Abram shilly-shallied before making his decision. What is important is that he summoned sufficient faith in God and rose to the call. The entire earth has been blessed by his obedience.
Reading this, I'm reminded that the journey of Lent is a mini drama of the journey of life.  Abraham's obedience to God's guidance took him to a place in Palestine where he received guidance concerning his future and where he later had an encounter with the Three-Person God. 
When Abraham first arrived, he pitched his tent at the Oak of the prophet (moreh) between Ai on the east and Bethel on the west. He likely sought guidance from the prophet, as it is natural to seek counsel when we are unsure of the future. We are not told what guidance Abraham received, but the text tells us that he headed south where he would have found kin among the Afro-Arabians in Beersheba, Dedan and Raamah.  It was probably during this journey that Abraham married his cousin-wife, Keturah.  This was an important step in his rise to the position of ruler.
We don't know what was in Abraham's heart when he first began his westward journey, but the Lord God knew, and the Lord was faithful to Abraham even when Abraham had doubts and anxieties about his future.  The Lenten journey has a sure and certain destination: Pascha. Though we too are anxious about the future, if we are "in Christ" we can be sure that our destiny is there also. 

Abraham Rejoiced to See Christ's Day

In John 8 we read how the Jews claimed special status because Abraham was their father.  Jesus said to them, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day.”

“Then the Jews said to Him, ‘You are not fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?’
Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was I AM.”

The Jews knew what Jesus was claiming.  They knew that the Christ was "the Son of God" and that He was to receive an eteranl kingdom. The Qumran Scroll text 4Q246 has these lines in Aramaic:

He will be called the son of God,
And the son of the Most High they will call him.

And after this it says:

His dominion is an eternal dominion

This phrase is found in Psalm 145:13; Daniel 3:33; 4:31, and 7:14 and is recognized as a Messianic reference, so the Jews knew what Jesus was claiming.  Sadly, they didn't understand that their father Abraham had expected the Son of God to appear in the flesh and to rise from the grave.  The religion of the Jews who confronted Jesus was very removed from what Abraham and his Horite caste believed.

Related reading:  Did Abraham Believe Isaac to be Messiah?The Only Begotten Son Claims You

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