Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Psalm 22:22-30; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38
Perhaps? We are inheritors of the promise of God made to Abram that we will be blessed and we will be a blessing. The blessing, realize fully in Jesus Christ, is not of children, of land or power, but of love, hope, and Resurrection now and in the life to come. The promise that Jesus brought to the world with him is what we have faith in. Without faith in God; without believing that we are saved and blessed through God’s action in Jesus Christ – what hope do we have to be positive instruments of God’s promise in the world?
Abram is a story of faith that sets the tone for the rest of scripture. He follows God from Mesopotamia, his home, to the “land that God will show him” in Canaan. Abram’s response to God’s call is to fall prostrate upon the ground, a traditional position of respect, thanks, and praise. God makes a promise to Abram that God will make him a numerous people. Having many children was the ultimate sign, in Abram’s ultra-tribal world, of God’s blessing. And Abram had faith – he believed – that God would keep his promise and he followed God throughout his life.
At the time God made this promise, Abram and his wife, Sarai, were without children. She was considered “barren,” her womb not producing children, a mark of shame and grief in their world. But God promises that Sarai and Abram would have a child, even though, as Paul said, “Abram was as good as dead – nearly 100 years old …” I have felt as old as dirt, but never as good as dead. However, in this rarified air of Genesis, God breathes his life and Abram and Sarai have a son, Isaac. They only have one, not exactly a motherlode, forgive the term, of children. Isaac and his previously childless wife, Rebekah, will have two sons, Jacob and Esau ... off to a slow start. But Jacob would have 12 sons, many daughters, and Esau would have so many children he would be the father of his own tribe – Edom – and the floodgates of promise began to open. Jacob, who would become Israel, would be the parent of the nation of Moses.
Abram is so transformed by God’s blessing that God changes his name to Abraham, and Sarai’s to Sarah. But Israel will find itself in the barren desert more than once but, through faith, sometimes of only one person – a Joshua, a Gideon, and Deborah, a David – they would pass into the place of promise. God has given himself to us and, because we believe, as Abram, we are inheritors of the promise of God that we are blessed and will be a blessing to all people.
Jesus is the incarnate, living new covenant of God, the final blow against all forces that would separate us from God’s presence. And Jesus tells His disciples, over and over again, in all four Gospels, that he will be handed over to evil men and be killed and will rise again on the third day. Jesus is the promise that God never leaves us and saves us. In Jesus, even when we die in the barren places of grief, divorce, violence or separation that he resurrects us through faith. Jesus brings us back into places of life because we trust and believe that he can; he can and, so, we believe. 2
Death Wish, the movie (I, II, III, IV) – faith misplaced?
When we put our faith in strength, power, guns, wealth, governments, it means that we are not trusting enough in the power of God’s promises. What problem in our lives can we not face or confront with the promises of God with us? Faith leads us into the world with our belief that Jesus conquered death itself to guide us. The biggest problems of our ongoing life must be held in prayer, in the hope that we live in through God’s great promise, which is Jesus. The promise of Jesus is the power of the Resurrection inside of us. Paul says in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
In this season of Lent, let us think about some simple things: what do I have faith in? Why do I believe in God?
We have a parishioner who comes up to the altar rail, like everyone, and each week, when the wafer is placed in her hands she quietly says, “I believe.” The traditional response is “Amen”. Sometimes people say thank you. There is no wrong response, because it is all responding to God’s blessing. I would never assume to know what this parishioner means by, “I believe” but I take it to mean, “I believe this is the body and blood of Jesus. I believe in the power of Jesus Christ to heal me. I believe in the reality of Jesus to lift me into the world, in faith.” During this holy season, let us think on what we believe, what we have faith in, and how does God call us, through the promise of Jesus, to use our faith as strength in the world?