Genesis 18:1-15

The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said,‘My lord, if I find favour with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.’ So they said, ‘Do as you have said.’ And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, ‘Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.’ Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

They said to him, ‘Where is your wife Sarah?’ And he said, ‘There, in the tent.’ Then one said, ‘I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.’ And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?’ The Lord said to Abraham,‘Why did Sarah laugh, and say, “Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?” Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.’ But Sarah denied, saying, ‘I did not laugh’; for she was afraid. He said, ‘Oh yes, you did laugh.’

HospitalityHospitality. Abraham makes room for his three guests who come to his tent, whether travelling from afar of simply appearing as they walk up to Abraham’s tent. We are not sure if the three guest were angels, God himself, perhaps in the form of the Trinity. Although this is all just sheer speculation and anachronistically reading Christian theology back into a Jewish texts.

What is of note in this passage is the act of hospitality. Abraham does not hesitate to offer his home and his best food for guest he knows not. Abraham does not know if these strangers who have appeared by his tent are important. He does not know if they are from another tribe, or perhaps includes princes or kings. Abraham simply offers hospitality to those that have come to him. He welcomes them into his home.

This is a powerful message. The early church would take this passage as significant in how we are to welcome strangers. And it will inform generations of hospitality providers in the church. Yet, that is getting very ahead of ourselves I think. In the course of the narrative that is unfolding on the pages in front of us and what we have read, Abraham is beginning to demonstrate the faith for which he will become famous.

It must have been an incredible act of faith to practice this kind of radical hospitality. No names, no introductions. Simply, here is my home, here is my food, you are welcome to share. And in the sharing Abraham and Sarah receive a message. That they will be rewarded for their faith and hospitality. They will have a son for nothing is impossible with God.

What would it look like if in Christian nations, blessed with such abundance, we were to share with the rest of the world and offer this kind of radical hospitality, and to develop and hold the same faith as Abraham: that in offering hospitality to strangers we too would be blessed by God?

Perhaps the thought makes you laugh as Sarah…

Genesis 17

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.’ Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, ‘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. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God.’

God said to Abraham, ‘As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. Throughout your generations every male among you shall be circumcised when he is eight days old, including the slave born in your house and the one bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring. Both the slave born in your house and the one bought with your money must be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.’

God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.’ Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, ‘Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’ And Abraham said to God, ‘O that Ishmael might live in your sight!’ God said, ‘No, but your wife Sarah shall bear you a son, and you shall name him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; I will bless him and make him fruitful and exceedingly numerous; he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this season next year.’ And when he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.

Then Abraham took his son Ishmael and all the slaves born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. And his son Ishmael was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. That very day Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised; and all the men of his house, slaves born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.

The sign of the covenant between God and Abram, now to be known as Abraham, is circumcision. God appears to Abraham, promises an everlasting covenant with Abraham and all of his descendants. Isaac, a son, to be born of Sarah and Abraham will inherit the covenant.

To Abraham and Isaac and their descendants God gives them the land of Canaan. In exchange, Abraham and his descendants are to worship God. And the sign of this covenant is circumcision of all males in Abraham’s household.

This sign forever marks the Jewish people as alien, or other. They are being set apart by God from the rest of creation. God has chosen his people with who he makes a covenant. And this status as “other” is reinforced when the land promised to Abraham is none other then Canaan, the land in which Abraham currently is an alien.

This foundational story of the people of God cannot be understated in anyway. To be marked by God, set apart for God and chosen by God comes with benefits to be sure, new land, which will be theirs in perpetuity. But it also comes with consequences. Abraham’s people will now be other, set aside, set apart, different and alien in a world where cultural differences can lead to war and violence very quickly.

closing-the-dealIn Genesis to this point, God had made a covenant with Noah, to never again destroy the earth and all who live within. But now God has singled out a people who God has chosen. Abraham jumps at the opportunity, and who wouldn’t? Large amounts of land to be his and his descendants in perpetuity? Sounds like a great deal. Worship God, mark themselves as God and God will make his descendants as numerous as the stars in heaven and from Sarah will come nations.

Would you make that deal? Would you set yourself up as “other” in perpetuity?

Genesis 16

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, bore him no children. She had an Egyptian slave-girl whose name was Hagar, and Sarai said to Abram, ‘You see that the Lord has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my slave-girl; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.’ And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. So, after Abram had lived for ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her slave-girl, and gave her to her husband Abram as a wife. He went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, ‘May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my slave-girl to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!’ But Abram said to Sarai, ‘Your slave-girl is in your power; do to her as you please.’ Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she ran away from her.

The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, ‘Hagar, slave-girl of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?’ She said, ‘I am running away from my mistress Sarai.’ The angel of the Lord said to her, ‘Return to your mistress, and submit to her.’ The angel of the Lord also said to her, ‘I will so greatly multiply your offspring that they cannot be counted for multitude.’ And the angel of the Lord said to her,
‘Now you have conceived and shall bear a son;
you shall call him Ishmael,*
for the Lord has given heed to your affliction.
He shall be a wild ass of a man,
with his hand against everyone,
and everyone’s hand against him;
and he shall live at odds with all his kin.’
So she named the Lord who spoke to her, ‘You are El-roi’;* for she said, ‘Have I really seen God and remained alive after seeing him?’* Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi;* it lies between Kadesh and Bered.

Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram named his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him* Ishmael.

Abram and Sarai have no children, even though God has promised that his descendants will be like the stars of the heaven. Rather then trusting in God they decide they will fix the situation. They will assert their power in the situation and mold and shape the situation to their desires.

Sarai convinces Abram to take her slave girl, Haggai, as a wife. Of course this was in the time when men did have multiple wives so this really shouldn’t shock us that Abram has more then one wife. Monogamy is a rather modern invention and the sacrament of marriage did come into institution until the 12th century.

What is more shocking about this passage is the desire for humanity to control all situations, impose their will upon it and upon others in an attempt to get their desires, their greed fulfilled.

Abram then “goes into” Haggai, she does conceive and Sarai becomes jealous. She sees the way that Haggai looks at her and no doubt looks at Abram. This creates a division between Abram and Sarai. In an attempt to mend fences and control the situation Abram tells Sarai that Haggai is her slave girl, treat her as you will. And not surprisingly she treats her badly, oppresses her and drives her away.

It is in the desert, by a spring, that faith in God’s providence is restored. And Abram, God’s chosen, his wife Sarai, does not restore it or any of is kin. It is restored by a slave girl, a concubine, abused and cast off, alone in the desert and pregnant.

God’s preference for the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized is clearly displayed in this chapter of Genesis. It is to the oppressed that the angel of the Lord appears. It is the oppressed that God seeks to deliver. Not the leader of the household, Abram, not his wife Sarai, but God goes to be with a scared, lonely, hurt and abused pregnant slave girl.

SALVADORAN ARCHBISHOP OSCAR ROMEROI am preparing to leave again in a few days for El Salvador. I will once again walk in the steps of Monsenor Oscar Romero. I will once again experience one of the birthplaces of Liberation Theology. And I will once again be molded and shaped, have my expectations turned upon their heads and constantly be surprised by God’s preference for the poor. It will be in El Salvador that I will once again experience the presence of God.

“There are many things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried.”
-Oscar Romero

Genesis 15

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’ But Abram said, ‘O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’* And Abram said, ‘You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.’ But the word of the Lord came to him, ‘This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.’ He brought him outside and said, ‘Look towards heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed the Lord; and the Lord * reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Then he said to him, ‘I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.’ But he said, ‘O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?’ He said to him, ‘Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon.’ He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him. Then the Lord * said to Abram, ‘Know this for certain, that your offspring shall be aliens in a land that is not theirs, and shall be slaves there, and they shall be oppressed for four hundred years; but I will bring judgement on the nation that they serve, and afterwards they shall come out with great possessions. As for yourself, you shall go to your ancestors in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.’

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire-pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.’

Making a deal with God can often be a tricky endeavor and truth be told it doesn’t often go well. There will be many more examples of this later on in scripture, but for now let us stay within the confines of Genesis only.

Abram here in Chapter 15 makes a covenant with God surrounding the land, but more importantly surrounding who will rule that land; namely offspring. To this point in Genesis Abram has not had a child. Abram has had no offspring. No descendants to carry on his name. No descendants who will rule over the land to which he is being promised.

Yet God promises Abram that his descendants will be as plentiful as the stars and they will have the land, but first they will suffer in slavery before being brought to the land. In other words, God hears the pleas and prayers of Abram and God answers them, just not in the time and the way that Abram would prefer.

GenieThis is often the case with prayer. We assume that because we have not gotten exactly what we wanted immediately that God has not heard our prayer. We have somehow tricked ourselves into believing if we pray hard enough and believe long enough that God will grant us whatever wish we want.

But what this passage highlights for us is that God is not a Genie in a Bottle who if rubbed the right way will grant us wishes.

Instead, we learn that God does indeed answer prayer, just sometimes the answer may be: not yet, maybe later or worse, no. God hears our pleas and God sends to us who and what we need for situations and life, but not necessarily what we want.

This is a hard lesson for us to learn and a hard lesson for Abram. He gets his many descendants, as plentiful as the stars. Yet first they must become slaves and suffer horrible hardships. Lesson, be careful what you pray for.

Genesis 14:17-24

After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said,
‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
maker of heaven and earth;
and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!’
And Abram gave him one-tenth of everything. Then the king of Sodom said to Abram, ‘Give me the people, but take the goods for yourself.’ But Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have sworn to the Lord, God Most High, maker of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal-thong or anything that is yours, so that you might not say, “I have made Abram rich.” I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me—Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre. Let them take their share.’ is a very dense yet interestingly revealing passage about the nature of God and our relationship to Him. We are still very early in the Old Testament and the covenant has yet to be made with Abraham and the chosen people have yet to come into the Promised Land and Jerusalem has yet to become the Holy City.

While I have been avoiding cross-referencing passages, we must look at this one though through Hebrews 7:1-3 in hopes of parsing out a translation that will help us glean some insight into this passage from Genesis. My reasoning for allowing cross-referencing on this passage is slowly a language issue, to help us better understand who Melchizedek is, and what importance can be placed upon this High Priest of God.

In Hebrews 7:1-3 the name of this “Melchizedek, King of Salem, which is, King of peace; without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life.” And from Melchizedek Abram accepts blessing.

The significance of this was that Salem meant and would become Jerusalem, and so Abram is linked already with what is to become the Holy City and the center of his peoples’ lives. But furthermore the High Priest and Priests of this city would later in history adapt themselves to the conquering people that would come into their land, the Israelites, and adapt to their faith.

Interesting that long before Christianity adapted cultural and religious norms in mission countries, the Jewish people would also partake of the same practice. Cultural assimilation and cultural blending goes far back into the recess of time and the bible it seems.

But what does it mean that the chosen people will accept as their priest, priest of the order of Melchizedek instead of Levites, or in conjunction with Levites? For Christians today fighting to maintain traditions exactly that have been handed down to us and creating museums of our churches instead of places of worship this passage can utterly undermine those initiatives.

Long ago, in both our common Jewish and Christian distant past there was cultural adaptation and assimilation of new ideas, new traditions and new forms of worship. For us in the Anglican Church this should be a wake up call that it is okay to do worship without the BCP or the BAS, and that God can be found in Fresh Expression of worship.

In fact, one could say it is scripturally based to try new things in hopes of turning the local area we find ourselves in, our Salem, into a Holy City, a Jerusalem; a city and place where we can come to meet and be with God here on earth.

Genesis 14:1-16

In the days of King Amraphel of Shinar, King Arioch of Ellasar, King Chedorlaomer of Elam, and King Tidal of Goiim, these kings made war with King Bera of Sodom, King Birsha of Gomorrah, King Shinab of Admah, King Shemeber of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). All these joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Dead Sea). For twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled. In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him came and subdued the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, and the Horites in the hill country of Seir as far as El-paran on the edge of the wilderness; then they turned back and came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and subdued all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who lived in Hazazon-tamar. Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out, and they joined battle in the Valley of Siddim with King Chedorlaomer of Elam, King Tidal of Goiim, King Amraphel of Shinar, and King Arioch of Ellasar, four kings against five. Now the Valley of Siddim was full of bitumen pits; and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them, and the rest fled to the hill country. So the enemy took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way; they also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who lived in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.

Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and of Aner; these were allies of Abram. When Abram heard that his nephew had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. He divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and routed them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. Then he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his nephew Lot with his goods, and the women and the people.

This is a difficult text. One this text is the only place in all of the tradition that has Abram (later Abraham) portrayed in such a role, as a military commander. As we will see later on in Genesis (we haven’t quite read that far yet) Abraham is often the lone stranger among the Hittite inhabitants of Kiriatharba.

Secondly the historicity of the 5 petty Palestinian kings being subdued by 4 mighty kings from the east is questionable at best. There simply is no extra biblical evidence to support such an invasion and/or battle.

And thirdly, we must confront the thought that such a small band of 318 men, lead by Abram will defeat the 4 mighty kings who had just crushed a rebellion by 5 kings in Palestine. This seems dubious at best.

So what are we to make of a text that seems completely out of place, that glorifies military victories and battles and whose history seems more likely many pieces of stories redacted into one giant meta-story, much in the same manner that the combination of folk stories go into the creation of urban legend.

This primeval history of the chosen people is of course not meant to be about historicity, as it is meant to be about the founding mythology of the Jewish people. And the founding mythological piece in this story is Abram’s ability to best the 4 mighty kings is a testimony to his status as Shem’s heir and therefore the recipient of Shem’s blessing, received from Noah.

Lineage is very important in biblical literature. Lineage allows the blessings of God to be traced back to the beginning, when the covenant was first formed. In this case, that is the covenant between Noah and God. No longer will God destroy the peoples of the earth and the bow in the sky (the rainbow) will be a sign of that covenant.

This also continues the lineage of the chosen people from Adam, to Noah, to Abram. It helps identify a certain people with a certain God. In this case the chosen people, the Hebrews, with Yahweh, the God of the Jews. The military victory depicted also lends support to a primeval culture asserting the dominance of its God over other gods.

So what is the take away then? What truth does God want us to glim from this passage?’s blessing, which has travelled through generations from Noah, to Shem, to Abram. The blessing that will travel through time through the prophets, the judges, the martyrs and through Jesus Christ is the same blessing that we receive in the sacraments of the church.

The covenant is a sign that God will always come for us, much like Abram comes for Lot. That doesn’t mean nothing bad will happen to us. It simply means that through our covenant, in baptism, God journeys with us, remembers us and gives us strength. And I know standing in the vast emptiness of the world and starring up at the sky and looking at a rainbow I am comforted by the knowledge that God is with me. And sometimes that is enough.

Genesis Chapter 13

So Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the Negeb.

Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. He journeyed on by stages from the Negeb as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place where he had made an altar at the first; and there Abram called on the name of the Lord. Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, so that the land could not support both of them living together; for their possessions were so great that they could not live together, and there was strife between the herders of Abram’s livestock and the herders of Lot’s livestock. At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites lived in the land.

Then Abram said to Lot, ‘Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herders and my herders; for we are kindred. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.’ Lot looked about him, and saw that the plain of the Jordan was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar; this was before the Lord had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. So Lot chose for himself all the plain of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastwards; thus they separated from each other. Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the Plain and moved his tent as far as Sodom. Now the people of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.

The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, ‘Raise your eyes now, and look from the place where you are, northwards and southwards and eastwards and westwards; for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring for ever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth; so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Rise up, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.’ So Abram moved his tent, and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron; and there he built an altar to the Lord.

Chapter 13 of Genesis is one of those chapters that makes me say, uh? So to recap where we are so far. Abram is shown the Promised Land. There is a famine in the Promised Land so he packs everything up and travels to Egypt. Once in Egypt he pretends his wife is his sister and Pharaoh takes her as his wife. Not cool.

That mess gets cleared up and Abram leaves with riches, livestock and his wife, Sarai. So he returns to the Promised Land with his nephew Lot. Once in the land, Abram then decides that the Promised Land, which is for him and all his descendants, his family, as numerous as the dust or the stars in the sky, is somehow not big enough for him and his nephew Lot, his family, his livestock and his farm hands. And Abram sends Lot away.

The Promised Land is for all of Abram’s descendants. God even emphasizes that at the end of the passage by having Abram look it over and walk it end to end. But Abram doesn’t seem to get it. He sends his family away. Mine….not yours is Abrams response to God and God’s abundant grace.

If this seems rather greedy, I would agree. And how often do we as a society, as a people and the children of God look at all of God’s abundance, freely given to all and hoard it while our neighbor and fellow human beings go with out?

Nothing reminds me more of that then the constant race to reduce or eliminate the taxes that we pay as a society for services and a higher standard of living for all. The Greatest Generation sacrificed, not just in war, but following World War II to pay higher taxes and by doing so increased the amount of wealth that was shared by all.

Infrastructure, highways, railways, hospitals and such were built. The developed and industrialized country that we enjoy was built from their hard work and willingness to work together and share God’s abundance with one another and with the less fortunate.

This trend though shifted in the 1980’s when the Baby Boomers, probably the most entitled generation, having received all the benefits that the Greatest Generation had worked together to create shifted the focus of our society to a society that is decidedly more greedy, individualistic and places a higher priority upon the wealth of the individual rather then the well-being of society as a whole. This is clearly seen in the growing income gap between the rich and the poor.

And how like Abram does that sound; divisive, individualistic and fracturing the children of God. Hoarding what God has giving to all but for a few. What gives me hope though is when you read this passage you will notice the use of the future verb. God will give. God has not already giving. The promise is there, if unfulfilled at this moment in time.

The gifts from God flow freely and will eventually flow to Abram once he reconciles with Lot, reconstitutes his family and reunites the whole children of God. But until that is done, God has only given a promised to be fulfilled.

And that same promise God has given us. When we see past our greed, our individualism and begin to see that we are a human family as numerous as the stars and we begin to share all that God has given, then we too will walk in the Promised Land. But until then, we will be like Abram, a sojourner, in search of home.

Genesis 12:10-20

Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to reside there as an alien, for the famine was severe in the land. When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, ‘I know well that you are a woman beautiful in appearance; and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, “This is his wife”; then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared on your account.’ When Abram entered Egypt the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. When the officials of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female slaves, female donkeys, and camels.

But the LORD afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. So Pharaoh called Abram, and said, ‘What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, “She is my sister”, so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and be gone.’ And Pharaoh gave his men orders concerning him; and they set him on the way, with his wife and all that he had.

Father’s day has just past and I have been reflecting on this passage for sometime now. And it seems appropriate that I write something on the Father of Faith, in light of father’s day.

When was the moment that you realized that your father was human? When did you realize that he couldn’t in fact do anything and everything? Was it when you were 6, challenging some other child in the schoolyard that your daddy can beat up their daddy? Was it when you became a teenager? When did your father stop being superman and become simply a man?

That moment when we discover that our fathers are human, flawed and just like the rest of us is a difficult time. It is the moment when your innocent is lost and is never to be recovered. You have, in many ways, just grown up and there is no going back.

That is how I feel ready this passage. The stories of Abraham, the Father of Faith, who took Isaac up the mountain to offer as sacrifice, fully ready to lose his son, while still being able to keep him. A man, a father, of the most confident faith.

Sketch of Søren Kierkegaard by Niels Christian Kierkegaard, c. 1840

Fear and Trembling is by far one of my favorite books by Kierkegaard, in which he delves deeply into this story. The story of the Knight of Faith, as Kierkegaard calls it, has captured my imagination for years; the kind of faith that few in the world will ever have or experience and even less understand. I have turned those pages over and over again wearing the binding while reflecting on my own journey of faith and ordained ministry.

And reading today that Abraham, or I should say Abram, for he has yet to have his name changed by God, or climb that mountain with Isaac, I am left with a different view of the Father of Faith. A view that is compromised.

A view of a man who is willing to lie for self-protection and personal benefit, of a man willing prostitute his wife and give her to another to take into his house and marry, so that it may go well with him. A view of man who is selfish, uncaring, and unprotecting of his loved one.
And what was her crime, being to pretty.

The Father of Faith is much like any father I guess. To the young they are infallible, but as we grow in our faith, in age and in understanding, they become human and more like us: more fragile, more broken, and more sinful.

This is dangerous for we can become disillusioned in our own faith. Or we can chose instead to remember that even in all his brokenness and human failings God still loved Abram, renewed him as Abraham and brought him home.

In many ways I feel closer to Abraham now instead of the countless hours pouring over Kierkegaard. Abram actions have allowed me to see that even the most devout Abraham is still human, imperfect and flawed. In a strange way, this gives me hope.

Genesis 12:1-9

Now 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. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’ So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and invoked the name of the Lord. And Abram journeyed on by stages towards the Negeb.

This passage describes for us the original call of the one who will come to be known as the Father of Faith, Abraham. But before he was Abraham, he was simply Abram. A descendent of Noah, Abram is told by God to go to the land of Canaan. It is this land, Canaan, which God promises to Abram and his descendants in perpetuity.

But first, if we back up a bit, you will remember that Noah cursed Canaan to be the lowest of slaves to his brothers. Noah said, “blessed by the Lord my God be Shem and let Canaan be his slave.” (Gen 9:25-26)

And yes, you guessed it; Abram is a descendent of Shem. And in this passage God repeats the blessing to Abram and to all those that bless Abram. But there is a warning; to all those that curse Abram, God will curse them too.

From this passage and others like it, modern Israel makes an historical claim to the Promised Land, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The justification for an Apartheid style occupation of the land is justified through scripture, as ordained by God. Those within the land that are not the chosen people are second-class citizens, or to use biblical terms, slaves and the descendants of Canaan.

I am always suspicious of a God that curses, imprisons and allows the control of others, the domination of other people and to own other human beings, especially in light that Christ died upon the cross for the forgiveness of all of humanity.

And as you can see I am falling prey myself to reading back into scripture through a Christian lens. So trying to step back, what are we to make of Abrams call? Why are the descendants of Canaan, the Canaanites cursed? What have these descendants of Noah done to anger God in such a way?

The reason I find this passage and others like it troubling is that it is ‘othering’. It creates a dichotomy between the chosen people and those God does not choose, even if they are righteous and blameless before the Lord. It separates instead of bringing together. And following on the heels of the Flood narrative where God eliminated all of humanity save Noah and his descendants, what does this say?

Is humanity that fallen that in a few generations the work that God accomplished can so easily be turned over? I would think not.

This passage is a blending of both P and J. So we could see how P would want to justify their conquering of the land. For J though, it would have been written for a wandering nomadic people coming to settle in a foreign land; almost a precursor to the Exodus. And there again I am getting ahead of myself.

Perhaps it is something as simple as that. God will bless those that are kind to the stranger; the stranger who has just arrived in what will come to be known as the Promised Land. Blessings for those that are kind to the stranger, whether you are a resident of the land or one who is immigrating.

Genesis 11:10-32

These are the descendants of Shem. When Shem was one hundred years old, he became the father of Arpachshad two years after the flood; and Shem lived after the birth of Arpachshad for five hundred years, and had other sons and daughters.

When Arpachshad had lived for thirty-five years, he became the father of Shelah; and Arpachshad lived after the birth of Shelah for four hundred and three years, and had other sons and daughters.

When Shelah had lived for thirty years, he became the father of Eber; and Shelah lived after the birth of Eber for four hundred and three years, and had other sons and daughters.

When Eber had lived for thirty-four years, he became the father of Peleg; and Eber lived after the birth of Peleg for four hundred and thirty years, and had other sons and daughters.

When Peleg had lived for thirty years, he became the father of Reu; and Peleg lived after the birth of Reu for two hundred and nine years, and had other sons and daughters.

When Reu had lived for thirty-two years, he became the father of Serug; and Reu lived after the birth of Serug for two hundred and seven years, and had other sons and daughters.

When Serug had lived for thirty years, he became the father of Nahor; and Serug lived after the birth of Nahor for two hundred years, and had other sons and daughters.

When Nahor had lived for twenty-nine years, he became the father of Terah; and Nahor lived after the birth of Terah for one hundred and nineteen years, and had other sons and daughters.

When Terah had lived for seventy years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
Descendants of Terah

Now these are the descendants of Terah. Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran was the father of Lot. Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans. Abram and Nahor took wives; the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah. She was the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah. Now Sarai was barren; she had no child.

Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan; but when they came to Haran, they settled there. The days of Terah were two hundred and five years; and Terah died in Haran.

The one thing about the book of Genesis is there is a lot of begetting. Chapter 11:10-32 is an excellent example of the begat phenomena, if you will. One is tempting to ask though, who cares? Does it matter that so and so had a child, lived for so many years and died and then the son had so many children and they were who again?

Here we have the descendants of Shem, leading in a line to Abram finally, who will become for us Abraham, the Father of Faith. But we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves there. First, why does it matter who begat who? Are we not all God’s children?

Practically, this passage gives us the lineage of the covenant. God will establish His covenant with Abraham, but before he did he first established a covenant with Noah. The lineage is meant to reflect that those who come after are inheriting the covenant, the obligations but also the benefits. This is key for us as Christians and also key for the author of the Gospel of Matthew, who traces Jesus lineage to Abraham in the same fashion. But once again we are way ahead of ourselves.

This passage is a means of establishing human hierarchy. Remember that Noah blesses Shem, and the descendants of Ham, Canaan, are to be the slaves of his brother and his brother’s descendants. This passage helps to clearly distinguish between the “other” and helps establish the people of God as belonging to a cosmic order already.

In many respects the passage promotes what we would call nationalism today, although a few thousand years ago, that concept wouldn’t make sense, but it would be more akin to tribalism and the concept that some humans are attached to the divine and cosmic orders, while others can be slaves, purchase and are not people of the covenant and cosmic order; not set aside as special.

While lineage does mark one as part of particular community with historical roots and an ancient community which is good, it can also have dangerous effects, like alienating one from the rest of society, in this case from the rest of humanity. It has a separating effect.

The ability to trace a lineage to divine covenants is not particular to the Israelites, in fact we in many ways continue this tradition today in the form of nation states. Germany saw itself as the chosen people, the US sees itself as fulfilling a manifest destiny and I am sure we will continue into the future not building bridges, but erecting barriers. And we must confront that our heritages and lineages while they help define who we are, they also define who is not “us.”