God’s covenant with Abraham was a sovereign act. Over and over in Abraham’s story, God takes the initiative, speaking to Abraham apart from any apparent intent by Abraham to seek God. In today’s passage, God gives Abram and Sarai new names and opens the door into a different future. God promises to bless Abraham and Sarah and their descendants (and through them “all the families of the earth,” Gen. 12:3) before the law, before the Ten Commandments, before the Torah, before any formal Hebrew religion. The covenant God makes with Abraham on behalf of all humanity does not rest on rules. The covenant focuses entirely on relationship.
But we humans like rules, even about relationships; we like to measure ourselves and others. We like to know where we stand, to be able (metaphorically, usually) to check off the boxes for good behavior. But relationship with God is not about measuring and counting; it is about grace. Just grace. You’ve probably heard the saying, “There’s nothing you could ever do that would make God love you more, and there’s nothing you could ever do that would make God love you less.” That idea makes many of us profoundly uncomfortable.
God invites us into an open-ended relationship that will change the rest of life. Not knowing where a relationship will take us can be unsettling. For some of us, the desire for control, security, and predictability is so strong that any open-ended commitment is frightening, perhaps nearly unbearable (there’s a reason I’m not married!). Yet the Lord of the universe invites us: Will you walk with me, relinquishing the need to know where the road leads?
Holy God, the invitation to know you and walk with you is amazing. Help me to risk doing it or to let you help me become willing to risk it. Amen.
We cannot earn God’s love. Going back to the time of Abraham, God’s blessing has been based on faith. God chose Abraham for a covenant not because Abraham was perfect but because he believed God. The psalmist reminds his audience of their ancient relationship with God and expresses the hope that it will continue through future generations. Paul reinforces the centrality of faith in Romans. Following the law was not bad, but no one should believe that following the law could earn God’s favor. In Mark 8, Jesus pushes his disciples in their understanding of faith. Trusting God means surrendering everything, including position and reputation. If we value those things more than God, then we are not displaying the faith of Abraham.
• Read Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16. No rules, just relationship. How comfortable are you in your relationship with God? Upon what does it rest?
• Read Psalm 22. Which verses are most familiar to you? In what ways does your faith journey live in the interplay of shadow and light?
• Read Romans 4:13-25. How easily do you live in God’s grace? In what areas do you find yourself “reckoning” your righteousness?
• Read Mark 8:31-38. When the world asks you who you are, what is your reply?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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