When I read that Abraham “did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body,” I wonder how he managed that. I’m not even close to one hundred, and my literal and metaphorical weakness is daunting. But “did not weaken in faith” cannot mean easy and automatic acceptance of what God said, since as a story from Genesis tells us, both Abraham and Sarah laughed at the possibility of becoming parents.
So Abraham’s faith encompassed more than never ques-
tioning. Scripture depicts him as a man who obeys God. He laughs, but eventually he does what God asks. That kind of faith means I can wrestle and question on my way to obeying. That kind of faith I can do. You’ve probably heard courage described as acting in spite of being afraid; perhaps faith is acting in spite of questions and even resistance. Perhaps it’s coming to what philosopher Paul Ricoeur called “second naivete,” where we acknowledge that something is impossible and yet choose to believe anyway because God says it.
Abraham’s faith—not his action—was “reckoned” to him, credited to his account, as righteousness. Since I usually have trouble keeping a Lenten discipline for six weeks, this is good news for me. The righteousness of having faith is credited not only to him but to all of us who believe in the one who raised Jesus from the dead. The passage doesn’t list what we have to believe, only that we believe in God—relationship, not a theological checklist. So whether we feel sure of everything about our faith or still wrestle with questions and doubts, we have the promise that grace depends on God, not on us.
O God, thank you for the unfailing grace that guarantees your promise to see us as righteous. 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.”
View a growing list of resources for the spiritual work of overcoming racism.