“The Turning Point.” That’s what these verses might be called. Or “The Crossroads.” Until this point, things have gone steadily downhill. Our story, this scriptural history of humankind—the forbidden fruit in the garden, Cain’s murder of Abel, Noah and the flood, the tower of Babel—has been one of increasing disobedience, widening and deepening rebellion against God. Scholars sometimes call the biblical narrative “the history of salvation,” and this history takes a dramatic and decisive shift in today’s passage as God chooses Abram and sends him on a journey. That journey will eventually lead to Egypt and Jerusalem, to Babylon, to Bethlehem and Nazareth, and on to Rome, Constantinople, Canterbury, and beyond.
God promises destination and destiny to Abram, and Abram’s obedient response sets in action a chain of faithful and unfaithful descendants—folk who go forth in trust, as Abram did, to play their part in the divine plan until that plan reaches another crossroads, another decisive turning point, on a cross and in a garden tomb.
On a more intimate scale, each of our individual lives has its own turning points, its own crossroads and decisive moments when much—maybe even an entire life—hangs in the balance: the choice of a vocation or of a spouse, the birth of a child, a response to some ethical challenge or dilemma. From an even more concentrated point of view, each day can have its decisive moments, when we are called to answer God’s summons to trust and obey as Abram did. In the familiar routines of daily existence and in times of testing and trial, this passage reminds us to watch for the crossroads and listen for God’s call.
Make me aware, O God, of where I stand. Remind me of my spiritual roots in your working to bring renewal to creation. Then go with me as I set forth, like Abram, toward your Promised Land. Amen.
The readings for this week provide an overview of the history of God’s people. Genesis recounts the story of Abraham, who because of his great faith leaves his home and goes to a land that God has promised to show him. The psalmist speaks for the descendants of Abraham, who trust in the Lord to watch over them and be their helper. Paul in Romans argues against those who believe that God’s grace is a result of correctly following religious law. It is Abraham’s faith (for there is no law in Abraham’s time) that prompts him to follow God, and for this he is commended. Both Gospel passages (John and Matthew) emphasize that the story of Jesus is the continuation of a relationship with God’s faithful people that began with Abraham.
Read Genesis 12:1-4a. Recall a major and a minor crossroads in your life. How did you listen for God’s call during each time?
Read Psalm 121. Reflect on the times in your life when this psalm has most strongly resonated with you. How do your strongest emotions point you to God’s presence?
Read Romans 4:1-5, 13-17. What motivates you to do good works? How do you balance “faith alone” and the action to which God calls you?
Read John 3:1-17. How do you hear again the powerful words of verses so familiar they permeate culture? What makes these words fresh for you?
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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