Thoughts toward a sermon. Readings are here
The theme of this week's readings for me is passion. Our passion for God and God's passion for us. Each reading has slightly different angle on what it means to be faithful and one with God.
Abraham is having an argument with God about what God's promise of descendants means. God has made a promise that Abraham will be the father of a mighty people but nothing seems to be happening in the life of Sarah and Abraham that indicates when this will happen and they are not getting any younger. Abraham is demanding that God keep the promise. (The Old Testament does not have any problem with people having fights with God or at least heated discussions- - Moses argues with God, Abraham argues with God, the psalmists argue with God, Job, Jonah, and on down the line). They lay it all out - their anger, their dismay, their dissatisfaction, their laments as well as their joy. Something maybe for us to learn - that God can take it. And knows our hearts anyway so no use in hiding. There is really no resolution of this discussion at this time in the scripture - later yes, but for now just the enigmatic ritual of cutting the animals and birds in half and seeing the torch and smoking fire pot pass between them. Symbols of the fire and smoke that will lead Moses and the people across the desert later in Exodus? Any way signs of obedience by Abraham and immense holiness in this moment in the dark. This is a covenant of pure grace - God will fulfill the promise but nothing is asked by God in return. Abraham's response is faith even though nothing was demanded.
Paul's passion is for the converts, those who have begun to follow Christ through the words of Paul's testimony. Now these followers are confused by other preaching. In early Christianity there was one strand that demanded all converts become Jews through male circumcision and following the dietary rules. Paul is quite angry that these demands are being made as he sees that Christ has done away with these requirements. "their glory is their shame" - is showing off something that should be kept hidden - the marks of circumcision, "their God is the belly" is the requirements around food. These are not wrong to Paul but putting these things above the faith in Christ is wrong. He is really angry with Peter since Peter had the revelation in the dream where Peter learned that all people are acceptable to God just as they are but now Peter is holding himself out of fellowship with the Gentiles and going back to his belief before his dream.
Jesus' is on his way to the cross - the ultimate passion. He loves the people and sees the oppression they are suffering and how that oppression makes them act towards each other. Hearkening to the image of Wisdom - the compassion of God - with God from the beginning he sees them as baby chicks running about with the fox chasing them - he longs to bring the to himself for safety - knowing the only safety is in giving up power and revenge and living in right relationship with each other and God. His lament is deep from within the heart of God. God longs to draw the whole world to Godself - but they will not turn from the hunger for power over one another.
I was listening to a discussion of films about slavery on my way home yesterday - especially 2 current ones - Django Unchained and Lincoln. The reviewers saw them as very unsatisfactory portrayals of answers to the terrible era of slavery. Django Unchained answered with over the top violence that was not possible in that time and Lincoln answered with law. There was actually more violence after the passage of the 13th amendment and there was law. But in the end it took the non-violence of the civil rights era with Martin Luther King Jr and the lunch counter sit ins to finally begin the real dismantling of slavery and its effects -- there is still more to do but to me this is the way that Jesus is commending to us in his lament over Jerusalem.
We are called to live as though in that Holy City -- not the physical space but in the space of our dreams where all people can live in peace and prosperity. We pray for the actual peace of Jerusalem and we pray that we can live as though it is already happening.
The lessons challenge us to ask - do we have passion for our faith - how can we recall that first sense of the holy we had as children, how can we care for one another as brothers and sisters, how can we see the world as God sees the world - not "from a distance" but from with life here in the midst of it all. Whether we are called to act in small ways or large ways-- it all makes a difference. Paul calls it being imitators of him and by that he means not himself but the faith that is in him - acting our way into right belief rather than trying to believe our ways into right actions. Each act of kindness and compassion and concern changes the direction whole world. As they say about the Butterfly Effect.