Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
St. Mark 8:31-38
Prayer of the Day:
O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life. Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
17:1 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. 2 And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 5 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. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. 7 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…
15 God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 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.”
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
Our God is one who makes promises. Our faith is built on the premise that “God who promises is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23) This is evident from the very beginning of the story, when God establishes a covenant with Noah, promising to accompany him through the waters of the flood and into a new life (Genesis 6:18), and later promising never again to destroy the earth with a flood (Genesis 9:11).
We notice this again in chapter 17, as God establishes a covenant with Abram and Sarai (soon to be Abraham and Sarah). God makes three promises to Abraham: he will be the ancestor of a multitude of nations; from his descendants nations and kings will come; and (in a verse excluded from this week’s lectionary reading) all the land of Canaan will be given to Abraham and his offspring as an inheritance.
As he and his wife were in their 90s and childless, both Abraham (17:17) and Sarah (18:12) laughed out loud when these promises first hit their ears. They seemed, at first, so far fetched; so ridiculous. And we, perhaps, might have laughed as well. It is hard to imagine a couple starting out a family when they were in their 50s or 60s — much less their 90s. Put yourself in Abraham’s shoes: at 99, would this be good news or bad news? Yet they came to treasure these promises, as did the people of Israel. Abraham became known as the father of the Hebrew faith, and for his willingness to stake his future on God’s promise he became a model of faith for Jews and Christians alike. (Romans 4:16-25)
In this weekend’s lesson, God declares that a covenant will be established with Abraham and Sarah. We know covenants, these days, as a set of rules and regulations that establish a certain character or quality in planned neighborhoods (Don’t paint your house purple, and I won’t park my wreck at the curb…). In the Hebrew Bible the word is used in the same way. it refers to a faithful and thoughtful relationship between God and a believer.
We too live with God, in relationships that are shaped by the “New Covenant.” Through the waters of our baptism, God has named us, claimed us, and promised us the gifts of forgiveness and new life. Through the resurrection of Christ, God has defeated the powers of death, and declared that we too will live.
As people of God, we give thanks for this promise, and pray for it to so take hold of our heats that we become transformed by the love of God that makes it possible. Our God is one who makes promises, and one who’s promises can be trusted because God is faithful. May we grow in the capacity to trust the promises that are ours, that we might live the life God wants us to know.
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- What promises did God make to Abraham and Sarah?
- Why did these promises first seem laughable to Abraham and Sarah?
- How have these promises to Abraham become central to what our Jewish friends believe?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- Who has helped me to understand the promise of my baptism?
- How does this promise allow me to live with hope and joy?
- How might I make witness to the promises that are mine, by the way I live my day-to-day life?