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  • Rev. Diana Wright

Skin in the Game

2 Lent

25 Feb 2018

I am not sure why God persists in making relationships with humankind. God has no need of anything, yet God wants to be in relationship to us. That, for me, is reason enough to want to be in relation with God. That is what I decided would be the core of my own Lenten journey this year: finding new and deeper ways to be in relationship with God and understanding more fully, if possible, how God wants to be in relationship with me and humanity.

The journey is not a selfish one; this is not about self-improvement (al-though I certainly could always use some of that) but about the discovery of God and God’s relationship with me and others. The relationship is centered around covenant, which in Hebrew is the word “berith” and suggests promise, blessing, commandments, and freedom, all in one word. If you are looking for a contract rather than a covenant, look elsewhere. It is far deeper and more layered than that. Last week we heard about the first covenant: God hung up the war bow, pointing it upwards, away from the earth, and making it visible after the rain. God unilaterally said the earth and humanity would not be destroyed and violence was off the table. Oh that we would make the same covenant with one another God made with us!!

God knew, even as Noah and his family stepped off the ark, that humans would turn to evil and violence towards one another and all of creation. It seemed that nothing had changed, but already God was modeling an entirely different way of being. That is why I do not believe that the second coming will see Jesus come with a sword to wipe out all non-Christians, or even all non-fundamentalist Christians. It is also why I believe we must do more to oppose violence in all forms right here and right now.

God stayed in relation with humanity and, as we read in Genesis, with one particular family, that of Abraham and Sarah. God states “I am God Almighty”. Abraham and Sarah are to swear to follow this God, but most importantly God swears to be the god of Abraham. Think about it; God swears allegiance to humans!! This is not the god of the Assyrians or the Babylonians or the pantheon of the Greeks and Romans; those gods were capricious and ego-maniacs. The God of Abraham and Sarah was totally different. This god sought restoration and reconciliation for humanity and I might add still does. God wants justice, restorative and distributive justice. Divine justice was not satisfying the whims of the gods, but rather doing justice on earth.

But I digress. God demands our faith and belief and our following the commandments laid before us, but in turn God Is faithful to us. Amazing.

God asks of Abraham and Sarah that they walk before God and be blameless. God is demanding that there be no other gods and that they live upright and holy lives. And, for the first time, God demands a sign from Abraham: circumcision of all males. It is a nonnegotiable sign. This is the first time Abraham has been asked to do something tangible to be part of this covenant. He now must make a physical commitment to this covenant. Had he refused it could have been a game changer. In turn, Abraham and Sarah are promised what would have been one of the most crucial of desires of any family of their time: heirs and descendants. And in this case not just any descendants but a multitude of peoples and sovereigns of nations.

As part of the covenant both Abraham and Sarah receive new names. Naming is important, for to know someone’s name is to have power over them. Surnames are often changed at the time of marriage; monastics and popes change their names to signify their new roles. Yet God does not take that power and make puppets or slaves of them, but instead leaves the choice of keeping covenant with them just as he does with us.

The book of Genesis points out that Abraham was no saint and that on more that one occasion he made terrible decisions by not trusting God. He as lied twice about who Sarah was, yet God stays with them and they stay with God. For that I am thankful. I can pray every night, knowing I have fallen short, knowing that God will keep me in the fold and let go of the things I ask to let go.

Jesus gave us a hint in today’s reading just how hard it is to keep covenant with God. Why do you think he called Peter, who had done nothing to be disloyal to Jesus, Satan? Perhaps he feared that he might respond to Peter’s words and succumb to the very human desire to live. Even more, he iterates the shocking words that God is not seen so much in the Glory, in the Easter even, as in the cross: the God who is suffers and dies. To take up the cross is to understand that God is in suffering and with those who suffer and to be willing to do likewise; to be like God is to be willing to suffer.

So in Genesis God tells an elderly couple, who have to this point been faithful even while flawed, that much will come to them but that they must carry, metaphorically, their cross. They must make a commitment to be in this covenant, just as we do.

Lent is a time to reflect not only on what God has done for us and how it was, as is still being, done, but on our own commitment to this shocking and counterintuitive way of being. It is time to leave your comfort zone.

Perhaps for the remaining days of Lent you can recount your blessings, but also ask yourself how you can be God-like, yes God-like, and have skin in the game. I would suggest that an appropriate reading of today’s lessons would tell us we must take risks to be part of the world God intends and the sort of humanity God desires. We may not agree on a lot of things, but if we can agree that God is first and foremost with those in need and that, to be God-like, that is where we should go, then we have gone a long ways towards making the kin-dom of God a reality and we have gone a long ways towards the cross and the empty tomb.

THE LAST SHALL BE FIRST

Along the way the pilgrims heard

that a group of people

had set out for Jerusalem

without a map.

Since each of us owned

our own map

and read it daily

and even then

had difficulty knowing

which way to turn,

we were amazed

that they would set out

on their own…

amazed and alarmed.

Many a day we had

prayed and consulted

over choices

in the road.

This news presented

a greater dilemma:

Which of us would go

in the rescue party?

Whoever went would

most certainly

not get to Jerusalem

on time.

Distraught,

we prayed.

Then it was we realized

that the ones who went

in search of the lost

would be the first

to arrive in Jerusalem.

Weems, Ann. Kneeling in Jerusalem (Kindle Locations 421-443). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.


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