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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, February 7, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading | Genesis 15:1–11

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”
But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” But the word of the Lord came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Then he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. (NRSV)

I preached this passage on my last Sunday at the first church I pastored on the plains of central Nebraska. When I came to this community in 1986, they were deep in the midst of the farm crisis. The FDIC had just closed the local bank, and although you couldn’t tell by looking at these proudly stoic folks, this crisis had hit them hard. Like Abram in today’s passage, they were discouraged.

But the community began to turn itself around almost immediately. Our church hosted a series of meetings to address their issues. By the time I left six years later, community leaders were meeting regularly to create a bright future for themselves.

Like Abram, this community chose to put their trust in God’s promise even when there was no immediate evidence for it.

As I preached that Sunday about how God asks a despairing Abram to “look to the stars . . . so shall your descendants be,” I was thinking especially of the youth of the community whom I had come to know and love. They were indeed this community’s hope.

As far as I can tell, that community is thriving today. I am Facebook friends with some of those (now-grown) youth. They are successful doctors, loving parents, caring teachers, and restaurant owners with children of their own. Some stayed in the area and invested in their community. Others went on to success elsewhere.

Just like to Abram in today’s passage, God’s message to that once despairing community on the Nebraska plains was: Look up! Your ancestors (figuratively and literally) will be more than you will ever be able to count!

Gracious God, help us to remember that even in hopeless times, you have promised us a future of hopes more numerous than the stars. Amen.

Written by Stuart Jamieson, Major and Planned Giving Officer

Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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