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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, June 6, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Genesis 15:1–17

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.

As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him. Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know this for certain, that your offspring shall be aliens in a land that is not theirs, and shall be slaves there, and they shall be oppressed for four hundred years; but I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for yourself, you shall go to your ancestors in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. (NRSV)

Here we have several windows into God’s relationship with us and with creation. We read about God’s covenant, a solemn agreement, with Abram. When God enters into a particular relationship with someone, it is always God who takes the initiative. God extends the invitation to partner with the Divine in realizing salvation history in our world and in all of creation. In this case, God calls Abram to be the father of a great people who will have a vital, intimate relationship with God. By associating Abram’s offspring with the stars, God points to the interconnection between the human and the natural world. As science tells us, we are made of stardust. We carry the stars in our very being. In creation we are all one, with different roles in revealing the Holy.

As we consider this, we may ponder how God greets Abram. The phrase “Do not be afraid” is the most repeated phrase in the Bible. In this passage, not only is God presenting Abram with the incredible promise of countless descendants, but a terrifying darkness, a smoking pot, and a flaming torch all accompany this moment. Abram has enough reasons to fear! Fear might result in paralysis or avoidance.

As we seek to respond to God’s offer of a covenant with each of us, how do we hear “Do not be afraid”? What fears prevent us from realizing our role in sanctifying the world by our actions and decisions? Can we imagine that God’s covenant with each of us is as vital as Abram’s in bringing about God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven?

Calm my fears, O God. May I hear your call and say yes. Amen.

Written by Margaret M. Brennan, Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being

Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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