Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sermon from Sunday, in the raw.

Gen. 15:1-12, 17-18


Abram, Abram,
Not AbRAham, but Abram
Abram, who was called out of his hometown by, who, God?
Did Abram know all that we know about God?
Abram is the first person God has spoken to since Noah, several hundred years prior.
who, or what is this voice that calls to Abram?
Yet, Abram listens to the voice and heeds the call.
The next several chapters of Abram's life, chronicled in Genesis, is one swirling adventure after another
Abram leaves his hometown, takes a wife, Sarai, not yet Sarah.
Abram goes into Egypt, allows his wife to be..ahem...compromised, by the very icon of ancient political power, the Pharoah.
because of his deceit about not claiming Sarai as his wife the Pharoah and his house is plagued, Pharoah knows what's going on and sends Abram and Sarai away.
Abram the trickster.
Abram prospers along with his nephew Lot
they prosper so much they need to split their holdings so as not to despoil the land.
Where Lot goes, there is military intrigue, he is kidnapped.
Abram assembles a crack squad of warriors.
Abram gets Lot back.
Abram is praised by the mysterious Melchizedek.
The kings of the area try to reward him, but noble Abram refuses.
Through all this adventure: (raise the tension)

and then we are met with these quiet words:
"The LORD came to Abram in a vision"

And God says to Abram:
"Fear not"
A few weeks ago, our Chaplain, Annwn Myers, noted that "Fear not" is one of the most common sayings of God in the Bible.
Now, being a seminarian, I was immediately seized with the hermeneutic of suspicion, so I, of course, looked it up.
and...she's right
there are hundreds of instances where God, or an angel says, "Fear not."
And the funny thing is, when God says fear not, the ones hearing it...the ones hearing GOD...SPEAK...well, they FEAR NOT.
And Abram fears-not and listens to and even talks with God.
We read the most amazing things in the Bible,don't we, just hear that again, "Abram speaks with God."
What follows is a story with extrodinarily potent imagery.
There is a vision
Abram argues with God
God widens Abram's perspective to a literally cosmic scale,
"Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them."
"So shall your descendents be."
But Abram needs more, he still wants to know how he can trust God.
Then God, and it is hard to tell whether what follows happens in the physical world or within the context of the vision,
such are the misty-myth-realities of God-encounters
But God tells Abram to take select animals, and in a very specific manner, slaughter them, each laid, "half over against the other."
to us this a strange thing for God to ask
But to Abram, he is thinking: God is speaking my language!
God is implementing a covenant ceremony so solemn, so permanent, that our pre-nup-divorce-broken-lease-culture cannot even come close to understanding it.
God is linking his destiny to Abram's destiny.
God is linking His destiny to Abram's.
All theology starts with mystery.
God is so very big, and we are so very small.
God is God, and I am not.
Our Arch-bishop of Canterbury says that we come to theology with "wounded knowledge," the wound in our knowledge of God is the essential incomprehesibility of Him.
When asked what God was doing before the creation of the universe, Martin Luther, responded that God was whittling switches for people who ask such useless questions.
Since God exists outside of creation as its creator, He is ultimately unknowable.
Met with such a large and wholly OTHER God, we can almost be forgiven one of our great sins
the sin of abstracting God,
the sin of seeing God as force.
the sin of knowing God's ways as if God were a reducible formula.
But the rub is that... God.... meets us.
God came to Abram.
While the infinite, eternal Creator God is absolutely unknowable
that same God meets us, comes to us, reaches out to us,
is destined to bring us to him.
The Unknowable God makes himself known.
Julian of Norwich called this unknowable God that makes himself known, the Courteous God.
How courteous of God to make himself known to us!
How merciful that God doesn't let us flounder in our being.
Instead, God mercifully makes himself known, and not only that, but he lets us know in no uncertain terms, indeed,on our terms, like he did with Abram, that the foundation of the entire creation and the motivation of the creator is Love.
This is the greatest glory that we can experience of God, not his power, but his presence,not his majesty, so much as his ministry.
From the first covenant with Abram to the new covenant through the Word made Flesh, the same refrain rings throughout all space and time: Emmanuel. God with us.
How merciful that God is so courteous as to regard us to be his companions.
Incidently, it is worth noting that the derivation of the word, companion, means someone you break bread with.
May all of us here, and all creation, come to know our Unknowable Companion.

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