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Visions from The Catacombs: Week before March 16, 2014

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Genesis 12:1-5

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

4So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan.

What I Am Learning:

Abram is called to leave his home, to leave the familiar and familial. He is not told where he will go or where he will end up. He is just told to go.

There was no travel agent and probably no maps. But he and Lot and their families packed up and left all that was known and secure.

This beginning of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths says something powerful about God. It says, in part, that God called Abram (which means "father") to risk himself, his family and his property to participate in what God is doing in the world. It says, in part, that Abram and his family were necessary parts of what God was doing in the world.

When we retell this story about our ancient father Abram and our ancient mother Sarah, we recognize that God still calls us to risk and that we are necessary to God's work in the world.

Abram's needs are also recognized, however, as a new land would be given to him and his heirs.

Wise people do not risk themselves for nothing. But if the goal is meaningful enough then we just might risk ourselves. The purpose of their risk is nothing less than the blessing of all the nations of the world. The word "blessing" means the power to thrive with the good-will of God.

Abram will risk himself to help all the families of the earth, that is a mission worth risking for!

Most readers become very confused about the next part, the sentence with all the blessings and curses.

It is likely that this is a liturgy of welcome for when someone is welcomed into a family. In those days your tribe was all you had. They provided your food, sense of belonging and your protection. There was no police force to go to and no agencies for social welfare. So what is happening here is that Abram is being called to join God's family - and the purpose of God's family is to bless all the families of the world.

As we say in TCC: we are called to join God in the healing and creating of the world.

Abram and Sarah, with Lot and his family, joined God's family.

It is clear that Abram and Sarah both failed to live fully by the purpose of God's family. It is clear that the three faith traditions that find their roots in Abram have all failed to live fully in this purpose.

This failure is a matter of great grief.

But it is also the clarity of this story -that God called them to be a blessing- that both make us take notice of our failure spurs us to try again.

May we, like Abram, be willing to leave the familiar, to join God's family whose purpose is the blessing of all families.