Pathways through Lent

Weekday reflections from St. John’s in the season of Lent.

Thursday in the First Week of Lent: February 22, 2024

The second Sunday in Lent always includes something from the calling of Abraham. Then in the summer of Year A we read many of the stories of the ancestors in Genesis 12–50, all the way up to the Children of Israel living protected lives safely in Egypt. The Abraham and Sarah stories are accounts of living “by faith, not by sight.” Abraham and Sarah are rich in flocks and herds; wherever they travel as nomadic shepherds, they have power and influence, even the ability to assemble a small army of their household to defend themselves and the extended family.

And yet, what Abraham and Sarah do not have are the two things God has promised them: to own this land of their wanderings and to become a large tribe. The stories show the faithfulness of Abraham and Sarah, living in response to this double promise in the face of almost no progress. It is that faith which the Christian New Testament sees as a model for our lives in Christ—trusting in what God will do, even when we see so much resistance to the will of God.

By the time of his death, Abraham has only a tiny deposit on the promises. He owns a cave as a burial place for Sarah and himself, and he has one miracle son born when they were too old. It will be in the third and fourth generations after them that a large tribe emerges. They are the circumcised, confessing that the future is in God’s hands. It will be hundreds of years before that gravesite is surrounded by an expansive nation state with a capital city and temple in Jerusalem. No surprise that the faithfulness of Abraham and Sarah is one of our Lenten markers for what the calling is to be faithful in our own time and place!

The path from God’s call and covenant with Abraham is winding and conflicted. I invite you to read the 40 pages of Genesis 12–50. It is a rarity in the Bible, with so many stories in which women play significant roles: Sarah, Hagar, Rebekah, Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, Bilhah, Dinah, Shua, and Tamar. And enough other named women to stump the best trivia players. That’s rare in the Bible.

We live on this side of our baptism, trusting the same God who declares that we are loved and that our faithfulness will help establish God’s reign in the world.

Jack Reiffer
Pathways Editor

Links to the appointed readings for today