Immigrants seem to be at the center of attention these days, not only in my country but across the globe. When I read God’s words to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you,” desperate scenes from television news come to mind. Abram, of course, is not a refugee from violence as so many are today; but Jesus surely is when, as an infant, his family flees from King Herod to the safety of distant Egypt. Abram is not seeking to escape the cruel grip of endless poverty as so many now are doing, but God’s promises to him include land and rich blessings.
I have long been intrigued by the nature of God’s promised blessings in today’s reading. The wording here suggests a fundamental link between receiving a blessing and becoming a blessing: “I will bless you and make your name great so that you will be a blessing.” That’s the way it seems to go in our scriptures. Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Isaiah and the prophets, and even Jonah despite his protestations are blessed by God’s presence and call; they then bring blessing to those to whom they are sent. Then Jesus, visibly blessed by God at both his baptism and his transfiguration, passes along that blessing in such rich and manifold ways that we are still his living beneficiaries.
The recipient of God’s blessing, it seems, must in turn become the blesser. To receive the grace of God in Jesus Christ demands that we share the gift with all we meet by living it out gratefully and gracefully in their presence and to God’s glory.
Even so, bless me, Lord, as I venture forth. May that blessing overflow into the lives of all I meet today. Amen.
The readings for this week provide an overview of the history of God’s people. Genesis recounts the story of Abraham, who because of his great faith leaves his home and goes to a land that God has promised to show him. The psalmist speaks for the descendants of Abraham, who trust in the Lord to watch over them and be their helper. Paul in Romans argues against those who believe that God’s grace is a result of correctly following religious law. It is Abraham’s faith (for there is no law in Abraham’s time) that prompts him to follow God, and for this he is commended. Both Gospel passages (John and Matthew) emphasize that the story of Jesus is the continuation of a relationship with God’s faithful people that began with Abraham.
Read Genesis 12:1-4a. Recall a major and a minor crossroads in your life. How did you listen for God’s call during each time?
Read Psalm 121. Reflect on the times in your life when this psalm has most strongly resonated with you. How do your strongest emotions point you to God’s presence?
Read Romans 4:1-5, 13-17. What motivates you to do good works? How do you balance “faith alone” and the action to which God calls you?
Read John 3:1-17. How do you hear again the powerful words of verses so familiar they permeate culture? What makes these words fresh for you?
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