Thursday, February 21, 2013

For Sunday, February 24, 2013

Readings:  Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 and Philippians 3:17 - 4:1
Theme:  Performance anxiety

Abram does not doubt God, and God's ability to do what God has promised.  What Abram doubts is his own ability to do his part -- to perform as God expects and desires. 

God has promised to lead him to a land that God will give to him and his descendants, so Abram's tribe can become a people who will change the way all the world looks at life.  What worries Abram is that so far he and his wife have had no children, and maybe they never will.  Will he be able to provide the descendants God promises to use and bless?  The public story is that Sarai is barren.  But what if Abram also just cannot perform as God needs him to, with her?  What all the worry leads to is performance anxiety in his relationship with God.

To understand God's answer, we need to know a bit about the ritual God enacts for Abram's sake.  In those days when a king (or any other kind of lord) promised land or some other favour to a subject in exchange for the subject's loyalty and specific acts to be done in support of the king, the contract could be sealed by cutting a sacrificial animal in half, laying the two halves on the ground, and the king and subject walking together between the two halves.  From that point on, each party was obliged to perform what they promised.

In this case, God makes the covenant alone -- just with God's self.  God alone walks between the two halves of the sacrificial animal, thus declaring that God alone will ensure the promises are kept.  In other words, Abram need not worry that he might not be able to perform as God needs and expects him to; whatever Abram is able to do will be enough, and the promised result will come to be.

Questions:  What is God's promise to me (or us)?  What does God ask of me (or us) towards this promise?  Do I (or we) worry about maybe not performing well enough -- not having what it takes?  What is God's answer?

And a second note ... about the Philippians reading.  The church in Philippi was a marvelous congregation -- loving, supportive, faithful.  But they were tempted by the culture around them to settle for a version of "the good life" that focused a lot of energy on food and consumption, found entertainment in the gross and shameful, and obsessed about material and transient stuff (gee, does Phil. 3:19 sound at all like 21st-century Canada?).  It's "the easy (but mis-leading) version" of a good life, and Paul has to tell them, "No!  Don't settle for that.  Anyone can do that!  But God in Christ calls you -- and enables and empowers you, to something more meaningful and purposeful in your life than that."

Question:  What dream or greater vision have I ever had at any time for my life?  What keeps me from living towards it?

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