Our faith is not a static set of rules, nor is it a deep understanding of tradition and scripture. Our faith is a constantly evolving and ever deepening and broadening dialog between our selves, our neighbors, and our God.
A couple of weeks ago I woke up to find snow covering the ground outside our bedroom window. But there were warmer temperatures in the day’s forecast, I was concerned we’d soon have a thick layer of slush outside. And frankly, my snowblower is not terribly useful in slush! So I hopped right out of bed, taking care that my sleeping sweetheart, who’d been up a lot the previous night, was undisturbed, and ran to the front door.
I stepped out to see what I had to deal with. Hmm: still pretty cold. So, I was pretty sure I had time for some coffee. As I turned around, I saw that the inner door had swung almost shut, but I knew it wouldn’t latch on its own. So, I pulled open the storm door to go back in and … “click.”
It was not quite 6:00am in the morning. It was 28 degrees outside. It was dark. I’m wearing only socks, sweat bottoms, and a T-Shirt.
The Abrahamic Covenant requires us to obey God, but the story of Abraham’s Bargaining with God in Genesis 18 tells us that there is a great deal more to the Covenant than we think.
Our reading from the Book of Genesis this morning is part of major turning point in the Biblical narrative: a fundamental redefinition of the nature of God’s relationship with us.
In the first 17 chapters of Genesis, we read about the classic Judgmental and often distant God of the Old Testament. The God we read about in the Creation, the Fall, Noah and the Flood, and the Tower of Babel. But then we arrive here, at the story of Abraham, whom all the great monotheistic faiths claim as their forebear.
Abraham’s story begins with this distant God commanding him to leave his ancestral home in Harran, which he does: taking along his wife Sarah; his nephew, Lot; and all of their goods and possessions. They eventually settle in Canaan.
And there, Lot and Abraham part ways. And soon after, Abraham rescues Lot when Lot and his family are kidnapped in a raid by the enemies of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Then we read about the declaration of God’s new Covenant with Abraham, which we examined in a sermon here over a year ago. At that time we learned how Abraham’s Covenant demonstrates that God hears all of us and sees all of us. That we are all included in this Covenant with God; and that it is one from which none of us shall ever be rejected. But now we will see how Abraham’s Covenant changes the nature of our relationship with God.
The sticking point is that up until this moment, it has been a one-way relationship: God tells Abraham what to do; Abraham does it. We even see this in the Covenant’s requirement that Abraham and all of his household be circumcised. Abraham immediately does this not only to himself and his son Ishmael, but “all of the men of the house, slaves born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner.”
But, this is no longer a one-way relationship. So, how does the other direction of this relationship work? By virtue of the Covenant, God must be responding to us in some way. This also means that God must be open to being changed by us. And, that is exactly what seems to be happening in this morning’s reading.