The Second of a Series of Reflections on Lent: The Springtime of the Soul
A Biblical Commentary for the
Second Sunday in Lent
By Rev. David H. Rommereim
The Great Perhaps
The first eleven chapters of Genesis take on a myth-like character. That is, they tell stories that seem to describe primordial history; beginnings, deities, creation, and life as people experienced it and handed it down in folklore.
After these stories of beginnings, (Genesis 1-11) we move to the text in Genesis 12.1-4. This chapter begins with “Now, the Sovereign said to Abram, ‘Go ...’” (v.1). God called Abram and Sarai (his wife) on a journey of faith: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” The text simply announces that God insists they “go.” God’s speech calls them out into the world of faith, seemingly without a map. The remarkable thing is that they begin their faith journey. They go.
This Genesis story reminds me of another example of God’s intrusive speech in the Christian Gospel. You may recall the experience of Jesus calling the first three disciples Peter, James, and John. On the shores of the Sea of Galilee Jesus walks on the shore and asks them to leave their nets and follow behind him (Matthew 4.18-22; Mark 1.16-20; Luke 5.1-11). Very little is known about the men, nor their encounters with Jesus. All that is recorded--and etched in our memories--is that they dropped everything and followed Jesus.
In this Genesis text, Abram heard God’s speech. He and Sarai embraced newness and left by faith into the unknown. They entered risk and what I love to call “the great perhaps.” It is faith with the insistent and hope-filled God.
Abram’s life before God’s speech appears to be without risk. In other words, Abram’s risk at leaving everything behind is not the way you and I usually approach risk. That is, we often think in terms of calculated risks, such as the margins on the stock market. However, risk implies that there is something to lose and Abram risks his entire family, his livelihood, and perhaps his ancestral memory. Risk takes on a deeper meaning when one could lose it all while stepping out in faith. Yet, God speaks a massive promise to Abram and Sarai. In verses 2-3, they are invited to live in hope and trust the promise.
Abram and Sarai do not hesitate, bargain, or probe. They trust. It was not because he was so successful as a person of faith. Keep reading the Genesis stories of the Abraham Lekh Lekha (travails of faith) in Genesis 12-25. Through faith, they are reckoned (considered) as righteous (Genesis 15.6, Romans 4.5). Abram and Sarai are acknowledged as the foundation of Yahwehistic, monotheistic, faith because of their trust.