Almost twenty years ago I had the opportunity to take part in a three day camping experience in the Australian Outback. I was in south central Australia near to Uluru or Ayers Rock, a geological formation that is often pictured in tourism guides. The Outback is a semi-arid place. We were limited to a small pack for personal items and were provided the swag (sleeping bag). We slept under the heavens, free from the lights of cities, the night sky was magnificent, stars and planets as far as you could see. It was hard to drift off to sleep. I could imagine Abram gazing upon the night sky and hear God saying to him, “Count the stars if you can, your descendants will be more numerous than stars of the sky.” Abram had to be spell bound.
This weekend we again hear the story of God promising Abram descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky. I can hear Abram saying, “With all due respect, dear Lord, I’ve lived a long and wonderful life, and I am so very grateful to have everything I could want — except, as you are aware,
I have no children.” As we know from Genesis, that problem, so obvious and definitive to Abram, was but a minor detail for God. Despite his old age and being childless, Abram put his faith in God, and God counted it as an act of righteousness. To further assure this promise that Abram would be a father of a nation, God enters into a covenant with Abram. The ancient ritual described for this covenant requires animals that are cut in half.
The parties entering into the covenant would declare their loyalty while passing between the halved animals. The parties agreed to accept a similar fate if they proved unfaithful to the covenant. Then, God put Abram into a trance and only God passed through, meaning that God’s commitment was total; breaking this covenant would mean that God would cease to be God. God knows that humans will struggle to be faithful.
Centuries later we are part of the covenant. A covenant further sealed with Jesus’ death on a cross and his resurrection. Jesus’ action is not bound by time, as it reaches back in time, to the present, and into future. Jesus, because of our unfaithfulness becomes like the halved animals. Except this action establish an everlasting covenant in which we receive forgiveness and salvation.
For his faith in God, God credited Abram with righteousness. That is another way of saying that Abram was on the path of openness to receiving all God wants to offer humankind. May our Lenten Journey continue our openness to receiving all God wants to offer us, even if what is being offered seems impossible.