This sure does ramble indeed, and has turned into something much more for me than for my readers, but this is my testimony blog, so here goes:
1 Now the LORD had said to Abram:
"Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father's house,
To a land that I will show you.
2 I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
4 So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother's son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan. 6 Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh. [Alon Moreh] And the Canaanites were then in the land.
7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your descendants I will give this land." And there he built an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. 8 And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. 9 So Abram journeyed, going on still toward the South [Negev].
10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land. NKJV
Today turned out to be another too-early (3:00 a.m.) morning (still far too many 4:00 a.m.'s lately, but these days I also can attest to quite a few proud 6:00 of-the-clock mornings!) For the past too many years I've been agonizing about my immediate and distant futures; Sunday and Monday consecutively two friends advised me to list my goals; then on Tuesday, a third friend told me to make what she calls a "Treasure Map," and showed me the one she'd put together about her own goals and desires. After all the needed and welcome advice, immediately I told myself I had to begin with the visual representation, since I'd long considered myself a visual person (but all those assessments and evaluations always place me as word person). Okay. This was an early morning, and the very first thought coming into my life and world was God's call to still-Abram: Go to a country I will show you--however could I not have noticed that before? I mean, this is one of the most familiar passages in the entire Bible! Look at the word, will: it encompasses both volition and a time in the future, meaning not exactly right now.
Abram and some God-Talk
I won't reprise the earlier portion of Abram's well-known story, except again to mention the Bible's asserting Abram was an Ivri, a Hebrew, meaning one from the other side--very parallel to God's position - geographically and attributively – in being from a place the other side of earth. God's call to leave settled nomadic living (at least "settled" in the sense of wandering from place to place being the lifestyle Abram had become comfortable with) almost definitely took Abram by surprise! Most likely Abram didn't consider himself particularly unique or religious, more moral or less determined to succeed in commerce, trading or bartering than anyone else around him. That's exactly the way it is between us and God: when we seek God's call to us within ourselves and look for something with the same shape and general outline as the experiences we've already known and lived, even those experiences God clearly has revealed to us and faithfully shepherded us through, most likely we will not hear God's voice at all, because God's call originates outside of us, in a place we dare not imagine ourselves worthy to enter; God's call begins, continues and holds us safely within God's mercy, grace and endless provision. That sounds pretty much theological, and that's the way I usually think, but, as I insisted in my opening disclaimer, I'm writing this blog for myself. Particularly when I visit my own theology blog, the scriptures and insights I've posted always amaze me, but when I leave the computer screen most of my awareness of my own thinking and writing evaporates in approximately a nanosecond.
As I start thinking about the process of assembling my Treasure Map collage-montage, I need to remember and celebrate the many times I ventured out in trust without knowing where I was going - or at least not knowing more than a step or two - as in not having a particular destination, location or goal in mind because God had not revealed one to me. Am I going to claim I was younger and dumber those times? That's not really a valid reason to make an exception for today, when I'm older and smarter...well, older even than yesterday but not smart. Like Jane, my friend and neighbor who said Treasure Map at exactly the right time, I love color! Line, design, pattern, spot, contrast and all those other graphic and design elements are fun to play with, but color is central.
Verse 8: And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD.
In standard Nomad Style, Abram pitched his tent, indicating this indeed was a temporary place where he'd find needed shelter and also near-instant mobility to quickly respond to God's next direction. Bethel, west, Ai and east also are heavy words, but I'm almost done blogging for this evening.
Verse 10: Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land.
Because of a horrific food shortage, Abram left for the land of slavery--both those words, famine and Egypt, haul substantial literal and metaphoric freight.
The Bible's witness to God's calling Abram and Abram's response is a through-the-ages renowned example of trusting faith, cited most appropriately in the New Covenant scriptures several times. Once again, there's no point in my recounting the entire Abram/Abraham narrative, since at least the people I know read this blog are biblically literate, but just as later on Israel became a named, essentially identified people as in trust they wandered without much of a map (you've heard of "constitutive experiences?" That's what you'd call the Exodus from slavery into freedom), in typical Hebrew style, God's Spirit literally re-constituted Abram into Abraham as a result of his obedience to God's Word (yes!) and also partly as a result of his dis-obedience in not trusting and consistently walking the straight line of faith, but in his ultimately learning from his mistakes?! Like us!?
I've called this section obedience. Most likely I've mentioned Hebrew Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann's insistence on the Church, the community of faith, being obedient. In probably more than one place, WB (I've read enough of his writing I'll risk familiarity) insists the Church is the assembly that faithfully observes the commandments, the tithe, and the Sabbath. In addition, WB cites the example of that consummate Theologian of Grace, Martin Luther, beginning his Small Catechism - typical instruction and, in days of old, required memorization, before First Communion - with the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments. WB essentially comments, "Make no mistake about it! It is the God of the Commandments with Whom we commune!" Except for the link to the English version of Luther's Der Kleine Catechismus, which I already knew was easy to find on UCC.org, I'm not compulsively linking this evening. However, when I was searching to find out if Catechismus was die or der, I found a Dutch version of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which also includes the Ten Commandments; here it is:Westmunsterse Godgeleerden! This definitely is becoming a ramble, so I'm going to publish and log off for the evening. I'd like to apologize, but this blog's for me; in a day or so I'll write about the progress of my Treasure Map.