Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him.
We are familiar with this story that our lectionary brings for this second week of Lent. We know it well. Abram is called to go forth, called to leave what he knows and become someone new. We know that it will end with him becoming Abraham. It is the beginning of Israel, the beginning of Judaism, and, ultimately, the beginning of us and our own faith story. The story quickly moves from a broad sweep of humanity to a focus on one family and one person. Perhaps it was a way of reminding us that humanity is not just a glob of no-name people but is rather made up of individuals, each children of God in their own right.
We like this story of our hero Abraham. What courage, what persistence, what faith it would take to leave one’s home, to leave everything that one knows and to follow God. It is that to which we all aspire and to which most of us fall incredibly short. We struggle with what leaving would mean for us. After all, what would it mean to you to just lock your doors and walk away, never looking back at the comforts and certitudes of your existence? And, yet, think about it. Abram’s people were nomadic, wandering aliens. Their sense of “home” was not the same as it is for us. And family? Well, Abram had more than likely outlived his parents and he had no children. Who was he leaving behind? What was he leaving? Maybe God was calling him from hopelessness and loneliness and barrenness and finally showing him home. Maybe God was not calling him away but toward. Maybe that was the promise. And yet, Abram still had to have the faith to go into the unknown, to trust in the promise that God was beginning to reveal.
Maybe that’s the point that we are supposed to learn–not that God calls us to leave behind what we know but that God calls us to journey into the unknown, to journey beyond what we know, to journey far past those things of which we are certain. It is called faith. We are not called to know, to be certain. We are called to trust that the Promise is real. Do you remember the Star Trek mission–“to boldly go where no man has gone before”? (Well, it was the 1960’s so I’ve made it more inclusive for the title of this post.) I’m not really that big a Star Trek fan but I remember watching it when I was little. There was something that drew me in. Perhaps it was that notion of going beyond, traveling to a place where no one had ever been, a place where parents and mentors and clergy, where books and Scriptures and songs could talk about but never really fully depict exactly what it was.
God does not call us to “figure it out”. There are no “right” answers. In fact, I have found that really good discussions of faith matters generally create more questions. (Thanks be to God!) God doesn’t expect us to blindly follow into certainty but rather to leave what we know behind and journey far into the unknown, into the wilds of our lives where the pathway is less paved and worn down by others. Maybe that is why Lent begins not in the Temple but in the wilderness, where the winds blow the pathways into changing patterns rather than roads and the sands swirl and blind us at times. Maybe it is when we leave behind what we know that we can finally hear the way Home. That is the Promise in which we trust–that somewhere beyond what we have figured out and what we have planned and for which we have prepared is the way Home.
Today we are bombarded with a theology of certitude. I don’t find much biblical support for the stance of “God told me and I’m telling you, and if you don’t believe as I do, you’re doomed.” A sort of “My god can whip your god” posture. From Abraham, going out by faith not knowing where he was being sent, to Jesus on the cross, beseeching the Father for a better way, there was always more inquiring faith than conceited certainty. (Will D. Campbell)
As this second week of Lent begins, of what are you certain? What would it mean for you to leave your certainty behind and journey into the unknown?
Grace and Peace,