A Reflection on Genesis 17:1-7,15-16: Abraham and Sarah

The first reading today is from Genesis 17:1-7,15-16.

Our first reading continues our look at God’s covenants. Last week, we saw the covenant God made with Noah and all creation. Today, we witness the covenant God makes with Abram and Sarai. Plucked by God from their native land in what is now Iraq, Abram and Sarai made their home in the land around Israel. After faithfully living where God sent them, Abram and Sarai again meet with God. And here, God makes a covenant not only with Abram and Sarai but with their descendants. God’s promises aren’t limited in scope. They carry with them this timeless and eternal quality that transcends our very individual, and limited, experience of history.

The covenant we see today also expands on what I’m calling God’s invitation. The covenant God made after Noah’s Flood is a promise that God will never destroy the earth again. God, in a sense, limits God’s ability to respond to injustice. God will have to handle our acts of injustice and sin in a new way. And one way God does this is through expanding our part of that handling of injustice by expanding our sense of relationships. The covenant God establishes with Abram and Sarai is giant. Like an exponential explosion, each generation creates an ever-growing number of relationships. Not only are more and more people created but the sheer number of relationships formed by these people also grows. God’s covenant impacts not only people but the relationships people form through conversation, communication, and interaction. The wideness of God’s promise impacts even our most mundane interactions with each other.

Last Sunday, the students in Confirmation Class wanted to clarify who exactly do we mean when we say “neighbor?” Are we really only thinking about the people immediately next door to where we live or just the people sitting next to us in the pews? The scope of God’s covenant with Abram and Sarai shows that our neighbors are numerous. God doesn’t only care about a few of our relationships; God cares about all of them. It’s through relationships that God deals with the problem of our sin, including Jesus’ relationship with us through the Cross.

Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for 3/1/2015.