Friday, January 20, 2012 — Week of 2 Epiphany, Year Two
Fabian, Bishop and Martyr of Rome, 250
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 945)
Psalms 31 (morning) 35 (evening)
Genesis 11:27 – 12:8
Today we begin the great saga of Abraham, the father of nations. In an act of great trust, Abraham follows his sense of God’s direction and leaves his family and ancestral lands without knowing his final destination. Throughout Scripture, Abraham is a model of faith.
Faith is active trust. It is the willingness to take the next step in the direction of God, even when you don’t know where you are going. This is the dominant meaning of the word faith. A lesser meaning — “the faith” as in the content of belief or doctrine — sometimes overwhelms this more relational and deeper sense of faith.
It is promised to the faithful one, Abraham, that God will make of him a great nation. Note the contrast with the story of the builders of the tower of Babel, who sought to make a name for themselves by their own selfish efforts. God says to Abraham, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed,” a sentence that can as easily be translated “by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves.”
Some in our time have looked to Abraham as a possible source of understanding and reconciliation among Jews, Christians and Moslems. Each of these three great religions look to Abraham as their patriarch.
In today’s Gospel from John, we have a story of reconciliation between two people divided by religion. Jesus is a Jew; he is speaking to a woman who is a Samaritan. Their religions and nations are divided by hostile animosity, though they share a common source from Abraham. The woman states one of the issues: Which is the correct mountain for God’s worship? Mt. Zion or Mt. Gerizim? Jerusalem or Samaria? She raises a hot-topic question that has consumed political and religious debate for generations. Jesus rejects the framing of the question. The place is irrelevant, says Jesus, for God is Spirit. Worship God in Spirit and truth.
In Hebrews the writer seeks to open up the concept of priesthood beyond the narrow inherited line from Aaron and Levi. His metaphor is King Melchizedek, who in Genesis 14 befriended and blessed Abraham. Melchizedek is of a superior order of priests than Levi because he is not bound by time or by family. Hebrews sees Jesus’ priesthood coming from this other ancient order.
All three of today’s readings invite Christians and all other religious people to develop creative relationships toward one another in our different religious expressions. Recently some have called on the children of Abraham to unite together in relationships of peace to solve the deadly conflicts between Jew, Christian and Moslem. Those of us who come from the line of Abraham are given to be a blessing to the world, not conquerors and dominators. Wherever we see people walking with trust in the eternal, we are seeing Abraham’s brothers and sisters, whether from the blood line of Abraham or from the eternal priesthood of Melchizedek unbounded by family and time. And whenever we see the expression of Spirit or truth from any mountain or from any tradition, we can acknowledge the living water of God that springs up from within all who drink from the water of the spirit.
Today walk in trusting faith like Abraham. Claim your eternal priesthood after the order of Melchizedek. Be open to God as Spirit, filling the whole world with living water, and drink from that Spirit that wells up from within you.