Friday, March 12, 2010

Promises

Many of us Christians, as many of us humans, seem to think that our time in history is THE time in history. Whatever may have gone before may be useful for learning, but wasn't quite as important as the time in which we live. It may well be interesting to dream of the future but it does not exist and it will be us that create it. This attitude is understandable since we are living now, not living in the past and can't live in the future. This view is unfortunate because living as though our time is the only time that matters tends to separate ourselves from our own histories and separates ourselves from actively participating with people who will come after us. Such thinking adds to an ego-centric and essentially hedonistic life style.

This is a dangerous view for Christians not because we know a God that will punish us in the future, but because it separates us from the greater plan of God in which we are both beneficiaries and active participants. Participants though in a different light than we normally perceive ourselves. One with deeper and more profound meaning than simply "being God's hands and feet in the world."

We have all made promises and have had promises made to us by others. Despite Scriptural encouragements to simply let our yes be yes, and our no, no, we still phrase our intentions with the words "I promise to…." Even wedding vows include such words as though saying "I promise" makes our intent any more sure or our word any more reliable.

This is not necessarily a bad situation since Scripture itself refers to the promises of God. We often refer to the more formal promises as covenants between God and people. The Bible is full of promises including those to Noah, Abraham, and David to name some well known ones. The Noah covenant is a promise to not destroy the world by flood again and the rainbow is recognized as the seal of that promise throughout Christendom. David's covenant includes the promise that a king will always be on the throne of David and in Christendom the fulfillment of that promise is Jesus as king of the people of God. Most of us know at least two promises to Abraham. The first is that the world will be blessed through his offspring and we understand that to mean the blessing of Jesus coming into the world to save us. Another promise to Abraham is that his offspring will number as the stars in the sky and the sand on the shore. Abraham, who was married to a barren woman was going to be the father of innumerable host of descendents. When we think of this promise we think of the Jewish people and the Arabic peoples in the Middle East.

Paul's discussion of the descendents of Abraham though turns the idea from physical descendents to spiritual descendents "It is not a Jew who is one outwardly, but he who is one inwardly; these are the descendents of Abraham. And so we see the promise to Abraham able to accept as its fulfillments the entire world if they would but come to God. We welcome our inclusion in Abraham because it represents our salvation; the inclusion of the Gentiles in the family of God.

And we should. We do ourselves – and God – a disservice though if we only consider that our participation in Abraham is simply something we receive. We serve a faithful God, a God who keeps His promises not just to us, but to Abraham. In a real sense we are evidence of, we are in reality, the faithfulness of God to Abraham. We participate in the steadfast love of God by our faithful being in God. We are the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham and are offered by God to Abraham as His fidelity. We do not just receive the blessings of Abraham, we are the blessing of Abraham. You are the real spiritual and physical evidence of God's faithful remembering of Abraham.

The other promise to Abraham, that the world would be blessed through him is of course ultimately fulfilled in Jesus, but we participate in this promise as well. Again, not as recipients of that blessing (although we are), but as people who implement that blessing daily to those around us.

In two ways then, through the promise to Abraham we become not just recipients of the promises but we become the enactment of those promises. We are both the faithfulness of God and the blessing of God for the world. During this season of Lent, consider how you have been offered to others as the fulfillment of God's promises for others.

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