March 22, 2018
by Tom Purcell
Creighton University's Heider College of Buisness
click here for photo and information about the writer

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Lectionary: 254

Genesis 17:3-9
Psalms 105:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
John 8:51-59

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Lent Prayer for Today

The Fifth Week of Lent - 18 min. - Text Transcript

Abram – the father of the major monotheistic religion traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – receives his specific call from God in this reading from Genesis.  After having proved his faithfulness, God promises Abram great prosperity and the longevity of millennia.  On his part Abram (now Abraham) simply needs to keep the covenant between God and humankind.  This covenant recognizes there is a single God of all, and that God has certain expectations of humans.  As we know, the Jews had difficulty keeping the covenant and as a result suffered many trials and challenges over the following centuries.  Just look back a week or so in the readings and see Moses roaming the desert with his people after centuries of bondage in Egypt; educating the stiff-necked people with God’s rules  in the ten commandments; and dealing with their regression into idolizing a golden calf when God had so recently freed them.

For me the essence of Abraham’s covenant is acknowledging that there is one universal, all loving God (and not a pantheon of gods, as the pagans believed), who expects us to live in harmony with each other in the creation God created and within the rules God professed.  God recognizes that we will fail at this – we are human and fallible and easily diverted.  But God made the commitment to us, as the psalmist reminds us, and expects us to try to live up to our end of the bargain. 

Jesus reveals new aspects of the covenant.  His presence is a gift from God that enriches the loving relationship created with Abraham.  Jesus takes on our burden of sin and atones for us in His ultimate sacrifice.  His statements to the Jews in the excerpt from John today link Him back to Abraham, and while disturbing to the Jews of His day, are clear to us in hindsight with the benefit of revelation and tradition.  God promised Abraham that He would always uphold Her end of the covenant, but what Abraham thought that meant, and what Jesus reveals it in fact means, are different.  Jesus tells the Jews there will be eternal life, not just a restoration of the kingdom of Israel.  Jesus clarifies the true meaning of the ten commandments as the simple truth (so very difficult to live out) of loving God by loving our neighbor as God in turn loves us.

And so the covenant has shifted from not just keeping the Abrahamic and Mosaic laws, and the ten commandments, but also living life as Jesus modeled it for us.  Jesus – the ultimate role model – shows us the way to live in harmony with each other and with creation, for by doing so we give thanks to the loving God that created us.  As with the Jews living in bondage, wandering in the desert or quarreling with themselves and their neighbors, we many times fail to achieve that harmony.  But God didn’t give up on Abraham and his descendants, and God doesn’t give up on us.  I think Lent, among other things, can be a reminder of the steadfastness and unshakeable commitment of God to us through the covenant that was first created with Abram and fulfilled in Jesus.

And so my prayer today is to fight through the times I fail to fulfill my end of the commitment, because I know that God won’t give up on me.

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