Count the stars

Second Sunday in Lent
28 February 2010
Lent 2C (RCL)

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
Psalm 27
Philippians 3:17-4:1
Luke 13:31-35

This passage in Genesis has always intriqued me. The text simply relates the covenant ceremony with no explanation — but then you wouldn’t expect it. Everyone reading it should know the ceremony anyway. Scholars have theorized about the significance of cutting the animals in half. The two parties to the covenant walk between the halves, and call upon the gods to do the same to them (cut them in half) if they fail in their covenant obligations. Or, perhaps, like the two tablets of stone, one half of each animal goes to each of the parties of the covenant. One wonders. I’m puzzled that at least two of the animals are female — very unusual in sacrificial ritual. The only instance we have legislation for is the red heifer, and that seems to be sympathetic magic (the redness of the heifer, the scarlet rag [a menstrual cloth ?] all burned together and mixed in water to draw off the source of uncleanness). Here we have a covenant of promise of progeny. Female animals. Hmmm. Don’t know.
But, what strikes me this time: God promises Abram that his reward will be great, and Abram focuses on the one thing he lacks. We’re told he is wealthy — camels, flocks, herds and all. One thing, God, is missing. How often do we focus on the one thing missing? And God takes him outside and says, “Look at the stars.” Always an activity guaranteed to make one feel small. And God says, “So shall your descendants be.” Not one descendant, but many, more than the stars. Quit looking at the one thing missing, and look at the promise.

Paul is writing what I believe is his last letter, on his way to execution, to his favorite community. He will change the body of our humiliation in the the body of his glory. Not at all focused on what is missing, or is going wrong, but on what God promises. How often are we worthy of imitation in that regard?

Foxes and hens. Is Herod scattering what God would gather? Jesus knows that he is on the way to Jerusalem to die (at least in Luke’s telling). And yet, he can’t stop doing God’s works.

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