Today, the author of Hebrews sets the ambience for our worship, holding up Abraham, our father in faith, for our edification and emulation. In a mini-biography, the ancient writer reminds us of the salient moments of Abraham’s life, each one of which was made possible by faith. By faith Abraham obeyed, not knowing where he was to go; by faith he sojourned; by faith he received power; by faith he offered up Isaac. Abraham was able to be and to do all that God asked of him only because his entire life was driven and empowered by faith.
“Brothers and sisters, if you were raised with Christ, seek what is above.” With these words, the author of the Letter to the Colossians sets the tone for our prayer together this Sunday. We are invited to focus on and find our fulfillment in God, rather than be bound by things of earth or so focused on ourselves that our perspective and our vision become myopic.
Our Genesis author continues along the same road we traveled last week: pointing out personality traits in our faith ancestor that readers are expected to imitate. Two stand out today.
During a time in which set prices weren’t tagged on items for sale, one tried to obtain the object for as low a cost as possible. From an early age, one learned and practiced the art of negotiating, and Abraham demonstrates this skill.
Our sacred authors frequently present their readers with concrete examples of people they can imitate. They presume certain men and women through the centuries have embodied specific characteristics that set them apart as God’s followers, traits we’re expected to make our own.
Where do you go when you are looking for God? Do you go to a church? Do you find God there in the silence among the worn pews and the scent of flowers and incense? Perhaps you find God in nature’s cathedral -- in the quiet forest, or the regal mountains, or by the sea. Some find God in between the notes of a symphony; others in the mysterious maze of a labyrinth. Others find God in the complexity of the sciences, in biology, chemistry, physics. Still others experience God’s presence in the rhythm of a well-turned phrase or in a majestic hymn.
In today’s Gospel, the Lucan Jesus offers clear and concise directives to those who are to be his disciples in the world. First among these directives is the commission to go forth from the comfort of family and friends in order to bring the good news to the people and places Jesus would visit.
When I was a child, the sisters taught us to pray the Angelus as the noon bell rang at school. Then, it seemed like little more than a rote recitation of Hail Marys punctuated by call and response. The faster it went, the sooner we could start lunch and recess -- and that was the real importance of the bell.
One of the easiest ways to learn the uniqueness of any evangelist is to compare his final work with the sources he employed. That’s difficult to do with Mark and John, but it’s certainly easier when we’re dealing with Matthew and Luke.
Some scholars of the Christian Scriptures insist we’ll never be able to get an accurate picture of the historical Jesus just by reading the four Gospels. They believe the portraits we find in those writings have been so deeply colored by the authors’ faith in him that the “real” Jesus has been permanently lost. Yet when pressed, even they admit there’s at least one thing about the Gospel Jesus that’s historically accurate: he was a friend of sinners. No one in the early church would have dared invent that characteristic.
Two widows are featured in the sacred texts today. The text from Kings tells the plight of a Sidonian woman. With no husband, no inheritance rights and no voice, she was dependent upon her son, the man of the family. So it was with the widow of Nain in the Gospel: Her son, her only son, was her legal protector. When both widows lost their sons to death, they suffered not only the loss of a beloved child but also the loss of their rights -- or, as Bonnie Bowman Thurston has put it, they lost their “social security” (The Widows, Fortress Press, 1989).