SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT
Genesis 15: 1-2, 17-18
Today we hear how God established a covenant with Abram. The Israelites borrowed from ancient Mesopotamia a law permitting a childless man to make his slave his heir. Abram and his wife being elderly, Abram has done that. But God tells him that his heir will be his own son, and he will have descendants as numerous as the stars in the night sky. Against all reason Abram believes him, and God takes that belief as justification. (‘Justification’ is getting right with God.)
God now makes a covenant with Abram. A covenant differs from a contract because it is made by a powerful party from the benefit of a weaker party. The ritual establishing the covenant was again taken from ancient Mesopotamia. Animals are cut in half and the halves laid out on either side of a path. The covenanter passes between them, symbolically saying that he should suffer the fate of these beasts if he fails to keep the covenant. In the night a mysterious smoking firepot and a flaming sword, representing a God of power, come down the path between the pieces, thus sealing the covenant. God asks nothing from Abram. His faith is enough.
Philippians 3: 17- 4:1
The Christians colony at Philippi, in Macedonia, was the first Christian community that Paul established on European soil. The letter has a melancholy tone because Paul is in prison, a captive of the Romans, and not at all certain that he can survive the experience. Yet it is a sweet melancholy because of his faith in love—love that binds these early Christians to each other and to him, and all them to Christ.
© Arthur H. Cash