Following Directions

Sometimes I feel like a broken record with my ongoing praise of the Collects of the Church Year.  I know that I often say that some are better than others, but I honestly can’t recall finding one I didn’t like.  So it is that again this week you’re reading me say, “I love the Collect for this Sunday,” which I do, but I like it even more because yesterday’s post actually garnered a comment.

The Rev. Adam Trambley, raised an interesting question in regards to the story of Abram’s leaving.

“Here’s the question that jumped into my mind as I read the Genesis passage this morning. God says “Go. Leave your family…” Then it ends saying, “Lot went with him.” Over the coming chapters, very little good seems to come of Lot going with him. Did Abraham disobey here? What say you?”

The first thing I say, something that I should probably say more often, and something that Adam knows well, is that I’m not an expert on this stuff.  I hadn’t even noticed the Lot issue before Adam raised it, but it did invite me to do a bit of digging.  My gut reaction was to say no, Abram didn’t disobey God because we’ll hear several times throughout scripture that Abraham believed and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.  Abraham is known for his repeated acts of faith: answering God’s call here in chapter 12; his welcoming of God by the Oaks of Mamre in chapter 18; and the sacrifice of Isaac in chapter 22. Of course, there moments where he wasn’t quite so perfect too: see especially the story of Hagar and Ismael in chapter 16, so I dug a little deeper.  My HarperCollins Study Bible has a note on verse 4a that says, “Abram’s obedience is immediate and unquestioning,” which is a pretty strong argument, but I decided to dig a little deeper.

Matthew Henry’s Commentary deals with issue of who went with Abram after God said, “leave your kindred.”  “He took his wife, and his nephew Lot, with him; not by force and against their wills, but by persuasion. Sarai, his wife, would be sure to go with him; God had joined them together, and nothing should put them asunder. If Abram leave all, to follow God, Sarai will leave all, to follow Abram, though neither of them knew whither. And it was a mercy to Abram to have such a companion in his travels, a help meet for him. Note, It is very comfortable when husband and wife agree to go together in the way to heaven. Lot also, his kinsman, was influenced by Abram’s good example, who was perhaps his guardian after the death of his father, and he was willing to go along with him too.

I’d prefer to eliminate the “perhaps” in Matthew Henry.  As chapter 11 comes to a close, Lot’s father, Abram’s brother, has died and is being cared for by his grandfather, Terah, who in turn dies.  It seems clear that ultimately the childless Abram and Sarai became the guardians of Lot and so his inclusion in their leaving is a logical one.  Abram will have plenty of time to disobey the LORD, just not yet.

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Go.

The Bible is ripe with commandment to “Go.” Jesus was especially fond of inviting people to go. “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel,” is my particular favorite, but there are others. The idea didn’t start with Jesus, however, God has been calling people to go for thousands of years.

This Sunday’s Old Testament lesson is a prime example. God calls Abram and Lot to “go!” Go, be blessed to be a blessing. That really is the ongoing call of the spiritual life: Go, be blessed to be a blessing. But the first step of that call is to go.

As I sit on the front porch of Cumming Lodge, enjoying the company of my fellow priests, reflecting on the nature of our lives as members of the clergy, I’m keenly aware that of the six of us here, only one is from this area, and he hasn’t stayed in this diocese forever. Inherent in our call is the call to “go, be blessed to be a blessing.” It is a particular call for us, and our going perhaps moves us further than the average person in the pews, but the call to every disciple of Jesus is to “go.”