Second Sunday in Lent - March 13, 2022
Genesis 15:1-12, 17=18
By Rev. Melissa Drake,
Conference Superintendent, Aldersgate District
As much as I like to think that I am a fun, spontaneous, go with the flow kind of person, at my core, I’m just your average first-born child. Fun and go with the flow, only if everything else is in control. Spontaneous and flexible, but only if my regular habits aren’t disturbed. Reasonable routine is the scaffold that keeps the rest of my life from descending into complete chaos and madness— particularly when it comes to the bookends of my day. I get cranky and fussy when my bedtime or rising time gets altered too dramatically. And I always dread this Sunday – Spring Ahead Sunday – for weeks before it happens. I psych myself up for it. I try to plan my calendar events around this day to manage the bleary grumpiness I know will take hold.
And yet, it only takes two or three days for my routine to adjust, and I know I will find myself happier, more in rhythm, and better off than I was during the whole of the “fall back” time. I know this is true because we’re in the lecnten time – that Anglo-Saxon word that means “lengthen” and refers to the lengthening days of spring. This is a time that always speaks to my internal heart and body rhythms: Spring isn’t here yet, but I can feel the evidence of its coming. It’s the season when I start digging out the seed catalogs and finding myself daydreaming about my garden and my flowers, knowing I’m still two full months away before it’s safe to set anything out yet. These are the lengthening days of standing in the mud of the winter thaw, before the green of the spring is here, but feeling the warmth of the sun on my face and knowing it will come.
It’s the “Standing on the Promises” season, where the new thing has not yet come to be, but we start to feel and see and taste the actual evidence that the promise will come to reality.
In Genesis Chapter 15, Abram has heard the original call from God to leave his land to a place where God will show him, and that God will make Abram a great nation that will be a great blessing to all the families of the earth. (Gen. 12:3). At 75 years of age, Abram, his wife Sarai and their household were obedient – up they went. And though the journey was interesting, it wasn’t all goodness and blessing: there was serious heartbreak and fear and hardship. There was famine, there were plagues, there was war. Abram’s own household split up. But also, every so often along the way, the Lord showed up with Abram for a chat.
Chapter 15 begins, “After these events, The LORD’s word came to Abram in a vision.” This is a lecnten conversation – one of the lengthiest chats that the LORD and Abram have ever had. And God promises yet again that Abram will have children, even though it’s been years since the original call.
God leads Abram outside to try to count the stars (don’t you love this image of this old man, with his head tilted back, gazing at the milky way?) And God says, “this is how many children you will have, see if you can try to count them if you can.” And Abram, his eyes filled with starlight and his ears filled with God’s voice, “trusted the LORD, and the LORD recognized Abram’s high moral character. (Gen. 15:6).
Later in this same conversation God makes a covenant – that deep promise between the two of them—that it shall be so. It isn’t until Abram is older than 99 that the covenant promise comes to pass—but he can begin to feel it, taste it, see God’s evidence that the promises will hold true.
The season of Lent is the “Standing on the Promises” time for us as well. The Lenten season is traditionally the time when Christians prepare for baptism, living in the promise and hope of that moment in the water—that sacrament, that means of Grace, that act that signifies our new life in Christ and our new life in Christian community.
For the baptized community, we prepare and commit to living as an Easter People: we know Resurrection Day is coming and we celebrate again that death, destruction, betrayal, and sin never have the last word. It is also historically the time where the baptized community takes on and wrestles with the reality that while we are so hungry for the full fruition of God’s Kingdom come, God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven—that personally, communally, institutionally, nationally, globally, we have messed it up. We spend these lengthening days reaching inward and outward in a renewed commitment to repentance and compassion; a renewed practice of our discipleship and conversation with God that then shows up in our acts of justice, mercy and love.
This 2022 Lenten season, our journey as United Methodists, like Abram’s journey is… interesting. Like Abram’s, it’s not all goodness and blessing: we have known serious heartbreak and fear and hardship; there are tornados, pandemic, war. Our household is splitting up.
And yet. We still stand on the promises.
In this Lenten season, will you commit yourself with me to be like Abram? To trust fully in the work that God is doing, but that we might not yet see?
Let us keep returning time and time again to our spiritual disciplines so that we, like Abram, can hold on to that authentic relationship with God, continuing the conversation, continuing to strive to lean into what God is doing.
And may we, with starlight in our eyes, remember that we now are the evidence of that long-ago promise between God and Abram: made to be a blessing to all the families of the earth.
Let us pray:
Standing on the Promises that can not fail,
when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
by the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.
Standing on the Promises of God my Savior.
I’m standing on the Promises of God.
(Standing on the Promises, VS. 3, UMH 374)