Sunday, May 31, 2009

3-4-2007: 2nd Lent (C)

Genesis 15:5-12,17-18/Psalm 27/Philippians 3:17-4:1/Luke 9:28-36
The scriptures can be dangerous – especially when we take them literally. The seemingly endless rift between Jew and Arab in Israel/Palestine is founded on scriptural claims. In the first reading today from Genesis God promises Abraham both progeny and land. “To your descendents,” God says to Abraham, “I give this land.” The problem is, of course, that God never says which descendents; and Abraham was the father of both Ishmael and Isaac, ancestor of both Arab and Jew. So, in religion’s name, Arabs are evicted from their homes and Jews killed in suicide bombings. For God’s sake (so it’ said), hatred is nourished and vengeance enacted in escalating and endless violence.

Abraham is hailed by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike as our father-in-faith, but let’s be a bit honest: the Bible employs major spin when presenting Abraham. Using God’s promise of progeny as an excuse, Abraham sleeps with the maid; and Genesis is a bit disingenuous when continually referencing Isaac as Abraham’s only son. If his faith was credited to him as “righteousness,” as St. Paul says, then “righteousness” cannot be synonymous with moral rectitude. Faith in a promise, in other words, does not guarantee that we’ll make the best or the right choices in life.

Faith seems a necessarily murky affair, despite the claims of certitude oft expressed by biblical literalists and quranic fundamentalists. If we could take a trip in time back to that fateful night when Abraham heard the divine voice beckoning him to come out of his tent and look up at the night sky, we might be surprised, and perhaps shocked, to note that it was an especially cloudy night, making the hoped-for promise of progeny overcast with doubt and straining those old eyes to seek an opening in that cover of cloud be it ever so tiny, in order to glimpse the slightest twinkle of light, so not to be left in the dark.

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