Wednesday, August 14, 2013
No More Endless Circling
The Mesopotamians had an annual cycle of life appearing in the spring, coming to flourish in the summer, and dying off in the winter. Fertility rituals in the spring would assure that the earth would bring forth the bounty of new life. The gods were going in circles, and faith in these gods meant following the rituals that assured the cycles continued.
When God spoke to Abram (Genesis 12), the Word was to break any of the cycles Abram had already understood. God called him to move to a new place that God would show to Abram. This God was not interested in cyclical rituals, but rather in a faith and trust that would bring God and God's people (Abram's descendants) together. This was a powerful idea that led to the founding of the world's great faith of Judaism and later Christianity. Muslims also trace their faith origins to Abram, a.k.a. Abraham.
Sometimes today we find ourselves going in circles. Our God calls us to do new things. "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning."
Christian churches throughout the United States are undergoing great changes. The patterns we were used to no longer hold the interest of all of our members, and do not attract visitors the way they did in the recent past. We don't know precisely where God is calling us, but we do know that we do not have to run in circles. Sometimes breaking the patterns simply means doing one new thing.
I have encouraged my congregation to read the story of Abraham, beginning with Genesis 12. The rest of Genesis is the story of one very important family, over four generations. You cannot understand Judaism, Christianity, Islam, or the relationship among them without understanding this family. One new thing might simply be reading their story.