When God calls Abram to a new land, it is for Abram and Sarai to let go of the past and present. We may keep in mind, with regard to Abram’s faith, that he is also called later to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, and in that act, to let go of the future. God calls Abram and Sarai, in other words, to step outside of all expectation and hope, memory and familiarity, in order to listen to the voice that comes from eternity.
How easy it is to look back on any of these faithful responses and assume that each person knew what he or she was doing and, more importantly, knew what God was doing. I suspect they knew neither of these, but they did know something about God that enabled their response. They knew our God is a God of impossibility. Our God is not rational or predictable, not limited by what is heard and seen. Our God is a God of hope and calls us to enter faithfully into these hopeful experiences. Living with hope rejects the fatalism of the situation by recognizing that we humans don't have the right to make that assessment. In other words, just because we can't find any possibility amidst impossibility doesn't mean possibility is absent. –– Jennifer Copeland
In this episode, Nicodemus' understanding of Jesus is inadequate. However, Nicodemus continues to appear in John's gospel. He challenges the chief priests and Pharisees. . . joins Joseph of Arimathea in removing Jesus from the cross and tending to his burial. . . ; ultimately, he became a true follower.
In this passage, we find remembrances of the Jesus of history and the challenges to the early church when it was expelled by the synagogue. Christians are called to identify with Nicodemus and are challenged to consider how to hear the Gospel anew and “to enter ever more fully into the mystery of divine revelation and thus to appropriate anew our identity as disciples” (Sandra M. Schneiders, Written That You May Believe [Herder & Herder, 2003], 125). –– Regina Boisclair
The story of God's call of Abram marks the beginning of the story of God's relationship with the family who will come to be identified as the people of Israel. God's call to Abram to move away from homeland and family is accompanied with promises of posterity, prominence, as provenance of blessings to all nations. . . This story conveys the idea that Lent is God's call to leave aside the familiar and to seek where and how God leads.
God's promises to Abram are God's assurance that blessings come to those who do what they sense to be God's call. . . –– Regina Boisclair
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
This passage. . . presents a central feature of Paul's theology: through faith in God's gospel of Jesus Christ, one enters into a right relationship with God. This reading links with the first reading from Genesis and explains Abraham's relationship to Christians.
The selection likens Christian faith to Abraham's trust in God's promises. Paul claims that those who have faith are the true descendants of Abram and heirs to the promises. . . By stressing that the promises to Abraham and his descendants were based on faith, Paul identifies Abraham as the father of those who have faith in Christ, God's Gospel. –– Regina Boisclair
Jennifer Copeland, a United Methodist ordained minister, served for 16 years as chaplain at Duke University and as director of the Duke Wesley Fellowship. She is currently executive director at North Carolina Council of Churches in Raleigh-Durham.
Regina Boisclair, a Roman Catholic biblical scholar, teaches at Alaska Pacific University, Anchorage, Alaska.
Homily Service 41, no. 2 (2007): 30-41.