For the next two weeks at Mass we’re reading from the section of the Book of Genesis we could call its Jewish phase (Genesis 11-50). The first 10 chapters of Genesis describe the origins of the world and the beginnings of the human race. Then, the various peoples multiply and go out to parts of the earth God assigns them.
Chapter 11 begins with the call of Abraham. A Jewish tradition suggests that the peoples of the earth became so unmanageable that God decides to concentrate on one nation, the Jews, with the hope that they will bring all the other peoples together.
God calls Abraham and his family to take possession of the land God will show them. But that’s not as easy for them as it was for other nations. They’re going to have a more mysterious and more difficult journey. The main obstacle they face is that Abraham and his wife Sarah are childless. How can you take possession of land if you don’t have anyone to follow you?
They have to trust in God and not themselves. We can see that trust in today’s story of Abraham and his nephew Lot. They can’t all go on together, too much conflict between them, so Abraham tells Lot to pick out the land he wants to have. Abraham will take whatever God wants him to have.
He trusts in God. Of course, the supreme act of trust is when Abraham is told to sacrifice his son, his only son after many years.
Our lectionary readings for the next few weeks relate some key events from the story of Abraham and Sarah and their descendants, which the Jews recognize as their history and Christians see it as theirs too.
Our lectionary readings omit many dis-edifying parts and details from the accounts of the patriarchs and their wives and their times, which the Bible doesn’t hesitate to recall.
That might be a weakness in reading the scriptures from the lectionary and not the Bible itself. The bible is not a story of human achievement and human courage and human trust. It’s the story of God’s grace moving humanity on its journey, where human weakness is strengthened by the power and love of God.
From the beginning, God creates the heavens and the earth and all that is in them.