February 23, 2010

Feb. 23: When the Biblical story becomes our story

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By Michael Sherer, director of Information Technology Services
SCRIPTURE: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 (NRSV)
Scroll down for complete Scripture.

DEVOTIONAL:
Fifteen years ago, I did a curious thing. Instead of the typical children’s bedtime story, I began telling my 3-year-old daughter Monica the stories in Genesis, starting with today’s verses introducing the Abrahamic covenant. Night after night this went on, with me either reading from Hurlbut’s “Bedtime Bible Story Book” (a children’s classic) or paraphrasing the stories from memory.

To Monica’s credit, she tolerated this ritual well, often asking me to tell her the next story. For me, the experience still stands as one of my more formative experiences with the Bible. Liberated from chapter, verse and archaic language, Monica and I immersed ourselves in a truly great story – the improbable promise of God to give an old man and his barren wife descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and a land to live in. Woven into each tale is the dramatic tension of how God could possibly make good on his covenant against long odds, and through a succession of flawed characters, each in their own way improbable bearers of the promise.

In the telling of the Biblical story, it becomes our story – the story of God’s faithfulness in the face of our halting, imperfect attempts to believe and to follow. The unspoken implication of these stories is that we are the children of Abraham of our time, a living testimony to God’s faithfulness and ability to keep his promises from generation to generation.

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PRAYER:
God, give us the strength to stand fast on your promises. Through the stories of faith, remind us that you are always faithful and continue to call us to ever greater faithfulness, even when we fall short. Amen.

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SCRIPTURE: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 (NRSV)
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’ But Abram said, ‘O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’And Abram said, ‘You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.’ But the word of the Lord came to him, ‘This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.’ He brought him outside and said, ‘Look towards heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Then he said to him, ‘I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.’ But he said, ‘O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?’ He said to him, ‘Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon.’ He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire-pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,

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Comments (11)

  1. Michael, I really enjoyed your meditation about making the Bible stories “our” stories by retelling them in our own words and thinking about what they mean for us in our own time.

    Ann Hostetler February 23, 2010 |
  2. This mornimg I again practiced Lectio Divina. This vers was challenging ans long to me! What came to me was the sense of GOd’s mystery that, “deep and terrifting darkness” – almost outside of our ability to ocmprehend. The message to me was “Believe”, as Abram was continually challenged by God to keep believing what his rational brain knew was impossible. ANd his reward was great. Amen.

    Beth February 23, 2010 |
  3. Thanks Michael,
    What a beautiful story! God’s faithfulness is always there, but our human doubts and fears get in the way of believing every day!!
    Vicky

    Vicky Kirkton February 23, 2010 |
  4. Thanks, Michael! Your meditation caused me to remember with gratitude what I have learned about my faith and the Bible through interacting with children. (and it was nice to hear a story about little Monica.)

    susan garboden February 23, 2010 |
  5. This is something that my husband (Arienne’s Dad) loved to do when the girls were little too. Thanks for sharing.

    Mom Johnson of Arienne February 23, 2010 |
  6. Thank you for this reassuring reminder that God can use ‘flawed characters’ for His purposes. Quoting a dear young friend, the ‘shadow side’ can come along for the ride, but don’t let it drive.

    Jim Miller February 23, 2010 |
  7. I like these readings during Lent and I like that Michael Sherer is an IT person like me! ;>) Promises ARE kept from generation to generation. One of the strongest influences in my lfe was my great Aunt Dorothy who cam from Slovakia and was blind. Her faith and prayers and songs and optimistic outlook on life persist in me today and I’m grateful to God for that. She opned me up to God as a child against long odds. We have two boys ourselves and I only hope my wife and I can do as well..

    Richard Fohrenbach February 23, 2010 |
  8. How wonderful to be reminded of God’s promise to those less fortunate. I look at my 94 year old father and my 85 year old mother, both in a skilled nursing facility, and am reminded of this morning’s devotion. And to think that they, as “flawed” as they are, and the I, flawed in different ways, are the bearers of God’s promise. It is too wonderful to comprehend.

    ed February 23, 2010 |
  9. What I love about this idea is that it shows us how to see human relationships with God as personal, not remote, as concrete, not abstractions. Those were real people stepping out in and relying on faith, and God never let them down. And we can do it, too, and God won’t let us down either!

    Jane February 23, 2010 |
  10. I remember so well my mother’s telling me & my little brothers bible stories at bedtime. We had a bible, but no bible story book. Sometimes, my beloved aunt would be the one telling us a bible story. This goes back to over 70 years ago. My own two children loved the bible stories I read to them at bedtime. They would say, “just read one more” and sometimes I would read myself to sleep. (I worked long hours and was very tired.) I guess I thought all parents read or told bible stories to their children. I hope they do!

    Hazel Butler February 23, 2010 |
  11. Thank you for your thoughful devotion. I especially appreciate your ending with a prayer.

    ruthanne February 24, 2010 |