Pat Kinne previously served on summer camp staff and is currently principal at Bishop Grimes Junior/Senior High School in East Syracuse, New York. His children now attend summer camp.
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 (NIV)
“Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them, and so are you, so let’s all praise the Lord.” The words of that traditional Sunday school tune that I learned as a child are at the core of today’s reading. In Genesis 17:7, God makes his covenant with Abram: “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God…” Re-read those words! “I will establish my covenant as an EVERLASTING COVENANT between me and you and your descendants after you…”
Now, I am no mathematician and logic puzzles confound me, but I remember this basic formula: If a then b, if b then c, so if a then c. Using that logic equation, according to the song I mentioned before, I am one of Father Abraham’s sons, so that makes me a descendant of Abraham, which means that I am a part of God’s everlasting covenant.
So, as we are on our Lenten walk to Good Friday and Easter Sunday, why is this Old Testament passage in our daily devotional reading? I think it calls us to pause and consider what it means to be in covenant with our Lord.
First, we must gain a clearer understanding that being in a covenant with God is drastically different than being in a contract with God. In a contract, if I do something in violation of the understood agreement, the contract is considered broken and becomes null and void. However, in a covenant, those involved agree to uphold their terms of the agreement regardless of whether or not the other parties do so. Far too often in society today people regard their relationship with God in terms of a contract, which from the beginning produces an air of futility. After all, who could ever successfully live up to the “terms” of a contract with God? To do so would mean perfection, and we know that we are a broken and sinful people who live in a broken and sinful world. Many Christians, therefore, live a life of guilt or even leave the church altogether because of the belief that they have failed God or cannot live up to their end of the bargain. Consequently many of these people also believe that God will not uphold his end of the contract due to their failures.
I pray for those individuals because they have missed the heart of the relationship that God calls us to. God does not want to enter into a contract with us, but rather he yearns for us to enter into covenant with God. God recognizes our frailty and brokenness but he still offers us his everlasting covenant. When we enter into covenant with God, he promises to be faithful even when we fall short—which will happen.
But we must also understand that this covenantal relationship is not a “free pass” to go and do whatever we want. Instead, we look to Genesis 17:5 and 17:15-16. Once we understand that we are in covenant with God, he gives us a new identity. Just as Abram became Abraham and Sarai became Sarah, we too are called to become a new creation in covenant with God. We take on a new identity and a new way of thinking and doing things once we have entered into covenant with God. And we earnestly seek to try to honor the covenant we have entered into by living in such a way that we bring glory and honor to God’s name, so hopefully people notice that there is something different and almost counter-cultural in how we live and think.
This Lent, my prayer for you is that you will think about and nurture your covenantal relationship with God. I pray that you will embrace your “new self” and bask in the warmth of God’s loving embrace, knowing that he loves you so much that he will not back out of his everlasting covenant with you—for God has called you by name and you are his. I pray that you know God loves you so much and takes his covenantal promises so seriously that he sent his only son to pay the price for your sins through his crucifixion, and to give you hope for the future through his resurrection. In response to his love, as the final words to that old song about Father Abraham say, “Let’s all praise the Lord.” Amen!
Prayer: Lord, thank you for loving me and for entering into an eternal covenant with me. I pray that as I begin my Lenten journey that I might make a change in my life that will allow me to honor that covenantal bond a little more deeply than I may be accustomed to. Father, just as Abram became Abraham and Sarai became Sarah, help me to undergo a transformation that will allow me to walk in a deeper relationship with you, and will allow me to grow and spread your love to future generations. Almighty God, I humbly ask this in the name of your son, my savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
For this year’s Lent devotions, the days follow the Common Lectionary texts. Each author was invited to: 1.Read the passage.
2.Read a couple passages before and after the assigned day.
3.Do something else for the day, keeping the passage in mind.
4.Find a word/phrase/concept that connects with your own experience. Reflect on that.
You are encouraged to do the same.