Talking about Avram (Hebrew pronunciation of Abram aka Abraham; I like saying “Avram” just because it makes him feel less familiar, more foreign, which was actually crucial to the point) this past Sunday, much emerged as I talked.
I knew I was going to start reading in Genesis 11 up through Genesis 12:5 or so; I knew I was going to summarize highlights of Avram’s journey and life on the way to the pivotal statement of Genesis 15:6 “And he believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” I just didn’t know where the read would lead or what I would see along the way. Which I suppose is appropriate in any musing about Avram who “went out not knowing where he was going.”
Anyone who really lives will feel immediate kinship with Avram. To really live is of necessity to “go out not knowing where you are going.”
There is so much uncertainty to embrace. So much disorientation, so much dissonance, so much disconnection, so much discombobulation, so much doubt that is crucial in this whole business of life and faith.
And it is. In a very uncertain sort of way.
Avram left a trail of altars in the wake of uncertain steps.
Concrete markers (literally!) of God encounters as he went he knew not where.
Avram moved respectfully within a very religious culture without feeling he had to buy into any of it as he no doubt formerly had before he set out on his disorienting journey of faith. He lived within his own developing “parachurch” clan, but yet, with eyes open for God in the wide world, he found him in unexpected places and faces.
Anchored and yet wondrously adrift.
And so he was ready to meet a strange “priest of the Most High God” named Melchizedek that we still puzzle over. Coming from our entrenched certitudes we no doubt would have viewed suspiciously such a Middle Eastern king and priest. We would have plied him with questions about his beliefs and practices, no doubt, measuring, quantifying orthodoxy, inquiring into the nature of his faith franchise. Avram simply saw the Most High God reflected in that visage – even as he clearly saw it not in the face of Sodom’s king. And so he sat down with him and shared bread and wine. And then gave him a tenth of all he had just won in a hard fight to liberate his captive nephew Lot.
So he also looked out from his tent in the heat of the day, seeing the shape of three travelers and in the ultimate version of “guess Who’s coming to dinner” inviting them to stop and share the shade of a tree with him and some food. And he saw in them the face of the Divine.
Anchored, but wondrously adrift.
Read this comment from Rohr this morning that connected with these ongoing musings of Avram in me compelling me to take them to this keyboard (I was certain I had other things to do!). So with them I will conclude:
The Jewish prophets had one foot in Israel and one foot outside and beyond. So must you have one foot in your historical faith community and one foot in the larger world; one foot rooted in a good tradition of accountability and another in your own world of service, volunteerism, occupation, a subgroup, or what I call “lifestyle Christianity” and some call “Emerging Church,” which desires to move beyond mere belief and worship systems to actual lifestyle choices and new accountability systems for giving your life away. How else can we imitate the surrender of Jesus, who did exactly the same in relation to his own Jewish religion? He never left it, and yet in some ways he always left it when it did not heal or help real people. He formed his own little “parachurch” within and yet alongside the Jewish priestly system, which became, rightly or wrongly, its own separate religion which we now call Christianity.
Oh to ever be so anchored but wondrously adrift. Oh to know how to be anchored without the anchor becoming a millstone…and to be wondrously adrift without becoming a castaway.
Avram is in there. Somewhere. And so am I.