Children of Abraham: Lent 2B

In last week's readings, we saw the covenant with Noah; this week, we see the covenant with Abraham. Last week, the promise of a grieving God in the wake of destruction; this week, the promise of a God setting about the ultimate redemption of the whole world. And from that promise, a nation of adopted children -- and then many more children adopted, children neither of Abraham's house nor purchased by his people, but redeemed by God into Abraham nonetheless. And in the gospel, a return to the moment before we started on this Lenten sojourn, to the moment when we thought we knew what was going to happen better than God in his own flesh did. A humbling week, and a reminder of where we goyim stand because of the baptism that was last week's focus.

Genesis 17:1-17
It's interesting to me that the cutting of this pericope usually excludes Abraham's side of the covenant. That seems like a misrepresentation of what's going on here -- possibly motivated by a notion that circumcision can be read out of the covenant with Abraham because it doesn't pertain to how we come to be children of Abraham.
Now, 'Abram had been alive for ninety and nine years, and YHVH appeared to 'Abram and said to him, "I am the Abundant God. Go about openly before me and be complete; I will set my covenant between me and you, and you will increase by leaps and bounds." And 'Abram fell upon his face. And God spoke to him, saying, "For my part, behold my covenant with you: you will become a father to a murmuring multitude of nations. Your name will no longer be called 'Abram; your name is 'Abraham, because I have set you as father of a murmuring multitude of nations. I will make you fruitful by leaps and bounds, and I will set you over nations, and kings shall be born from you. I establish this covenant between me and you and your offspring for generations after you as an eternal covenant, to be god for you and your offspring after you. I give to you and your offspring after you the land of your alien wandering, the entire land of Cana`an, and I will be their god."

And God said to 'Abraham, "For your part, you will observe my covenant, you and your offspring for generations after you. This is my covenant, which you all will observe, between me and you and your offspring after you: every male among you will be circumcised. You will circumcise for yourselves the flesh of your foreskins; it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you all. Every male child of eight days among you will be circumcised, whether born in your house or acquired with money from any foreign son, one that is not of your offspring. Circumcising you will circumcise both those born in your house and acquired with your money; my covenant in your flesh will be an everlasting covenant. As for the foreskinned male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, his life will be cut off from its people for violating my covenant."

And God said to 'Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, her name will no longer be called Sarai, because Sarah is her name. I will bless her, and will even give you a son by her; I will bless her, and she will be over nations, and kings of the peoples shall be born from her."

Romans 4:13-25
And, out of this covenant with Abraham, Paul speaks to his own Gentile children of Abraham about the origin and ground of their adoption by God.
Indeed, the promise that he would be the inheritor of the world came neither to Abraham nor to his offspring through Torah. Rather, it came through the justice of trust. For if the inheritors inherit from Torah, trust has been emptied and promise has been neutralized. Indeed, instruction accomplishes wrath, but where there is no instruction, neither is there violation.

For this reason the inheritance comes by trust, so that it comes according to grace, in order for the promise to be secure for every offspring -- not only for those who partake of Torah, but also for those who partake of the trust of Abraham, who is the father of all of us, as it is written, “I have set you as the father of many nations.” In the face of this, he trusted God, the one who gives life to the dead and invokes what is not as though it is. Abraham trusted in expectation against what he expected, so that he should become “the father of many nations” according to what God had said: “so will your offspring be.” He did not weaken in trust after considering that his own body had become practically dead (being nearly 100), and considering the deadness of Sarah’s womb. With respect to the promise of God, he was not determined toward distrust, but empowered toward trust, giving glory to God and being fully convinced that what God has promised, God has the power to do. And therefore God accounted his trust to him as justice.

Now, the statement that “God accounted it to him” was not written for him alone, but also for us, to whom it will be accounted: to those who trust in the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was given over because of our transgressions and was raised because of our justification.

Mark 8:31-9:1
Apparently, we're having a flashback this week, to the week before Transfiguration. I have included 9:1 just to finish out the scene as it appears in Mark. An odd apocalyptic vision, at least by comparison with Genesis and Romans.
And he began to teach them that it was necessary for the Son of Humanity to suffer much, to be repudiated by the presbyters and the high priests and the scribes, to be killed, and after three days to rise again. And he presented this line of reasoning bluntly. And Peter, having taken him aside privately, began admonishing him. So, turning around and seeing his disciples, he admonished Peter and said, "Get back behind me, adversary -- you don't intend what God does, but rather what the people do." And calling the crowd to him along with his disciples, he said to them, "Whoever wants to follow behind me must abstain from self, take up their cross, and follow me. For the one who wants to save their life will lose it, but the one who loses their life because of me and the gospel will save it. For in what way does a person benefit by gaining the world and being penalized their life? Indeed, what might a person give in exchange for their life? The one who is ashamed of me and of my reasoning in this wanton and sinful generation, the Son of Humanity will also be ashamed of, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." And he said to them, "Truly I tell you, some of those who have stood here will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come in force."

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