Hello, friends! I am excited to begin the Narrative Lectionary with my congregation and to share my first Narrative Lectionary post with the Rev. Gals community. I love that the NL allows us to follow the narrative arc of scripture from beginning to end—to engage with the Bible as a whole rather than just dipping into random parts. I also find myself frustrated because the NL leaves out so much good stuff; there are huge gaps between weekly texts and a lot of missing context for the passages we cover.
This week’s reading (Genesis 15:1-6) is a great example of missing context: we get six verses about Abraham for this entire lectionary cycle. Our dear matriarch Sarah and our fierce hero Hagar are not mentioned at all.
To provide full disclosure, I’m not even preaching this week. I got to wrestle with Eve and the serpent and God in the garden last week. And you better believe I’ll have something to say about Joseph next week. But this week someone else is preaching, so my thoughts here are just some inklings of directions I might go if I were going to preach.
–I would be tempted to give a mostly narrative sermon, sharing a more of the story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, and their children. It’s a foundational story for us as Christians, as well as for our Jewish and Muslim siblings (with slight variations the Quran’s version), and many people do not know it well.
–This can be read as a comforting text—and most of us need some comforting words right now. God says, “Do not be afraid.” There’s a sermon right there. (And a chance to use John Bell’s beautiful song.) Abraham’s story is an encouragement for us to cling to faith and hope even when our external circumstances seem hopeless. Can I get an “Amen!”?
–There are also some challenging elements here. As I already mentioned, the women are completely ignored—and you know Abraham is going to need them to create those promised descendants. There is also a casual mention of slaves, so we need to wrestle with the fact that this great hero of the faith was also a slave owner. What do we do with that? And finally, as an adoptive mother myself, I recognize that the privileging of biological children in this story may be painful for some people.
–Finally, this is one week you may want to make an explicit connection between the focus scripture and the suggested New Testament reading. Luke 3:8 says: “Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.’”
Some of these links might help you as you prepare your sermon and plan for worship this week:
Here is the Working Preacher commentary on this passage by Kathryn M. Schifferdecker.
You can also find a podcast, some helpful notes, and song suggestions on the Pulpit Fiction web site.
I am fascinated by this photo of a star cluster called Caroline’s Rose. Just read Genesis 15:1-6 and then stare at this picture.
Finally, here is a list of daily Bible readings I have created for my congregation. It seeks to fill in some of the context around the stories for each Sunday.
Rev. Joanna Harader serves as pastor of Peace Mennonite Church in Lawrence, KS. Her blog is Spacious Faith.
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3 thoughts on “Narrative Lectionary: God’s Promise to Abraham (Genesis 15:1-6)”
Thanks Joanna! And welcome to the NL!
I thought this week’s BibleWorm podcast was really helpful, too: https://www.biblewormpodcast.com.
I haven’t settled on a direction yet but I’m thinking a lot about the relationship between Abraham and God — and how sort of pushy and demanding Abraham is, that he isn’t shy about telling God what he needs. And how God then calls Abraham out of his small vision to look at a much bigger promise. (the hymn “We Rejoice to be God’s Chosen” comes to mind as I type that — it has a line about “set us free from the smallness of our vision; to become, not just to be”.
My autumn series using the NL is titled “Becoming God’s People” so there’ll be something there about how we navigate this relationship and what it means to be the people of God…
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Another great song is Phil Keaggy’s “Abraham.” I’m using it this Sunday.
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