Prayer for the day
The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.
Scripture for the day
This passage in the Sermon on the Mount has been one of the most hotly contested passages in scripture. People argue endlessly about the meanings and applications, but part of what it says resonates with our passage in Genesis today. Jesus says a lot about the kingdom of God, and the nature of that kingdom, in his sermon. He talks about how upside-down (or as my theology prof put it, right-side-up) the kingdom of God seems to those not part of it. Everything is topsy-turvy.
It seems like God specializes in the topsy-turvy. Jesus tells us to love our enemies. A man nearly a hundred years old is promised a child who will become many nations. God must have a sense of humour. We read things in Matthew like “go the extra mile…turn the other cheek” and we turn them into cute colloquialisms, missing the absolutely paradigm-shattering nature of Jesus’ teaching. We look at the story of Abram as a lovely story about an old man and woman who really want a baby, and we miss the incredible power of the plan of God.
In Genesis, God is working to form a people, and he does so in some incredibly mysterious ways. But along the way, we see beauty in the work. God creates a covenant with his people, starting with Abram. He says that their bodies will be physically marked (circumcision) in order to set them apart. They will bear in their flesh the “brand” of God.
When I was young, brand was everything. If you didn’t wear Levi’s Red Tab jeans to school, you were worth slightly less than nothing. Your label marked you, for good or ill, as belonging to a certain group of people.
In Matthew, Jesus takes the brand idea a little further. Not only will flesh be marked, but our very lives, our spirits, will be marked by the brand of God. The people of God will not be only those who bear the mark of circumcision, but those whose lives have been transformed so that they live by “kingdom ethics” where one’s word is taken at face value because of personal integrity, where one’s relationships are guarded zealously and carefully in order to glorify God, where one follows the steps of Jesus into places of danger non-violently, where one loves even the worst, the enemy. God is continuing his work of creating a people, and calls them to respond by living as true Kingdom people.
May that work of God be realized in you today.