Tuesday, November 3rd Genesis 15:7-18

Then he said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him. Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know this for certain, that your offspring shall be aliens in a land that is not theirs, and shall be slaves there, and they shall be oppressed for four hundred years; but I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for yourself, you shall go to your ancestors in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates…” Genesis 15:7-18

Who can forget that great opening scene from “The Fiddler On the Roof” when Tevye sings about the power of tradition? “WHY? TRADITION!” (Or, to quote a line most often attributed to every single parent who has ever lived…”Because I say so, that’s why!”

This text from Genesis is the beginning of the battle that is still being fought today about the rightful ownership of the land of Israel. The ceremony described is the sealing of the covenant between Abraham and God in which God promises to give his people a future home. It includes the recognition that there will be suffering between now and then, that the people of God will experience a period of bondage and servitude but their faithfulness will result in great promise.

Tradition!

I am a creature of habit and I enjoy my habits. Unfortunately, even the bad ones like the cup of coffee sitting next to me on my desk as I type. I have used the same bathroom products since I was in college, the same shampoo, shaving cream, soap and aftershave. I bet that my time in the shower in the morning doesn’t vary by more than a few seconds.

But a couple of years ago I got a free new razor in the mail. A Gillete Fusion. Kind of futuristic looking. A little strange. But it shaved like butter and I loved it. I’m going to make a change! A new tradition!

Which raises the question….when it is good, right and salutary that traditions change? When it the right time to let go of the past and be open to a brand new future? When will the people of Israel and the people of Palestine (who have their own traditions regarding the “ownership” of the land of their fathers and mothers) come to understand that land that is shared can still be land that is enjoyed?

When is the right time to look closely at our lives, at our family histories, at our current state of affairs and ask ourselves, “Is it time for a change? Is it time to rethink how we think? Is it time to try something new, to change?”

The most healthy traditions are those that evolve. Static traditions become ends in themselves rather than the means to the end for which they were initially established. Lent is a great tradition…because it incorporates the reminder of the value of repentance, of changing, of being redirected. What needs to change for you today?

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, you make wonderful promises to us as your children, promises of a love that won’t end, of a presence that won’t go away, of a purpose for living that makes a better world now. We pray for the grace to stay open-minded and open-hearted to the world around us, that the traditions of our faith and our lives might give us life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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