Genesis 12:7-9

Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and invoked the name of the Lord. And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.  Genesis 12:7-9

“And there he built an altar to the Lord…”

I’m a Christian of the Lutheran persuasion.  I was baptized as a baby because that is what you did.  I doubt many in the family could have given much of a theologically sophisticated rationale for this practice but it happened.  Just me, my mom, a rebellious Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod pastor, and his wife were in the church that Sunday afternoon.

Later, when I was in college and ready to actually join a church on purpose, it was the American Lutheran Church that my dad and family attended.  There too, while my memory includes meeting with Pastor Peterson several times and reading the books he gave me to read, while I remember being convinced by the Lutheran understanding of grace and trust in Jesus, the fact is that I had family roots there and they trumped everything else.

The Lutheran movement began in Germany and spread to the Scandinavian countries.  We would like to think it spread because of the novelty of actually reading the Bible closely with a willingness to align our church life and teachings with what we found there.  But I’m thinking it also had a lot to do with large landowners and the upper class growing increasingly tired of paying fealty to Rome.

Then the Lutherans came to the United States.  Who came?  Seldom the eldest brothers or anyone else who had much of a life or modest prospects in the old country.  It was the cast offs, the ne-er-do-wells, and the troubled.  Moving to America was more about running away from bad prospects than it was about launching forth into new possibilities.  The point is – it wasn’t the pastors who jumped on those first boats.

The immigrants landed and were processed.  They got on trains and headed west to where their relatives were settling.  They made their land claim, built sod houses, started scratching the dirt, and strove to stay alive another year.  But they had brought their hymnbooks, their Bibles, and their faith. And eventually, they banded together and built a special building and then sent word back to the old country that they were ready for pastor.

They KNEW that God was in their journey.

So it was then.  So it is now.  God is always in our journey.

Let us pray:  Guide us ever, Great Redeemer, to the lands which stretch before us, to the challenges ahead.  Guide our feet, our dreams, our hoping.  Guide us on the journey inward, to those places far from home, to new vistas, strange encounters, all the places in which we roam.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


2 Responses to “Genesis 12:7-9”

  1. Pat Booth Says:

    …and some of those immigrants were sailors who came to Brooklyn from the southern coast of Norway, got work on the docks, tugboats, and barges in NYC, and returned only to get their families or sent money for them to join a huge group settling in Brooklyn. There were several churches established–among them a Lutheran Brethren which my family belonged to until migrating to Long Island after WWII and finding that other Norsk families were enough in number to establish a mission church of the ELC (eventually ALC) in Glen Head, Long Island. Our Savior’s is a small but vigorous congregation–not many Norwegian names now; God’s work is being done there still by a vigorous membership of the faithful of many nationalities!

    I recommend David C. Mauk’s book The Colony that Rose From the Sea: Norwegian Maritime Migration and Community in Brooklyn, 1850-1910 (Norwegian American Historical Association, 1997-University of Illinois Press). I’m a 56 year resident of the midwest, Kansas since 1969. My husband gave it to me a couple of years ago and I read my heritage with great interest and pride.

    Thanks for returning daily!

    Pat Booth (Stiansen and Knudsen families)

  2. Mimi Stephanus Says:

    Feeling so blessed that your daily devotions are back. Always find them the best way to start my day. Thank you for taking the time to prepare them.

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