Mary met you in the garden, risen Lord. May we meet you now as we wait and pray.
It is good to have milestones on our journey, key moments we can look back to when we understood more deeply what God promises and what God requires us. Abram had the moment he heart God’s call and promises. When fulfillment seemed slow, God renewed them in a covenant-making ceremony that included a fiery vision of God’s presence. Now he is given a new name and an action to obey which will highlight that God is forming a covenant community.
Abram (meaning ‘great father’) is already a father figure for a considerable company of people who live and work with him. The new name, Abraham, looks to the future when he will be father of many nations, but one particular will be God’s chosen community. Though founded on Abraham’s descendants, it is open to others without discrimination of race or class provided they are completely committed to it. All the men of Israel are to be circumcised. This was very common at the time, often a rite of passage at puberty. This community is to practice it withing days of birth, making clear that membership is by God’s grace: a baby can do nothing to earn it. Wansbrough suggests that the significance may include ‘consecrating to God the means of generation, a recognition that life and its reproduction belong to God alone. In that sense wives share it though they had not corresponding sign.
God sets this minimal requirement for his covenant people but also makes a radical demand: ‘walk before me faithfully and be blameless’. No one comes up to God’s standard all the time. More failures of Abraham’s faith and moral courage will emerge in chapters to come. We need the support of a community, publicly marked out as God’s people, to help us live with integrity and keep our faith alive.
Think about the meaning of your baptism. How does it help you on your journey with the risen Christ?