Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 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: 1-9
The journey of Abram and his family was a long and arduous one. Much of the early parts of the Hebrew Scriptures are taken up with stories of their travels and when you look at historical maps that describe their journey and imagine the kind of transportation (probably camels) that they had at their disposal, it isn’t hard to imagine how long and hard the journey was.
Aside from the outward journey of physical travel there was the inner journey of leaving home. And this wasn’t a home Abram had lived in for just a few years (as is the case in our highly mobile culture today), but one of generations of his family. Not just leaving of the place, but leaving of his friends and portions of his family. Even worse, he was very old for his time, and as we all know, the older we get, the harder it is to make changes or accept change. The physical and emotional travel he and his family undertook in that time much have been taxing in every way for them, and probably some days, well beyond what they could emotionally or physically handle.
This week I was gathered with a group of colleagues and we engaged together in a time of biblical reflection. While this was not the passage we studied, one of the questions the commentaries we read asked this question: Are we willing to move forward or are we stagnant (not thoughtful)?
One of the questions in our Lenten season and this season in the life of our Presbytery is a question of movement in a new direction. Are we willing to move forward or are we stagnant? Which way of life is easier, and which way of life does God call us to?
Change is hard, even if we are staying in the same physical destination. Hearing and then answering God’s call to undertake a journey of discovery to a destination that is unknown is scary stuff. Thankfully we have been here before, it is in our bloodlines as children of the Abrahamic promise – for God has promised us that all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Amen!
Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo is the Transitional Presbyter for Albany Presbytery. She’s fascinated by the ever-changing landscape of culture and faith communities and how these changes are pointing us to new points of God’s ongoing gift of resurrection. She can be reached at [email protected].
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