Lent 2 - Year C
Visions come in two basic varieties: illusion and illumination. Visions can hide or reveal. It is never easy to know which you are dealing with.
Abram’s vision sets in motion several fateful ripples.
First is assurance that we are of consequence, there is more to come. Here it is a biologic offspring (Ishmael? Isaac? Unnumbered descendants?) To trust this understanding of more to come than can yet be counted on is a significant decision. It merits being reckoned with.
Second, in the missing section, Abram’s life of moving away from circumstance and on to journey anticipates a repetition of this rhythm of being called out and called to by those who follow in Abram’s train.
Third, this note from The Jewish Study Bible:
“The ritual of cutting animals in half and passing between them is found both in the Bible and in Mesopotamia. The parallel in Jer. 34:17-22 makes it likely that the essence of the ritual is a self-curse: Those walking between the pieces will be like the dead animals if they violate the covenant. In the case at hand, remarkably, it is the Lord, symbolized by the “smoking oven” and “flaming torch” (15:17) who invokes the self-curse, and nothing is said about any covenantal obligations that Abram is to fulfill. This type of covenant is called a covenant of grant, which is a reward for past loyalty, and does not involved any obligations upon the grantee. The same pattern is prominent in texts about the covenant with David (2 Sam. 7:8-16; Ps. 89:20-37).”
This vision within a vision is an example of prevenient grace. It is a solemn promise of presence no matter how dark it becomes. The very darkness, like a previous rainbow, is a sign that “all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well”. A hazelnut’s hard wall will only hold back descendent upon descendent for a time. The future will entail a dropping away from originating circumstance to unknown bounces and burying to on-going generations. This is beyond any promise we make of participation in this process, it is a light in the dark illuminating something larger than our faith or trust (ready or not, like it or not, there is already a motion carrying us onward).
And so with Abram and Jesus, we, too, announce that, like yesterday — today, tomorrow, and the next day I am on my way onward. May your strewing of blessings be blessed.