Starry, Starry Faith

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 – Second Sunday of Lent – for February 24, 2013

“…Look toward heaven and count the stars…” (Genesis 15:5)


Before the wanderer from Ur was dubbed Abraham, and before his wife gave birth to Isaac, and before any referred to him as the father of three faiths, “the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision . . .”

Through a dream filled with wide-awake images, the Lord invited Abram “outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them . . . so shall your descendents be.’”

I’ve seen the night sky in the High Sierra, where a million stars dazzled, an uncountable display of grandeur, a glimpse of the infinite.

I cannot imagine most of Abram’s ancient world, in a land and time far away and long ago. And yet Abram and I share at least one thing:  those million, million stars. Whether enthralled with the Lord’s words in a vision, or later bending his neck to literally gaze at God’s starry vow, the future father of three faiths would understand the audacity of the divine announcement. I suppose the Holy could’ve declared more descendents than grains of sand on a vast beach or raindrops falling during an immense days long storm. Claim any nature metaphor you desire—snowflakes, blades of grass, wildflowers in the spring—and all celebrate God’s staggering vision given to the sojourner from Ur of the Chaldeans.

Abram who became Abraham is my father. He and Sarai, who became Sarah, are my parents.

Are they the parents of your faith?

Here, on the second Sunday of Lent, on the Christian road between Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River and his crucifixion on the outskirts of Jerusalem, am I the future Abraham’s future child?

On the lonely road of Lent, am I part of the only true faith—Christianity—or one of many faiths?

I once asked my friend Kamal, when he was director of Fresno’s Islamic Cultural Center, “What would you want me to say to my congregation about your faith tradition?” Continue reading →