The Rev. Dr. Walter Brueggemann Reflects on Day 5

Genesis 13–15, Psalm 5, Matthew 5

Faith is a summons to be different, to have a different buoyancy and to live a different ethic. That difference is visible in Psalm 5. After the psalmist in verses 4-6 details all kinds of ignoble conduct on the part of the wicked and evil-doers (such as being bloodthirsty and deceitful), then comes, “But I” (v. 7). The “I” of faith acts from the assurance of God’s loyal love (v. 7) and is led by God to a straight, safe path (v. 8).

Father Abraham is described in these Genesis narratives as being different and making a difference. In Genesis 13:8-9 he commits an act of uncommon generosity by letting his nephew, Lot, choose the land he wants. In response, Abraham receives a sweeping promise from God to receive the land of promise (13:14-17). That divine promise, moreover, is verified in the remarkable covenant-making ritual of chapter 15.

Abraham and his family are marked as carriers of a difference that is grounded only in God’s promise. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructs his disciples on making a difference by loving one’s enemies. That difference is the vocation of the church. The church faces two temptations: one is to give up difference and fade into the social landscape along with everyone else. The other is to separate from all the others to be safe, pure, and unvexed by social reality. Neither choice is faithful. Rather, this community is dispatched to be engaged in transformative, reconciling generosity, the only difference that finally matters.

QUESTIONS

How have you experienced your Christian faith as a summons to be different?

How has your faith empowered you to make a difference in the world?

PRAYER

We pray for courage to be different. In our self-indulgence, we do not want to be different. In our fearfulness, we cringe from our vocation. Give us hearts shaped by courage and resolve that persists. Amen.

-The Rev. Dr. Walter Brueggemann
Author, Old Testament Scholar, and Theologian
Cincinnati, Ohio