Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty. Obey me and do what is right. I will make an agreement between us, and I will make you the ancestor of many people."
Then Abram bowed facedown on the ground. God said to him, "I am making my agreement with you: I will make you the father of many nations. I am changing your name from Abram to Abraham because I am making you a father of many nations. I will give you many descendants. New nations will be born from you, and kings will come from you. And I will make an agreement between me and you and all your descendants from now on: I will be your God and the God of all your descendants.
God said to Abraham, "I will change the name of Sarai, your wife, to Sarah. I will bless her and give her a son, and you will be the father. She will be the mother of many nations. Kings of nations will come from her."
Praise the Lord, all you who respect him.
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him;
fear him, all you Israelites.
He does not ignore those in trouble.
He doesn't hide from them
but listens when they call out to him.
Lord, I praise you in the great meeting of your people;
these worshipers will see me do what I promised.
Poor people will eat until they are full;
those who look to the Lord will praise him.
May your hearts live forever!
People everywhere will remember
and will turn to the Lord.
All the families of the nations
will worship him
because the Lord is King,
and he rules the nations.
All the powerful people on earth will eat and worship.
Everyone will bow down to him,
all who will one day die.
The people in the future will serve him;
they will always be told about the Lord.
They will tell that he does what is right.
People who are not yet born
will hear what God has done.
Abraham and his descendants received the promise that they would get the whole world. He did not receive that promise through the law, but through being right with God by his faith. If people could receive what God promised by following the law, then faith is worthless. And God's promise to Abraham is worthless, because the law can only bring God's anger. But if there is no law, there is nothing to disobey.
So people receive God's promise by having faith. This happens so the promise can be a free gift. Then all of Abraham's children can have that promise. It is not only for those who live under the law of Moses but for anyone who lives with faith like that of Abraham, who is the father of us all. As it is written in the Scriptures: "I am making you a father of many nations." This is true before God, the God Abraham believed, the God who gives life to the dead and who creates something out of nothing.
There was no hope that Abraham would have children. But Abraham believed God and continued hoping, and so he became the father of many nations. As God told him, "Your descendants also will be too many to count." Abraham was almost a hundred years old, much past the age for having children, and Sarah could not have children. Abraham thought about all this, but his faith in God did not become weak. He never doubted that God would keep his promise, and he never stopped believing. He grew stronger in his faith and gave praise to God. Abraham felt sure that God was able to do what he had promised. So, "God accepted Abraham's faith, and that faith made him right with God." Those words ("God accepted Abraham's faith") were written not only for Abraham but also for us. God will accept us also because we believe in the One who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. Jesus was given to die for our sins, and he was raised from the dead to make us right with God.
Then Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and that he would be rejected by the Jewish elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of the law. He told them that the Son of Man must be killed and then rise from the dead after three days. Jesus told them plainly what would happen. Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to tell him not to talk like that. But Jesus turned and looked at his followers. Then he told Peter not to talk that way. He said, "Go away from me, Satan! You don't care about the things of God, but only about things people think are important."
Then Jesus called the crowd to him, along with his followers. He said, "If people want to follow me, they must give up the things they want. They must be willing even to give up their lives to follow me. Those who want to save their lives will give up true life. But those who give up their lives for me and for the Good News will have true life. It is worthless to have the whole world if they lose their souls. They could never pay enough to buy back their souls. The people who live now are living in a sinful and evil time. If people are ashamed of me and my teaching, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes with his Father's glory and with the holy angels."
For more information of why in include these readings, read my post A Story to Embody.
Photo courtesy of Melanie Guest Photography