Reading the assigned texts for this week overwhelms me. The call of
Abram is told like a Haiku—just a few words, yet the mystery of our
life as God’s people hinges on this ancient call and response. After
the spare text in Genesis, the passages in Romans and John read like
dense thickets of complicated sentences and layered metaphors.
An economic migrant—a desert nomad—leads his family toward a land of promise, believing he is following the will of his Creator. And so begins the great trek for new life, survival, redemption. He will find danger, so much danger that he plans to pass his wife off as his sister. It is a trek repeated today in the heat of the Sonoran desert, in boats from Africa running ashore in southern Europe, in the hulls of boats from Fujian province to the shores of Long Island.
Maybe it was time for Abram to move on. After all, he and his wife Sarai had been living in Ur for many years. Abram’s father had died, and Abram had lost his brother Haran to an untimely death. Moving on might do both him and Sarai some good. Yet we all know that in the wake of crises like these, moving on is sometimes difficult. Nostalgia can be paralyzing.
We are a nation of spiritual seekers. We are hungry to learn about the life of the spirit, although many of us hesitate to translate that hunger into institutional allegiance. The majority of us are “unchurched.” Others are drawn to “seekers’ churches.” Still others are exploring the life of the spirit within a denomination and a tradition.
One of the disadvantages of being both a Lutheran and an academician is that you hear so few good conversion stories. The weight of my tradition identifies regeneration with the work of God in baptism. Those who tell their conversion stories with great gusto or whose spiritual c.v. runs on for pages (or hours) are automatically suspect in my denomination.