United Presbyterian Church of Peoria


Life Between Sundays (Blog)

Preparing for the Promise

Posted by Rev. Dr. Stephen McKinney-Whitaker on

Preparing for the Promise

Take a moment and read Genesis 15:1-6.    (Here's a link if you need it).

Gods don't just bless people. You have to give and give and give and maybe, if you're lucky, the god you've given: the best of your flock, your first fruits, maybe even your own child to may bless you with a good crop or a bit of rain. Humans gave to the gods their best, but the gods were pretty stingy with any reciprocation.

But along comes a different God who chooses to bless a man named Abram and through him bless the world: even before, even without, numerous sacrifices and gifts.

This is something different, something revolutionary. This God isn't angry, demanding, or stingy with blessing. This God intends to bless everyone. It was hard to believe at the time. There was no other god like this God. Is this some kind of trick or cruel divine joke?

Abraham is invited to trust: to have faith, to believe, and to live in these promises before their fulfillment. But Abraham doesn't believe and trust this God immediately. He wants to, but it's hard. Maybe you have felt, or feel, the same way. You want to trust the promise, but you have been the victims of too many broken ones. Abraham is no different. The gods were always breaking promises, and this God's promise seems too wonderful to believe. Sometimes we hold back because the promise is too great. The greater the promise, the greater the pain of disappointment.

But one night, in the darkness, Abraham is asked to count the stars and something clicks. He decides to live in the hope of the promise rather than the reality of his barrenness and brokenness.

In C.S. Lewis's The Silver Chair, a wicked queen traps Puddleglum the Marsh-wiggle in an underground kingdom with no memory of his previous life. The queen has his friends and him convinced there is no other reality than the dark and barren underground world. Puddleglum has no proof of any other life beyond a stirring in his heart and his memory of a place and a promise called Narnia:

Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things-trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one....That's why I'm going to stand by the play world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia.

Lent is facing our own mortality: that we are dust and to dust we shall return. But we are offered a blessing beyond our barrenness and brokenness. Lent is preparing for the promise of Easter: the hard to believe, hard to trust, hard to take hold of promise that Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed. We trust, and then we choose to live in that promise everyday as if it has already been fulfilled in our lives.

In common calling,
Pastor Stephen