When Abram was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am El Shaddai. Walk with me and be trustworthy. 2 I will make a covenant between us and I will give you many, many descendants.” 3 Abram fell on his face, and God said to him, 4 “But me, my covenant is with you; you will be the ancestor of many nations. 5 And because I have made you the ancestor of many nations, your name will no longer be Abram[b] but Abraham.[c] 6 I will make you very fertile. I will produce nations from you, and kings will come from you. 7 I will set up my covenant with you and your descendants after you in every generation as an enduring covenant. I will be your God and your descendants’ God after you. 8 I will give you and your descendants the land in which you are immigrants, the whole land of Canaan, as an enduring possession. And I will be their God.”
9 God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants in every generation. 10 This is my covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Circumcise every male. 11 You must circumcise the flesh of your foreskins, and it will be a symbol of the covenant between us. 12 On the eighth day after birth, every male in every generation must be circumcised, including those who are not your own children: those born in your household and those purchased with silver from foreigners. 13 Be sure you circumcise those born in your household and those purchased with your silver. Your flesh will embody my covenant as an enduring covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male whose flesh of his foreskin remains uncircumcised will be cut off from his people. He has broken my covenant.”
15 God said to Abraham, “As for your wife Sarai, you will no longer call her Sarai. Her name will now be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and even give you a son from her. I will bless her so that she will become nations, and kings of peoples will come from her.”
The Gospel of John 11:17-37 (CEB)
17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Bethany was a little less than two miles from Jerusalem. 19 Many Jews had come to comfort Martha and Mary after their brother’s death. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him, while Mary remained in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. 22 Even now I know that whatever you ask God, God will give you.”
23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”24 Martha replied, “I know that he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die. 26 Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She replied, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, God’s Son, the one who is coming into the world.”
28 After she said this, she went and spoke privately to her sister Mary, “The teacher is here and he’s calling for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to Jesus. 30 He hadn’t entered the village but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were comforting Mary in the house saw her get up quickly and leave, they followed her. They assumed she was going to mourn at the tomb.
32 When Mary arrived where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her crying and the Jews who had come with her crying also, he was deeply disturbed and troubled. 34 He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They replied, “Lord, come and see.”
35 Jesus began to cry. 36 The Jews said, “See how much he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “He healed the eyes of the man born blind. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”
Comment: a daily reality we deal with is the ever present question: “couldn’t he . . . ? Couldn’t God have intervened, stopped, prevented, saved. . . ?Mary and Martha illustrate these very questions, ones we will face all of our lives. They also present the response: come to Jesus; beat upon his breast if needed, but move beyond or within despair and lament, and get to Jesus. The Psalmist shows us the same way.
Psalm 22:1-11 (CEB)
My God! My God,
why have you left me all alone?
Why are you so far from saving me—
so far from my anguished groans?
2 My God, I cry out during the day,
but you don’t answer;
even at nighttime I don’t stop.
3 You are the holy one, enthroned.
You are Israel’s praise.
4 Our ancestors trusted you—
they trusted you and you rescued them;
5 they cried out to you and they were saved;
they trusted you and they weren’t ashamed.
6 But I’m just a worm, less than human;
insulted by one person, despised by another.
7 All who see me make fun of me—
they gape, shaking their heads:
8 “He committed himself to the Lord,
so let God rescue him;
let God deliver him
because God likes him so much.”
9 But you are the one who pulled me from the womb,
placing me safely at my mother’s breasts.
10 I was thrown on you from birth;
you’ve been my God
since I was in my mother’s womb.
11 Please don’t be far from me,
because trouble is near
and there’s no one to help.
Comment: remember the popular poem “Footprints in the Sand” by Mary Stevenson: “The times you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand, is when I carried you.” Remember too, Jesus spoke these words while on the cross. As always, God is not afraid of or deterred by our suffering; rather, God remains present with us through it.
During this month with its emphasis on love repeat this prayer every day as an exercise in reminding yourself where you stand with God. It comes from Professor David Lose of Luther Seminary:
Prayer: “I am God’s child, deserving of love and respect, and God will use me to change the world.”