Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Lent
It’s titled “The Call of Abraham”
and it’s on the front of your newssheets.
The artist is Seiger Koder, a former German prisoner of war – he’s now a priest.
Abraham was the world’s first ever Jew, so the picture you’re looking at was drawn by someone who’d taken part in a war in which millions of Jews were exterminated. In Koder’s picture, Abraham is drawn with a traditional Jewish prayer shawl over his head – his palms are lifted up in prayer and he’s gazing at the stars.
Abraham the star-gazer. It’s an image from today’s reading from Genesis, when God calls Abram (God later gives him the fuller name ‘Abraham’). God says, “Abraham, I’m going to make from you a new nation, and your people will outnumber the stars”.
Often in history, that promise looked like it was some kind of empty joke. Jewish people so often have been on the brink of mass extermination, of being wiped from the pages of history.
And yet here is Abraham, after the shoah, after the holocaust,
the old man, the first Jew, still standing, still gazing at the stars, still trusting God’s promise: your children are going to fill the earth and all people will be blessed through them.
‘If we were Christians, we would all wear the star’ Mother Maria Skobstsova
When the Nazis made Jews wear the yellow star of David, most nice, decent, law-abiding people looked the other way. (nice people make very good fascists – it’s the awkward, the cantankerous, the misfits, the friction-makers who stand up to them).
But some Christians were not silent. The Orthodox nun Mother Maria Skobstsova said, ‘if we were Christians, we would all wear the star”. And she did. As a Christian, she wore the star of David. She sheltered Jews and ended up in Ravensbruck concentration camp.
She wore the star to say “we are all Jews now”.
And that is the God-blessed truth of it. We are all Jews now. If you’re a Christian, you believe that God has made you part of Abraham’s family. We belong to Jesus the Jew, we are his sisters and brothers. We are therefore all now children of Abraham, and Jesus makes you are one of his stars.
Abraham’s people, God’s people. Why did God call Abraham and Sarah to found a new people that would become Israel? It’s because God has an Israel-shaped plan to heal and save the world. God called Abraham and Sarah to make a people who would be light in a world of darkness, who would stand for truth in a world of lies. God’s people Israel would bear the tears and pain of the world and turn it all into prayer, turn it all into co-suffering, co-feeling holiness.
God’s Israel- shaped plan is fully lived-out in the life of one Israelite, in the life of one Jew, Jesus. Jesus, the faithful Israelite, bears the pain and darkness of the world to the utmost limit, and in return He shines with mercy and light. Jesus is the son of Abraham and the Son of God. He is the Light of the world, the bearer of all suffering, the consoler of all tears; He is the Star of stars, the one who transfigures all through suffering-love.
Through Jesus, the work of Abraham and Sarah is now the vocation of Jews and Gentiles: to be the presence of light and mercy in this world, witnesses to the Living God. Christians don’t replace the Jewish people; we join them. We too become with them the children of Abraham.
So next time you gaze at the stars, see yourself in this way. You are part of God’s family, part of God’s answer to a broken, bent-out-of-shape world. Ask God to show you what part of your world needs you to bear His light, to be His peace, to be His hope and mercy and new life. If you believe in Jesus, you too share in this work. Jesus has made you a child of Abraham.