Theme – Holy Conversations – The God Who Listens & Responds
Scripture – Genesis 18:17-19 Then the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”
I have to admit, this is one of my favorite conversation stories. God has been observing the cruel and violent nature of society in Sodom and Gomorrah and has decided to act with righteous anger. But then it seems to occur to God, as Abraham hosts three visitors (or God) that Abraham should know about these plans. In essence God realizes that if there is to be a close and intimate relationship with Abraham, there needs to be open, honest sharing between them. There needs to be an ongoing transparency and process of sharing.
I wonder if God was surprised by the give and take that resulted. Because Abraham not only receives the information, but then responds with his own creative ideas. It is a humble and respectful, but no less shocking critique of God's plan. Abraham is suggesting that God is being too harsh and not aware enough of the innocent lives that may be lost as a result of his anger. And God is not offended by this. God enters into this conversational give-and-take willingly. That alone is a shocking theological statement. I confess I'm no expert on ancient religions, but I suspect that a god that takes constructive criticism and carefully weighs the suggestions of the created, is rare, if not singularly unique. Abraham eventually persuades the God of Israel to have mercy on the cities if 10 righteous people can be found.
Theologically this story reveals a great deal about how Israel connected the creation story in which Adam and Eve are invited to care for creation along with God, to everyday life. This God had truly invited creation to be a cooperative partner and so the thoughts and ideas of the created would be honored by God. They would be full participants, not simply obedient slaves to God's will. Which meant that God would take their perspective into account in God's ongoing plan of redemption, liberation and salvation.
And as for our own conversations, this story reveals that they are holy events only when we are open to receiving new information, hearing different perspectives and so, persuaded to grow and change. Instead of conversations being shots fired from entrenched positions, conversations are the exciting adventure of exploring new and unmapped territory. This is an adventure we can risk, because it is an adventure that God accompanies us on, encourages us to take and leads us in.
Prayer - Sustain me this day, adventurous God, with hopeful anticipation of some new discovery. As others share with me a bit of their lives, or I am invited to share a piece of my own story, keep me watchful and aware of some new perspective or realization by which I can grow closer to you, closer to others and more into the person you have called me to be.