You recall that I used a translation of the day’s scripture verse that we don’t normally use, lead us not into the time of trial. Lead us not into temptation, while familiar and traditional is problematic because it is too focused on personal piety. The Lord’s prayer is meant to draw us out of ourselves and into the story and mission of God. When we pray this verse we are not praying about the temptation of chocolate or another beer or giving someone the finger on the highway. We are talking about our fears coming true. ‘Lead us...‘ is a difficult prayer because it calls us to let go of control of our lives and take the risk of the path of Jesus, going among strangers and even the unlike, the enemy, in a spirit of gentle peace, forgiveness, and generosity. Or, to go the powerful and influential and settled with a disturbing and shocking wake up call. Either way is risky.
In today’s part of the story of Abraham, he first of all experiences one of our fears, the unintended consequence. He left his home, his land, which was safe and settled and secure, and ends up in a land in famine. Unforeseen situations arise in life, especially in the life walked with Christ. I don’t like unforeseen circumstances. (Unforeseen circumstances are why we pray ‘give us this day.‘ Give us this day reminds us that God will provide what we need to make it through unforeseen circumstances.)
So Abram goes to Egypt, but that is frightening. A new place, new people, unfamiliar customs and culture. Jesus called the disciples to follow him to samaria, a land of distrustful people, strange customs and different beliefs. Jesus calls us to be hospitable to strangers, welcoming to outcasts and outsiders. To follow God, Abraham is realizing, means we sometimes end up in unforeseen, unfamiliar and uncomfortable places.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was invited to return to Union Theological Seminary in New York, from his native Germany in 1939. He was increasingly disturbed by Hitler’s Germany and so came to New York. But he did not stay. He returned. He felt that he could not one day return to rebuild Germany and its church, if he did not join his people in this time of trial. Eventually he was arrested and killed by the Gestapo. Thankfully, we are not challenged with such life and death decisions. But following Christ among the lost, the least, the struggling, will put us in unfamiliar and uncomfortable positions. Sometimes following Christ causes fear. Have you ever felt afraid of where Christ called you to go, what Christ called you to do?