I like a good theologian. I don’t really care if they are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, or other, if you’re good at writing about God, I’m here for it. But I, like everyone, have my favorites. Even Jesus had favorites (we’re all looking at you: Peter, James, and John).
One of my absolute favorite theologians is Abraham Joshua Heschel. I’ve written about him before, and I will again. It’s just the way it goes. Heschel is the author of many books on Judaism in the 20th century, but he really wrote as a prophet, describing the human relationship with the Divine in as close to universal language as possible. I recently read a passage of his in the New Mahzor (see what a Mahzor is here): “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are not principles to be comprehended but lives to be continued. The life of the person who joins the covenant of Abraham continues the life of Abraham. For the present is not apart from the past. ‘Abraham is still standing before God’ (Gen 18.22); Abraham endures forever. We are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
This is a lesson for ALL of us who are members of God’s covenants. For Christians, we look to Jesus as our link to the covenant of Abraham. God’s covenant with the Jews still stands and will stand for all time. We have been invited into that covenant to become a blessing for the world. As Heschel says to his Jewish kindred “The life of the person who joins the covenant of Abraham continues the life of Abraham,” so we Christians must start to look at our lives. We, when we are baptized into the fellowship of Christ and anointed by God’s Spirit, we continue the life of Jesus in this world. We continue his mission. We continue as Jesus’ “chosen generation, a holy nation, God’s own people” to make a path for God’s reign. We are to be Jesus, picking up our cross and following him on the way to the world’s redemption.
Abraham is standing before God. Jesus is standing before God. We are standing before God. Let us remember that as we walk through this time of trial (Side note: the Lord’s Prayer requests that we be saved from the time of trial, it does not ensure we will not actually come to it), this Covid time, this time of repentance and reconciliation for the sins of racism and racial injustice, this time of climate reckoning, and so many other trials, personal and public, let us feel the weight of our decision to be on God’s side, to stand with Abraham and Sarah, Rebecca and Isaac, Jacob, Leah, and Rachel, to stand with Jesus and the Twelve, and with all those in every generation who have chosen to stand on the side of justice, peace, and love. Let us feel the weight of choosing God, and God choosing us, and then ask ourselves: What does that choice mean for my life? What does that choice mean for our common life? How shall we live as God’s witnesses in the world?