What a bloody mess!

We have that curious reading in Genesis 15; animals feature across our scriptures. Animals cut in half in the Old Testament... and foxes and hens in the new. 

What's going on?

Abram in the Old Testament has a unique encounter with God which establishes truths about the relationship we all have with God. Relationship entails risk. Jesus teaches us to go to the enth degree for others even to the point of laying down our lives. When the stakes are this high we all need to hear 'Do not be afraid' – God's words to Abram. Jesus strikes us this morning as very unafraid, as he faces Jerusalem and Herod, that fox – out for his blood.

Do you sometimes think about how costly your relationship with God is? You have sacrificed so much, maybe your reputation, possibly your friends, certainly some of the world's offerings because you are obedient and compelled by the Spirit to remember the promises spoken over you by God. 

Do you know what God promises you?

Last week we saw Jesus overcome temptation in the desert from the devil who offered him everything. Jesus resisted. This week then this same Jesus, renewed and determined, turns his face towards Jerusalem to meet his fate, to lay down his life for us so our sins are swallowed up and we can enter into covenant relationship with God.

Abram has just given up the offer of riches from a foreign King and is now asking God what this is all about, this following God. Was he right to make that sacrifice? He can't see the reason at this point with no future before him; no heir and no land.

Have you ever despaired like Abram? Wondered what it is all about? Lived in that time before you knew God's promises of the glory that lies ahead. 

Maybe you are still in that time or have forgotten the promises of God.

The Lord asks Abram to count the stars because there is an almighty huge project that God is going to begin in Abram. Do you ever stop to remember you're a part of the God project too? Jesus' death and resurrection secured your status as an adopted child of God, filled by his Spirit, empowered by his love, you are part of his project to reclaim his world back from the foxes. 
Are you joining in?

Abram and Jesus are both obedient out of faith to the God who makes covenants in the very life-stuff of blood. This ritual in Genesis this morning points forward to the covenant that Jesus makes with us through his blood on the cross which is remembered at the Eucharist – Drink this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Blood carries life, there is no life without blood. The animals laid down, broken in Abram's ritual point to Christ's broken body on the cross. The torch and the fire-pot that pass down these halves, that mediate, that 'go-between' the carnage in Abram's vision is that same Shekinah glory of God that appeared as a star to guide wise men, as cloud and fire to guide God's people to their Land of Promise, that appeared as a rainbow in the sky in a covenant made with Noah. 

In Jesus the divine is a 'Go-between' God.

In verse 18 the word 'made,' 'made a covenant' is cut. You would cut a covenant. This is perhaps similar to our cutting a deal. In the Ancient Near East, agreements were sealed with the cutting of animals, to say, in a very graphic way, if I do not keep my word, may this happen to me – death and judgement – as horrible as this. God takes this on in Christ on our behalf, pays dearly for the relationship he initiates with us, enters viscerally and really with everything he has into a relationship that cost him the lot, the life of his son.

God, in his shekinah Glory, walks through the shadow of death that descends on Abram – we are told that as the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram and a deep and terrifying darkness descended. God commits himself even in this moment to the later moment of the cross, to entering that terrifying darkness to secure for us what we can not secure for ourselves, to send his Son to secure life for us, everlasting life, to send his Son to be savaged by a fox, savaged by all the cunning and crafty work of the devil: sin and death though he, Jesus, is the hen who seeks to protect his people, you and me, and shelter us under his wings, which he achieves with our freedom.

God passes through the pieces, the dead animals, in the Old Testament, God himself comes down into the muck and the mess then, in Genesis, in this bloody and messy ritual with Abram, just as he does in Jesus, taking on flesh and entering our messed up world as a baby born for a cross, our mucky every day, which he fills with His Spirit though it's still savaged by foxes. God will go through death to secure life for us as Jesus, mother Hen, saves us chicks from being being hunted down by cunning sin and crafty death.

Sin and death are conquered by Christ's mockery of them in his resurrection from the cross. In Colossians we hear that 'he disarmed the powers... and made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.'

Jesus tells the Pharisees, “Go and tell that fox [Herod] for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’” Jesus knows the stakes, understands the deal, anticipates his cut. 

If you are familiar with what happens when a fox gets into a hen house, you know the mother hen herds her chicks under her wings for protection and bares her breast so the fox must kill her first before it can get to the chicks.

This is the image that Jesus chose to bring us,  God’s very son bore his breast for us. Jesus walked for us into the terrifying darkness which descended, but only for a while, over the whole of the earth, at his death. But by being raised from the dead, he overcame death and promises that we will too. 
What is it that Jesus promises anyway? 
Why have you become Christians?
It isn't the way to a comfortable life!
That was never the deal. Foxes exist but death and sin are undone. 
God fulfilled his promise to Abram, taking on darkness and sin and death for us and did so again in his Son, Jesus Christ. 
These are the greater promises he covenants to, for you.

So this is how broken animals and foxes and hens make sense.
When we received the cross of ashes on our forehead on Ash Wednesday, we were reminded of our vulnerability to sin and to death. 

As Christians, we are made for more than just deals that gain us fleeting assurance. We are called to covenant and to sacrifice after our very earthy God, to putting our faith in him who has secured everything for us, who has walked out all our pain to secure our resurrection, our outwitting of the fox. 

We are to trust in a God who fulfils his promises, who entered all our bloody messes, so that he could secure us the promises of Covenant love. 

‘Do not be afraid,' he says again today, 'I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’ Amen.

1 comment:

Phil Almond said...

See also Jeremiah 34:18-20, prompting the speculation that when Jesus said, ‘Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together’, he may possibly have had one or both of these passages in mind.

Phil Almond


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