As we leave Lent and enter the Easter Season, Jennifer Merck shares a desert story from Genesis 12 & 13, with excerpts from Young Children & Worship by Sonja Stewart & Jerome Berryman.
“Once Abram and Sarai lived in a beautiful city of Haran. The one true God loved Abram and Sarai. One day God said to them, ‘Move from your home. I will give you a new home and a new land. It’s all right to go. I will be with you. And I will bless you . . . and I will make you a blessing.’ Abram and Sarai looked across the desert. It would be sad to leave their home and their friends. They wondered if they would be safe. Would God be with them? Abram and Sarai went. They trusted the one true God to show them the way.”
The season of Lent is always a desert season. For the Souls, Lent 2020 was more desert-like than ever before. Though we’ve entered the Easter Season, in many ways, we are still in the desert.
In Children’s Worship, “so many important things happen in the desert that we need a small piece of it to help us tell the stories.” So, we have a “desert box,” a wooden box full of sand, where we share these special stories. The story of Abram & Sarai happens in the desert. After they left Haran,
“They came to Shechem in the land of Canaan. God had been with them in Haran. But would God be here too? Then God said to them, ‘Look. Look at all this land . . . . I will give this land to your children.’ Abram and Sarai were so happy that God was with them, they couldn’t help but give thanks to God. So they built a special place, an altar, and prayed their thanks to God.”
As followers of Jesus well-steeped in solid theology, we know God to be all the “omni’s” — omniscient, omnipotent, and yes — omnipresent. For Abram, Sarai, and their contemporaries, gods were connected with place; gods were present in certain locations. So, to be asked by the one true God to leave their home, where they knew God to be present, was stepping into the abyss . . . perhaps even stepping into the possibility of no longer knowing God, God’s protection, God’s provision.
But Abram and Sarai trusted the one true God.
“Then they moved on to a place near Bethel [which means: the house of God]. And God was there too. Abram and Sarai were so happy that God was with them, they couldn’t help but give thanks to God. So they built an altar and prayed their thanks. Then there came a great famine so there was not enough food to eat. They were very hungry. So Abram and Sarai moved to the land of Egypt for food. Abram was scared. He was scared of the people in Egypt. He forgot that God had promised to be with him. But God did not forget. God kept Abram and Sarai safe. The Egyptians were good to them, and gave them food and animals . . . . Abram and Sarai moved back to the land of Canaan, the land God promised to give them, to a place called Hebron.”
After we hear God’s stories in Children’s Worship, we wonder together. Would you be willing to wonder with me?
I wonder how Abram and Sarai felt to leave their home and not know where they were going.
I wonder how they felt going through the desert, looking for a place to live.
When Abram and Sarai arrived in Hebron (which means friend, or alliance),
“Abram and Sarai wondered if God would be here too. God had been with them in Haran and in Shechem, and near Bethel, and in Egypt. Would God be in Hebron too? Then God said to them, ‘I will give you many children to live in this land.’ Abram and Sarai were so happy that God was with them, they couldn’t help but give thanks to God. So they built an altar and prayed their thanks to the one true God who was with them.”
Abram and Sarai’s spontaneous giving of thanks arises out of their fear of God’s absence and God’s direction. Our oldest, Austin, turned 23 a few weeks ago, during the pandemic. When he was about 5 years old, he spontaneously told me he never wanted to get his driver’s license. Unsure why he was thinking about this at such a young age, I assured him by the time he was 16, he’d probably be interested. But I also asked him why. Immediately, he said, “But Mommy, I won’t know which ways to go.”
Indeed, knowing which ways to go is one of life’s greatest challenges. The path through the desert is rarely clear, nor well-marked. The cacti and desert plants have marked the way for us this Lent. Perhaps the desert flowers have begun to reveal something new. Isaiah 43:19 says, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
I wonder how Abram and Sarai felt when God spoke to them in all of these places.
I wonder if you have ever gone somewhere and didn’t know where you were going.
I wonder how many places God can be.
I wonder how God makes a way in the wilderness.