Abundant Crumbs: Gentiles, Israel, and the Story of Salvation
The Word in the Wild, Proper 15, Year A
The sun set and with it the heat faded, the stars spreading in their expanse, bright enough to see by. The birds had gone now, the hawks and vultures, tearing at the tender parts. Still, there was the stench of intestines, the grass gorged stomachs of the ruminants, smelling of anaerobic microbes. The dove and its squab lay still, the insects that had begun the work of their decay, slowing in the cold.
Avram waited and in his waiting he was brought into a fearful darkness—the skies empty, all clouded. He was alone and vulnerable—deprived of his senses, the knowable world lost. And in that emptiness, he heard a promise—from him a people would come, God’s people, and those people would live in a land, God’s land.
Then there was fire, a torch that moved through the animals—the calf and goat and ram Avram had divided in two alongside the turtle dove and its fledgling. In that fire, moving between those pieces, “YHWH cut a covenant with Avram” (Genesis 15:18, Schocken Bible). And since God is the only one who moved between the animals, it was only God’s to keep, and in that keeping, Israel—its land and its people—were to remain God’s, serving God’s purpose, an instrument of God’s ends.
God keeps God’s promises. That is the heart of our New Testament lessons for this Sunday from Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman to Paul’s reflection on Israel’s place in the story of salvation. And it is that story that must be in the background of any account of these passages.