He was walking by the trees when he heard an abnormal rustling. It could not be an animal, the sound was too precise. But the noises did not sound human either. Abraham stood up quickly and wiped the sweat from his brow. He looked up.
There were three. They looked oddly familiar to Abraham.
Re-reading the story thousands of years later–trying to understand the rich tradition of the Jews–I picture Abraham staring at three strange looking men (Genesis 18). I wonder what they look like. Why was Abraham so surprised by them, and why the Bible refers to them as “men” (Genesis 18:2). Abraham noticed.
But he did more than notice; he bowed down. I wonder if the Christian church, full of its theology and its political agendas in America, have lost a sense of awe for our God and savior Jesus Christ. I wonder if we saw God come fully in his human flesh, just as Abraham sees these three men, if we would bow down to the ground. And I wonder if bowing is the first thing that Christians can do when they think about the relationship of politics and power. Maybe just maybe, the first thing Christians have to do is realize that, as they see God at work in their lives, and when he makes these divine appointments, all we can do is bow before him in worship.
But Abraham does not stop at worship.
“If I have found favor in your eyes,” he says. “Do not pass your servant by.”
He goes on to serve them water and Sarah makes them bread. I like the name Sarah. It means “princess” or “goddess” in the Hebrew. Surely than we see the goddess making food and serving the Lord–but she also doubts the promise of the Lord. A walking contradiction.
But if we want to understand power, we must continue on in the story. Power in the kingdom of God begins in noticing, turns to worship, and then offers hospitality. Jesus, in the same way, first called his disciples, transfigured in front of them, and then warned them that not giving a cup of cold water to the least of these could cost them their very salvation.
I wonder what the conversation was like. Surely you can’t talk about the Dodgers to God over dinner.
“How about them Yankees, Yahweh?” Abraham said.
“You know the curse of the Bambino?” Yahweh answers.
“They’ll never win again,” Abraham yells. “I don’t believe it.”
“Nothing is impossible with God.”
I just don’t know what you talk about with God over a meal. But then they get up. Abraham almost thinks his meal is finished, but then God notices. Just as Abraham noticed the Lord, Yahweh now looks at Sodom. As Abraham walks with them on the way, Yahweh must notice how Sodom is doing the exact opposite of Abraham–no worship at all.
“Can I keep it from him any longer?” the Lord asks his associates.
The associates sit quietly. I would too. It would just be a a bit overwhelming to say anything to God–even if you were his friend.
“Abraham,” the Lord looks at him sternly. “I’ve given you power, the power to bless all the nations through your family line, but I’m looking at Sodom. Actually that’s where me and my associates are headed right now. Their sin is so heinous that I must destroy it. What else can I do?”
This is the first time that power comes into the bible, but notice that it is tied into politics. Right after this, Abraham becomes the first politician and tries to talk God down from destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. It is interesting that the first message about humanity, when they are given power, is to call defend people who do not deserve God’s grace. I have spent a good three posts talking about the Christian call to the poor, but what do we do with the power that Jesus Christ has given to the church?
The great commission, the call for all Christians to follow, is given with the authority and power of Jesus Christ–to whom all power has been given. We have an enormous responsibility. But remember what the disciples did after the commission was given? First they watched Jesus leave them. Then they went into the upper room–obeying Jesus’ command–and prayed. They got on their knees, just as Abraham did hundreds of years before them. Then they were given power from on high.
Before Christians think about what they can do, they should first notice Jesus Christ who is sitting across from them in the very room they read this blog. Second, it should cause them to fall down in worship. Surely they will receive no less power than Abraham and the apostles?