Baptism of the Christ

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Abraham sees smoke rising from Sodom and Gomorrah “like smoke from a furnace” – kind of a creepy image in a 21st century context

The one-year lectionary this morning includes Genesis 18:16-19:38 – the pick-up to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the story proper, and the aftermath. It’s a dreadful story – that’s well-known. But this morning I noticed how much hesitation there is in the story, at least the way it’s told.

God hesitates to tell Abraham about the whole plan in the first place. [The rationale God gives is a little peculiar – sort of like the rationale a person might use to justify eating that piece of cake right after having made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight. “Should I hide my plan? Because Abraham is going to be a great nation.” But God goes on to say “he’s going to have to provide moral instruction to a lot of people” – so … what, he needs a little moral instruction now? Or he needs to practice giving moral instruction, to God? Because that’s what happens next. Abraham has a long conversation with God about whether God is really being entirely just in this matter, “sweeping the righteous away with the wicked,” treating them the same – “should not the judge of all the earth do what is just?”]

But then Abraham hesitates more than once in speaking to God, or at least voices trepidation.

Then, the angels in the town square hesitate – maybe this is a formal kind of thing – when invited by Lot to come to his house for the night. “No, we’ll just sleep here.” Finally they take him up on his offer.

Then, Lot’s daughters’ fiancés hang back in Sodom, don’t take Lot up on his urging them to leave. [Well, maybe Lot does make it sound like a joke … who knows; he’s a less than reliable character in the narrative.]

Then Lot is – implicitly – dragging his feet the next morning.

Then, Lot is explicitly described as “still hesitating” when it’s about to be the moment of no return, and the angels grab him and the family by the hand and drag them out of the city.

Then, Lot begs not to have to leave the valley, just to go to the small town of Zoar a ways away – the easier, softer way, maybe?

Then, Lot’s wife turns back to look [famous].

That is a lot of “Really? Do we have to? Do we have to do that? What about something a little less extreme?

What does this mean? That people are this way a lot? But does it mean we shouldn’t be? This seems very unclear to me. What if all the hesitation has something to do with the “being made in the image of God”?

According to the Christian story, God does not not destroy the place – the world, that is –  for the sake of “10 righteous.” God is willing not to destroy the whole place for the sake of one righteous. Who’s hesitating there?

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About HAT

Heather Thiessen (HAT) is a happily married 60-ish, Bible-reading, Presbyterian Church Sunday School teaching and choir singing, small fuel efficient car driving, still pretty much 2nd wave feminist and generally out lesbian Hoosier mom. (There are no monochrome states.) From time to time she teaches religious studies to students at a small liberal arts college in Louisville, Kentucky.
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