Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Mary as the New Abraham

Andy's quotation last week from Chapter 3 of Stanley Hauerwas's book Cross-Shattered Christ--to the effect that Mary the mother of Jesus is seen as the New Abraham--reminded me of another passage.

This one is from a less scholarly book titled Daily Prayer Walk by Janet Holm McHenry. She notes that Abraham and God are friends (see Isaiah 41:8, and 2 Chronicles 20:7) . Here is her passage on this supernatural friendship:

"Let's look at this friendship in Genesis 18 when the Lord, accompanied by two agnels, visited Abraham at his tent. The Lord said, 'I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son' (18:10).

"Abraham ministered to his visitors' physical needs and then 'walked along with them to see them on their way' (18:16). The Lord said, 'Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?' (18:17), and then told him that he would be the father of a powerful nation.

"When the Lord told his friend that Sodom and Gomorrah would be destroyed for their sins, Abraham negotiated with God in an attempt to spare the two cities from judgment.

"We see several characteristics of a great friendship in this story. One friend humbles himself and serves his visitors. The other friend grants a long-term request, and then the two dialogue--speaking, listening, seeing each other's point of view, and agreeing.

"We can have a similar kind of relationship with God as well. It just requires our initiative" (83-84).

Thinking of God as a friend may see a little too informal for that important relationship--usually expressed in terms of parent/child love. But it's interesting, as Hawerwas suggests, that God approaches a very young woman, Mary of Nazareth, and tells her the plan directly. As my mother used to say, he "put it straight on the plate."

And Mary, trusting her friend and her God, agrees, using the famous words from Luke 1:38, "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said" (NIV).

McHenry ends her discussion of friendship with God with the comment, "He's a gentleman. He won't push himself or his ways on us" (84).

Interesting idea . . . . Any comments?

Best wishes,
Mason Smith


Blogger Andrew Harnack said...

I'm not sure where in Flannery O'Connor's letters I read it, but somewhere she says that when God comes to us, He doesn't demand that we struggle mightily to say Yes to Him; rather, he comes to us likr a gentleman (as McHenry so beautifully puts it) that--like the disciples leaving their nets as his lovely invitation to "come and follow"--we willingly allow ourselves into journey with Him. We are never forced or coerced; we are always invited. If I locate that O'Connor letter, I come back to post its whereabouts; for now all I know that it's somewhere in The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor edited by Sally Fitzgerald.

Friday, 24 March, 2006  

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