After all these things, this word of God came to Abram in a vision: "Don't be afraid, Abram. I'm your shield. Your reward will be grand!" Abram said, "God, what use are your gifts as long as I'm childless? … See, you've given me no heir." Then God's Message came: "Don't worry, a son from your body will be your heir." Then God took him outside and said, "Look at the sky. Count the stars. Can you do it? Count your descendants! You're going to have a big family, Abram!" And Abram believed! Believed God! God declared him "Set-Right-with-God." - Genesis 15:1-6 (The Message)
God delivers mysteries that can blow your mind.
God is here—but also not here, occupying the places we know as well as the space beyond place and knowledge.
God is now—but also outside of now, existing before time, in time, outside of all our calendars.
I imagine that Abram, with extraordinary wisdom, understood much of these mysteries of God-Place and God-Time. But scripture also recalls the beautifully human limits of Abram's imagination. In response to God's repeated promise, Abram says, "You have given me no son and heir. So all that you have given me will no longer be mine, because no part of me will exist."
A wise friend said that as soon as you say, "It can't happen," the possibilities you have not yet seen start to shrivel and die. I imagine that God once led her outside to show her the night sky: "Look. Try to count. You are counting the blessings that exist in me, for you." And she repeated the promise.
Stretch your imagination. God is there and then.
And God is here and now.
God, forgive me for the days when I forget to trust your mysteries. Forgive me with a sky full of stars and a story that says, "Look! Lose count! Imagine! Believe!"
John A. Nelson is Pastor and Teacher of Church on the Hill, UCC, in Lenox, Massachusetts.