FIRST READING (Genesis 17:3-9)
Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. And I will give to you, and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.”
GOSPEL (John 8:51-end)
Jesus said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death.”
The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, as did the prophets; and you say, ‘If any one keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you claim to be?”
Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say that he is your God. But you have not known him; I know him. If I said, I do not know him, I should be a liar like you; but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad.”
The Jews then said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.
“Before Abraham was, I am” - Servants of the Word
A Divine Encounter - Keith Krell
“I AM” Sayings in the Fourth Gospel - Felix Just
FURTHERMORE . . . Malcolm Guite says:
I have begun a series of sermons at Girton College Chapel on the mysterious ‘I AM’ sayings in John’s gospel. I started the series with the strange saying that perhaps provides the key to all the others, in John 8:58: ‘Before Abraham was, I AM’.
Scholars agree that this is no mere confusion of tenses but rather a proclamation by Jesus that he is indeed the great I AM, the one who disclosed himself to Moses at the Burning Bush as the God of Abraham and who named himself ‘I AM’. We know that this is how his first hearers interpreted this saying, for they heard it as blasphemous and tried to stone Jesus for having said it (John 8:59).
But for those of us who accept that Jesus is the great I AM, that revelation is the very root of our faith. The first and primal reality, the foundation of the Cosmos, is ‘I AM’, not ‘it is’. The deepest reality is not a collection of meaningless objects, but a personal God who speaks in the first person and shares the gift of personhood with us. When we turn to Christ we turn towards the great I AM, the source and origin of our own little ‘I-Amness’. Turning and returning to that source is always a great refreshment.
No longer do we toil to ‘make ourselves’, no longer are we anxious about who we are, we simply receive our being as what it has always been: a gift. For this reason I link this saying in my mind with Jesus’ beautiful call “come unto me all ye who labour and I will give you rest’.” I have brought both sayings together in this sonnet:
Oh pure I AM, the source of everything,
The wellspring of my inner consciousness,
The song within the songs I find to sing,
The bliss of being and the crown of bliss.
You iterate and indwell all the instants
Wherein I wake and wonder that I am,
As every moment of my own existence
Runs over from the fountain of your name.
I turn with Jacob, Isaac, Abraham,
With everyone whom you have called to be,
I turn with all the fallen race of Adam
To hear you calling, calling ‘Come to me’.
With them I come, all weary and oppressed,
And lay my labours at your feet, and rest.
PRAYER Daniel ben Judah; paraphrased by Thomas Olivers (1770)
The God of Abraham praise
Who reigns enthroned above,
Ancient of everlasting days,
And God of love:
To him uplift your voice,
At whose supreme command
From earth we rise and seek the joys
At his right hand.
Though nature’s strength decay,
And earth and hell withstand,
To Canaan’s bounds we urge our way
At his command.
The watery deep we pass,
With Jesus in our view,
And through the howling wilderness
Our way pursue.
The goodly land we see,
With peace and plenty blest,
A land of sacred liberty
And endless rest;
There milk and honey flow,
And oil and wine abound,
And trees of life for ever grow
With mercy crowned.
There dwells the Lord our King,
The Lord our Righteousness,
Triumphant o’er the world and sin,
The Prince of Peace:
On Sion’s sacred height
His kingdom he maintains,
And glorious with his saints in light
For ever reigns.
Before the Saviour’s face
The ransomed nations bow,
O’erwhelmed at his almighty grace
For ever new:
He shows the prints of love
They kindle to a flame,
And sound through all the worlds above
The slaughtered Lamb.
Before the Three in One
They all exulting stand,
And tell the wonders he has done
Throughout the land:
The listening spheres attend,
And swell the growing fame,
And sing in songs which never end
The wondrous name.
The God who reigns on high
The great archangels sing,
And ‘Holy, holy, holy’ cry
Who was, and is the same,
And evermore shall be:
Eternal Father, great I AM,
We worship thee.’
The whole triumphant host
Give thanks to God on high:
‘Hail, Father, Son and Holy Ghost’
They ever cry:
Hail, Abraham’s God and mine!
(I join the heavenly lays)
All might and majesty are thine,
And endless praise.