The Jews call Abraham their father because they spring from him. The Muslims who venerate him equally called him the “friend” — friend to God and because of his defence of his nephew Lot and his hospitality to the three visitors at Mamre, friend indeed. We Christians call him our father in faith because of his trust in God, which God credited to him as righteousness. But would the Canaanites and Perizzites call him if they were alive today? Probably “imperialist”, “colonialist, and “thief.”

We Canadians are increasingly aware of the sins of our forebears who stole a land from a people. Abraham did something like that when he migrated west from Mesopotamia, first all the way down to Egypt, then up through the desert to Haran in the land of Canaan. In modern Hebron is his burial place near that of Rebecca, Isaac, and Jacob — for long centuries a mosque but now in Jewish hands.

We know ongoing debate about those who have been considered founding fathers of our country. What do we make of John A. McDonald? Father of confederation? Founder of the residential school system? A lot depends on who writes the history books. The only Abraham who has come down to us looks like an authentic hero, given the bloody code of conduct of those times. The pattern of migration forces him out of Chaldea, down near where Tigris and Euphrates run together. He then comes to Haran and after that goes southward with his flocks and herds. Famine is what drives him chiefly, says the Bible, although centuries later when he is become a folk hero his movements are interpreted as a series of calls from God.

Like our own explorers and settlers, when Abraham got to the land he found that in order to call it his own he would first have to steal it from people who had got there first. In Genesis 12 we hear that it is God who gets Abraham on the move. There is the first account of the covenant made between God and Abraham, a promise of place and progeny. From Abraham will come a great people. We do not have the record of those who whom Abraham and his offspring drove out. But it will not do default the history writing of the Bible. We should be grateful that in Abraham we have an authentic hero, a thoroughly decent man. He conducts himself well every time we meet him.

We celebrate a new covenant that is an everlasting one. The symbol this time is not a word from God, not even the mangled body of a man on a cross, though that is the appearance given. The symbol of God’s faithfulness to us in the new covenant is a totally obedient man, Jesus: a faithful man, a man who will never go back on his word as God does not go back on his. There was no one we know of quite like this. That is the uniqueness of Jesus. It is not his blood that is important; the blood is only result, and outcome. The greatness of Jesus is his faithfulness, the cause of the bloodshed. 

If we are to keep are part of the covenant which has Christ’s body and blood as its signs we must abhor all bloodshed. That, after all, is why he died at the hands of senseless men: to bring an end to blind hate that thinks it can solve anything by destroying human life. 

Do we keep our part of the covenant? We do not. We support wars without a murmur. We let our sons and daughters be turned into killers and wonder why they go berserk when they come home. No, we do not keep our part of the covenant. We love blood. We love the spirit that destroyed Jesus. And it is destroying us. The call to covenant renewal, to Lenten existence is clean contrary to the spirit of war making and racism. Let us not only repent. Let us know how alienated we Christians are called to be from the life, the mood, the spirit of our own Canadian people, our kinsfolk for whom we bear grief and pain in our hearts.