Abraham’s Sons: Community
Written by Andrew Leigh Amanda LeAnn Bullard
Lawrence House Service corps member
As I read the Genesis passage for this week I couldn’t help but be reminded of the song Father Abraham. This youth group favorite involves wild motions and the continuous refrain “Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them and so are you, so let all praise the Lord.”
The theme of the song, we are all the children of Abraham, seems innocent at first glance. It’s a fun song, community is a popular concept and it is very unthreatening when everyone looks the same. And we did look the same when I learned it with a group of other white, middle-class kids. Community to us meant looking and acting the same, belonging by similarity. I grew up being told that “Father Abraham’s sons” were those who believed and acted exactly the way the church taught, which left little space for someone like me who was beginning to question their identity and their faith.
It is a little weird to be going back to that song, now that I’ve been shaped by two years in intentional community through the Episcopal Service Corps. The children of Abraham no longer appear monochromatic as those I live with have opened my eyes to the depths of race and racism in our history and society. The artificial lines of us and them used to separate those who are served and those who serve have fallen to pieces after spending cold January days working with the Community Soup Kitchen at St. Hilda’s House. It was impossible not to see our similarities as we prayed and ate together day after day. Through my work at Lawrence House I’ve shared in the costs of exclusion as I’ve listened to LGBTQ college students describe the challenges of living in a world that persistently tells them they are unwanted, and churches who debate their existence.
Through these experiences I can no longer treat community as a keyword or spiritual ideal. I have come to realize that community is a daily struggle. It is only through dying to our expectations that we are freed to experience Christ living with us through those we are surrounded by. Father Abraham indeed had many sons. Yet the many children of Father Abraham often forget our shared root, our common existence. We are continuously tempted by the tame cultural Christianity that speaks of a special promise for us alone. But through the Gospel we are called to embrace a community that challenges us to submit our will to God’s, calls us to be silent so that others can speak, and reminds us to give freely of ourselves. Yet even as community demands the ultimate price, the death of the individual, God uses those within it to call us to a new abundant life. A new life marked with vivid color, rich stories, and unimaginable potential.