“He brought him outside and said, ‘Look towards heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness. Then he said to him, ‘I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.’ But he said, ‘O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?’ He said to him, ‘Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon.’ He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.  As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him… When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire-pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land…” (Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18)  As we continue our Lenten journey, we encounter this week a rather strange but important story.  This is the striking of the covenant between Abram and God.  It is rather strange, because it is not how we enter into our important agreements.  Our ways are a handshake and a strong promise at least and increasingly reams of paperwork with multiple attorneys!  But not in Abram’s day.  Instead, here we have a royal covenant being made.  Here we have multiple animals sacrificed and their bodies cut in two.  Normally, those who were making covenant would then walk between the corpses.  In this way they are saying, “So may I be if I break the covenant.  I will be no more than a sacrificed animal.”  However, we are most certainly not dealing with “normally” here.  A deep darkness descends and Abram has a vision of the presence of God perceived as a smoking pot and a flaming torch.  In that way, God’s presence passes between the pieces, promising to die, before he would break his word to Abram.  And there the story ends without any mention of Abram doing the same; only God’s promise stands. Fast-forward 2000 years to a Friday outside Jerusalem when a deep darkness descends again and a young man dies a terrible death.  Covenant is kept by the only one who can.  God-in-Christ accepts the death of an oath breaker in order to fulfill his promise to oath-breakers.  God-in-Christ passes through death in order for us to know life.  Can you and I even begin to imagine how great God’s love for us is?  Can we even begin to realize the extent to which our Lord goes to restore us to fellowship with him?  Whom do you know who needs to hear that Gospel truth today?