In June and July, we worked our way through the book of Galatians chapter-by-chapter. It was fun to share a sermon series one chapter at a time. In a somewhat similar fashion, for this Sunday and next Sunday, I want to preach one sermon over two weeks as the lectionary provides two Sunday’s worth of text from Genesis chapter 18.
Have you ever heard something so foolish that it just kind of takes your breath away? Sometimes things are ONLY funny and foolish sounding because, well, they are in fact true. This was the case with Abraham and Sarah in our text this morning.
You may recall this pivot story in Genesis…. God had promised Abraham and Sarah many, many descendants the bible says “as numerous as the stars because of Abraham’s faithfulness to God”. Yet, many years went on and Abraham and Sarah remained without child. So, in chapter 16 of the book of Genesis, Abraham takes his Egyptian maid, whose name was Hagar, and has a child with Hagar. A boy by the name of Ismael.
And then, at the ripe age of 99, Abram has a spiritual transformation in that God tells him that God will establish a covenant between Abram and that Abram’s name will be changed to Abraham and that he will indeed be the father of many nations.
Abraham received what I think most of us all want, and that is to blessed by God, but the Bible seems to make sure that we know God’s time and human timing are not the same. Abraham trusted in the slow work of God even until his old age when, in chapter 18, Abraham sees three men mysterious men in the heat of the day outside his tent. When he sees them, he runs to meet them and bows before them and says, “My Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, don’t pass by your servant.” And Abraham goes to provide these men hospitability by drawing up water and wash for their hands and feet along with bread and sustenance.
And the Lord asked Abraham about his wife, Sarah. Knowing God’s promise to conceive a son in her advanced years, Sarah, giggles at God’s plan. The Bible says in verse 12 that Sarah laughed to herself saying “I’ve grown too old, and my husband is too old.”
It’s only funny because it’s true. The Lord says, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, “Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?”
My family and I recently had to put down our family cat, who reached the ripe cat age of about 17. Although, I’m not exactly certain of her age as she came to me from the pound, she must have been around 17 and up until the last few months of her life, at least while she lived with our family, she enjoys (at least we think) her life. She was fairly pleasant to be around and I must say had a life any cat would want.
But there was a point, when, in her advanced years her kidneys would no longer function and she wasn’t able to get around like she used to, and at the advice and council of our vet, we had her put down at the right time.
The thing is, our cat – Emma, came into my life during my pastoral internship year while I lived in Algona, Iowa in 2004. She came back to seminary following my intern year, lived for 18 months with me and my newly-wed wife, Karen. She moved with us to our house in Houston, and saw the birth of all three of our daughters, she moved back to Iowa landing in Muscatine where she lived out her last years in a home with a dog and three young children.
Every life, human or otherwise, has so many seasons. Each season brings with it, its own particular beauty and power. And gift. If we only focus on one season of life and neglect the entire process, we can discover that we become like Sarah, skeptical of the truth of what our creator has planned for our life of service. We can easily lose sight of our life being a gift when we focus on one season of life over another. Life is neither linear nor stagnate. It is a dance. It’s moving from one season of life to another. From one mystery to another. For none of us know what the truth of the future holds for any of us, but we dance and celebrate, like Abraham and Sarah at God’ grace and the promise of abundant life.
I think it so easy for us in our day and age to diminish ourselves, and thus, diminish the work and ministry God has planned for us, when we, like Sarah and Abraham laugh at the purpose of our life. We can easily try to deny the truth of our own mortality and try to edit our life as though we will never die. Despite all the communications and powers of advancement in our society, death still (like Paul writes is indeed our last enemy). It’s true for cats and for humans, and for that matter – all living things.
Yet, the truth of God that came face-to-face with Sarah and indeed to us as well is that most of the things that give us life and a depth of meaning and value are impervious to age and to death.
For my elderly cat, her purpose was to receive love. And she did. She was loved to the very end of her life. It’s never easy to let go of a pet, but in the end, we walked away knowing that loved was shared.
For us, our purpose at whatever age, isn’t has far removed as we might think. Jesus says it like this, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There are no age qualifications, or any other categories to this. It’s a just something we can do no matter what age we are. Love.
Love is what saw Abraham and Sarah complete their life and their faithfulness to God. And don’t think for one moment that it was easy for them to stay the course and remain faithful to God’s promise. Sarah’s giggle is a testimony to the truth that a life of faith in Christ is not an easy walk.
But in the end, it’s the promise of God and that’s all that matters. No matter how many times things get messed up with all the descendant of Abraham and Sarah, God remains faithful to them and because of them, God remains faithful to us. Forsaking us not.
Trust always in the slow work of God. God’s promises will see us through. You can count on it. Amen.