Below the fold is a written version of Jenny’s sermon from Sunday, June 18, 2017. Her text was Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7.
Genesis 18:1-5, 21:1-7
1 The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. 2 He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. 3 He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. 4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. 5 Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” 6 And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” 7 Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. 8 Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.
9 They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” 10 Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”…
21:1 The Lord dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as he had promised. 2 Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him. 3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him. 4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6 Now Sarah said, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” 7 And she said, “Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
God works in strange ways.
Often we may think that the people God uses are perfect. We may think that Abraham, Sarah, Moses, the disciples, and others always did what God wanted and that is why God used them.
However, as we dig into the stories of our faith in the Bible, we discover that God uses all kinds of imperfect people. We discover stories of the heroes of our faith that show how truly human they were. And the more we learn, the more we discover that God works in strange ways.
One of these stories, found in our reading from Genesis today, is a story about Abraham and Sarah.
We hear in the story that the LORD appeared to Abraham. What Abraham sees, however, is three men. As soon as these visitors appear, Abraham runs out of the tent to greet them and offer them food to eat, water to wash their feet, and a place to rest in the shade before they continue on their journey.
Hospitality was of utmost importance. Especially hospitality to strangers. Abraham and Sarah and their servants hurried to make a meal for the three travelers to eat to make them feel welcome. After the meal was prepared, Abraham brought it to the visitors and stood beside them as they ate. And then they get into some dinnertime conversation.
“Where’s your wife, Sarah?” The conversation starts out pretty normal. “She’s back in the tent,” Abraham replies. Then one of the strangers just bluntly says, “I’ll be back in due season and when I come back your wife, Sarah, will have a son.” Sarah overhears the conversation, and not surprisingly, she laughs to herself. After all, she is 90 years old!
They are told that Sarah will have a child. This is not new information, but it seems like it is way too late in the game.
A little backstory: It’s been 25 years since God first made the promise to Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation. Since then, they have gotten impatient and thought God was not going to follow through on the promise to make Abraham the father of a great nation. So they have taken matters into their own hands. Sarah gave her slave-girl, Hagar, to Abraham as a wife and the two of them had a child together named Ishmael. Abraham tried to get God to fulfill the covenant through Ishmael, since Ishmael was already here, but this was not what God had planned. God will still bless Ishmael and his family, but God tells Abraham that God will establish the covenant with Abraham and Sarah’s son, who is yet to be born, who they are to name Isaac.
So when the strangers arrive and tell Abraham that Sarah will have a child by this time next year,
They are too old, this cannot happen.
Imagine the talk that would surround this incident of Abraham and Sarah.
Sarah was 90.
Abraham was 100. (He was 75 when God first made the promise to him)
This is not supposed to happen. Sarah was beyond her childbearing years.
Even though their child was a gift from God in their old age, it must have been difficult to tell their friends. They must have gotten some strange looks.
Can you imagine what Sarah must have felt about the prospect of having a first born child at age 90? She was going to need a heck of a nanny.
God works in strange ways. And God continues to work through us even though we may laugh at what God is calling us to do.
God can use us all—sometimes unexpectedly
God comes to us in unexpected places
God came to Abraham in 3 visitors—we don’t know when Abraham realized it was God
God does not always work on our time table. Abraham and Sarah took matters into their own hands when they got impatient after about 10 years. We get impatient too. But things work out better when we follow what God is calling us to do rather than calling on God to do what we want to do.
We are called to be open to what God is doing in our lives.
Like people in the stories of the Bible, we do not have to be perfect for God to use us.
We don’t have to be perfect to go to church.
As we come together as the church, as the Body of Christ, we come together to be shaped by the stories of our faith, to be shaped as Christians, so that we can live our lives after the example of Christ.
We come and hear that we have worth because we were created by God. No matter who we are, where we’ve been, or what we’ve done, we are all God’s children. We are all loved by God. And we can all be transformed by God into the people God wants us to be.
Through our baptism, we are called to resist evil, injustice, and oppression and to live our lives as those who follow Christ. We are called love as God loves. We are called to grow in this love, to love God and love people more and more each day, which is a difficult thing to do.
Like Abraham, we may encounter God in a stranger. We never know how God may reach out to us or what we may be called to do.
I don’t know if you have ever thought about this question, but it is one I think about a lot. The question, “What are we called to do?” The answer is not always straightforward or clear cut, and it may change over the years. But the answer is unique to each of us. God has given each of us gifts and abilities. One good definition I have come across a lot over the years is that what we are called to do is whatever falls in the intersection of our passion and the world’s need. (There are certainly many needs in the world. Think about this as where our passion meets one of the needs of the world.) This may be our job, this may be a hobby, or this may simply be how we approach life and our encounters with other people. Sometimes, once we realize what it is, it may lead us in a new direction in life.
God comes to us in unexpected ways and uses us in unexpected ways.
Each and every one of us can be used by God to share God’s love, mercy, and justice with all those with whom we come in contact.
As you go through this week, keep your eyes, ears, hearts, and minds open to the presence of God around you, and to the strange and wonderful ways that God is at work in our world. Amen.