December 19, 2016

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Genesis 17:15-22

Galatians 4:8-20

[God said], “Your wife Sarah shall bear you a son, and you shall name him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.”

[Genesis 17:19]

Camp Covenant Closing Ceremony 2014
Camp Covenant Closing Ceremony 2014

During my time in the parish we hosted a summer day camp for kids. One of the highlights of the day for me would take place in the afternoon when the kids sang.  I could hear them from my office and often I would come out to listen and to watch them because they would really get into the music.  One of their favorite songs, as well as mine, is titled “Father Abraham.”  I’m sure you’ve heard it and know it and have probably sang it a time or two.  It goes like this:

Father Abraham had many sons.

Many sons had Father Abraham.

I am one of them, and so are you.

So let’s just praise the Lord!

So it seemed only natural that the Genesis reading would be the focus of today’s reflection.  The LORD makes a promise to give Abraham a son, numerous descendants, and make him the father of many nations. 

This was not the first promise that God had made to Abraham.  Beginning in chapter 12, when we are first introduced to Abraham in the Bible, God tells him to leave his country and go to the land that God will show him.  God promises to make Abraham a great nation and will make his name great, so that he and those who are descended from his name will be known as a blessing to all nations.  In chapter 15, God repeats these promises and promises to give Abraham a son.

Now all this is well and good until you consider the fact that Abraham by this time is 99 years old, and Sara is 90. So on the surface these promises sound outrageous.

Verse 18 points out: Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, “Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”

Is it any wonder Abraham would feel that way?

Sarah and Abraham (The Providence Lithograph Company)
Sarah and Abraham (The Providence Lithograph Company)

But there is one important element in this story.  Abraham may have laughed, he may have doubted, he may have felt foolish, but he listened to God. 

What does Abraham’s experience of God’s covenant mean for us in our day and time? How does Abraham offer a lens through which we can understand our relationship with the living God?

As we hear this story I’m sure there are many of us, if not all of us, who would have probably reacted the same way.  We would have laughed at God had we been in Abraham’s shoes (or sandals, as it were).

Yet we want our faith to be like Abraham’s faith. We don’t want our faith to be wavering and weak, we don’t want to doubt, we don’t want to question.  Down deep inside of all of us want to move beyond that. We want our faith to grow strong.  We want to have a genuine faith, a deep faith, a trusting faith, a committed faith.

It is important to note however, that while Abraham is being held up in Genesis, he was far from perfect.  Abraham had many flaws, as all of us humans do. But God did not enter into a covenant with Abraham because of Abraham’s merits.

In much the same way God makes a promise to us.  We are called in the waters of baptism to be a child of God. Having been called, we do as Abraham did. We obey. We follow God’s commands to love the Lord with all our heart, with all our mind and with all our soul. And we follow God’s command, also, to love those around us.

Will we always obey God?  That’s not humanly possible.  We are all sinful.  Even Abraham sinned. 

But, in those moments when we sin, we can be assured that we are living under the care and watchful eye of the Holy Spirit, we are able to ask and received forgiveness, then by God’s grace, we follow-through and go out and do what God has called us to do.  Not always, and never on our own, are we able to do God’s will in our lives.

God, our Creator, you call us to follow you.  Give us the courage and the strength to trust in your promises.  Fill us with your love, assure us of your presence and mold us into the creatures you would have us be. Amen

Published by pastorallende

Retired Bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Social justice and immigration reform advocate. Micah 6:8. Fluent in English and Spanish. I enjoy music and sports.

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