August 17, 2014: Have you ever laughed AT God?

Posted on : Aug 14th, 2014 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Have you ever laughed AT God? I can’t say that is an experience I’ve ever had. I’ve rejoice at God’s blessings and presence in my life. I’ve prayed to God. I’ve cried to God and cried with God. I’ve asked God to “damn” a few people, especially in LA gridlock traffic when I’m running late! But I can’t say I’ve ever laughed at God. Darn, this is a moment when we need Robin Williams. I’ll bet he has laughed at God!

This Sunday our next story from the book of Genesis is about Abraham and Sarah, who laugh at God when God reveals to them something which they think is impossible. The story is quite interesting because it uses a method of storytelling which was very prominent in the ancient world, but unheard of today. Here’s how it works.

Three to four thousand years ago, “angels” were represented not as cute, cuddly, celestial beings with wings – that image became most prominent during the Italian Renaissance (1500-1600’s AD) especially with the art work of the famous artists, Raphael and Michelangelo – instead angels were “presented” as humans who brought with them the divine message. These angels kind of “morphed” between humans and divine beings. Sometimes they carried the divine message and sometimes God “spoke” through them as if they were “mediums.”

So why is this important? Well, the three “visitors” who came to Abraham and Sarah bearing this unbelievable message that at the ripe old age of 100 Abraham is going to father a child with Sarah who is 90, “well past the age of child bearing…” – these same “angels” who came as three men are the same folk who appear at Lot’s door in the Sodom and Gomorrah story which we’ll look at a week from now.

In this Sunday’s story they come bearing the unbelievable news that Abraham and Sarah are going to at last have a child. In Jewish tradition, children are central to immortality. Children, male children, carry on the “name” and lineage – the essence of the family – into which they are born. Thus, since Abraham and Sarah were promised to be the parents of a great nation, it was extremely painful for them not to have a child. Yet in spite of Sarah’s “barrenness,” Abraham and Sarah remain faithful to God.

How many of us would continue to trust God well into the last years of our lives if we felt God had not come through with a promise to us? One of the reasons this story is so central to our faith – and the reason Abraham and Sarah are known as the Patriarch and Matriarch of our faith – is that they continue to trust God, even when life is not going the way they want it to. That’s an important lesson for all of us to learn.

Sometimes we give up on good too soon. Sometimes we expect the impossible from God, but refuse to accept what is possible in our lives. That’s the message of Abraham and Sarah’s story that we will explore this Sunday.

And without any coordination, we not only celebrate the birth of Abraham and Sarah’s son, Isaac – literally, child of the covenant; we also will be baptizing Maude Marvan, our newest child of the covenant that Abraham and Sarah began, and the wonderful daughter of Jade & Jeff and sister of Elle!

Blessings,

Dan

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Genesis 18:1-15 (and 21: 1-6)

God promises a child to Sarah and Abraham

God appeared to Abraham by the oak grove of Mamre, while Abraham sat at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Looking up, Abraham saw three travelers standing nearby.

When he saw them, Abraham ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them; and bowing to the ground, said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, please do not pass by our tent. Let some water be brought, that you may bathe your feet, and then rest yourselves beneath this tree. As you have come to your faithful one, let me bring you a little food, that you may refresh yourselves. Afterward, you may go on your way.”

“Very well,” they replied, “do as you have said.”

Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quick – take a bushel of fine flour and knead it into loaves of bread.” Abraham then ran to the heard, selected a choice and tender calf, and sent a worker hurrying to prepare it. Then Abraham took cheese and milk and the calf which had been prepared, and placed it before the travelers; and he waited on them under the tree while they ate.

“Where is Sarah?” they asked.

“There, in the tent,” Abraham replied.

One of them said, “I will surely return to you this time next year, and Sarah will then have a child.” Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent, just behind him.

Now Sarah and Abraham were old, well on in years, and Sarah was well past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself and said, “now that I am so old and my husband even older, is pleasure to come my way again?”

God said to Abraham, “Why does Sarah laugh and say, “Will I really deliver a child, at my age?’ Is anything too extraordinary for God to do? At the appointed time, at this time next year, I will return to you, and Sarah will have a child.”

Sarah was afraid, and said, “I didn’t laugh.”

God said, “Oh, but you did indeed laugh”

(Genesis 21: 1-6…) God was gracious to Sarah as it had been foretold, and did what had been promised. Sarah conceived and gave birth to a child for Abraham, who was now in old age, at the very time God had promised. They named the child Isaac, and Abraham circumcised the child Isaac when he was eight days old, according to God’s command. Abraham was 100 years old when Sarah gave birth to Isaac, “Laughter,” for Sarah said,

            “Now God has given me laughter,

            And all who hear of this will laugh with me.

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