May 13, 2012: Giving Birth at 99 years old!

Posted on : May 11th, 2012 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

How much joy and goodness can one week contain?  Tuesday the Presbytery of the Pacific dismissed our congregation and me to the United Church of Christ.  While it was sad to say goodbye to some dear friends, colleagues and long-time supporters of our ministry, it was also an experience of joyous liberation!  We are finally free to be 100% who we are and be part of a denomination that loves, values, respects and actually wants us and our families. And the very next morning, Barack Obama comes out with his personal support for same gender marriage.  Mr. Obama is the first sitting President of the United States to take this stance. Unbelievable!  Not only is Obama the President of the United States, he is also a Black / African American Christian male.  No one else in the world could have opened the conversation about equal marriage rights in the manner he has.

As it became more and more clear that God was calling us into the UCC, I began to reflect on the long history of this church as well as all I have given to the Presbyterian Church.   I also began asking myself “why it has taken so long?”

The same questions confront many of us at other difficult times in our lives.  Why me?  Why now?  Why have I had to suffer so long?

There is no easy answer to that, but one thing I have found in my faith journey is that just when I think I’m not going to live to see things change, God surprises me.

Abraham and Sarah had that same experience.  Abraham and Sarah were old, and I mean “old, old.”  Very old.  Tradition has it Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah 90.  In the time in history in which they lived, most people died as children or adolescents.  If you made it into young adulthood, you would probably live a normal life span of 35-45 years at the most.  So 90 and 100 is “really old!”  The one hope and dream they had for the future of their lives didn’t happen for them and wasn’t possible.  They had no male heir to continue their family.  The best they could do was proceed in a way that we today find morally abhorrent.  Sarah had a slave named Hagar.  She offered Abraham her slave for sex. Abraham rapes Hagar until he gets her pregnant.  Hagar bears a son named Ishmael, and that’s “the best they can do.”  Sarah grows to hate Hagar, and doesn’t much care for Ishmael either.

Then one day God comes to visit Abraham and Sarah.  God reveals to Abraham that God has a BIG PLAN for Abraham.  God tells Abraham that God is going to create a great nation of people from him!  Abraham falls on his face and laughs at God.  He asks God, “Is a child to be born of a man who is 100 years old?”  [Not to mention that he and his wife have not been able to conceive even one child their entire lives.]  So God appeared to Abraham again outside the tent in which they lived and told him the same thing.  This time Sarah was inside the tent and overheard this conversation. When Sarah heard this, she laughed and said, “Now that I am so old and my husband is even older, is pleasure to come my way again?  Will I really deliver a child at my age?”  And God says, “Is anything too extraordinary for God to do?”

Sarah does conceive and bears a son, who is named Isaac, [which in Hebrew means “Laughter”].  The birth of Isaac allows God to carry on the covenant God made with Abraham and his offspring.  That’s us!  We are the contemporary children of Abraham!

So here we are as a church at 99 years old, a church of primarily childless adults and a lot of families who just aren’t going to get pregnant, at least not in the “old fashioned way,” yet God has come to us and said, “It time to give birth to newness.  You have a new life, a new purpose, a new ministry ahead of you.  14 months ago this seemed impossible!  But as we hear in this story, “Is anything too extraordinary for God to do?”

So here we are on Mother’s day, 99 years old and celebrating our new birth and the life that is before us!  Awesome.  Totally Awesome!

Blessings, even as we are being raised up!


~  This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Genesis 17-18

When Abram was 99 years old, God appeared and said, “I am El Shaddai [a Hebrew name for God which means ‘the God who nurses you.’]  Walk in my presence and be blameless.  I will make a covenant between you and me, and I will increase your numbers exceedingly.”

Abram fell on his face before God, and God said to him, “This is my covenant with you:  you will be the ancestor of many nations.  You are no longer to be called Abram [which means ‘respected Parent,’] but Abraham, [which means ‘The originator of a Multitude,’] for you are the ancestor of a multitude of nations.  I will make you most fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and rulers will spring from you.  I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you, and your descendants after you for generations to come.  I will be your God, and the God of your descendants after you.

God continued, “As for Sarai,” her name will now be Sarah, [which means ‘noblewoman.’]  I will bless her, and I will give you a child by her.  I will bless her, and she will become nations; rulers of peoples will come from her.”

Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, “Is a child to be born of a man who is 100 years old?  And will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”  So God finished speaking with Abraham and left him.

God then 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.  [Then Abraham prepared a banquet to welcome them, and they ate.]

While sitting under the tree, they asked, “Where is Sarah?”

Abraham replied, “There in the Tent.”

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 no longer menstruated.  So Sarah laughed to herself and said, “Now that I am so old and my husband is 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?”  And God said, “At the appointed time, at this time next year, I will return to you, and Sarah will have a child.”

Genesis 21

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, [which in Hebrew means “Laughter”] and Abraham circumcised the child when he was eight days old, according to God’s command.  And Sarah said, “Now God has given me laughter, and all who hear of this will laugh with me.”

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