2022-07-17 Pentecost 6
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Abraham. We’ve all heard that name before. A US President. The Plains of Abraham over in Quebec. But when we rewind the tape all the way back to the original Abraham, we see the guy that God hand picked to be the guy to whom His promise would be based on. And what promise was that? It was a three fold promise. From Genesis 12 we read: “Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (12:1-2)
Abraham - at the time of the promise known as Abram - was given the three fold promise of: 1)Land, 2)Becoming a great and prosperous nation and 3)He will be blessed to be a blessing to the world. This ancient promise forms a golden thread throughout the entire Bible. Abraham’s promised land will become the “promised land” of Heaven. The great and prosperous nation will be God’s family, the church, by faith in Abraham’s descendent Jesus our Lord. And, the blessing of the world will take place through this family as the church preaches the Gospel of salvation in Christ and through simple acts of mercy.
Our Old Testament scripture from Genesis 18 that we have before us today has to do with part 2 of the promise. Abraham becoming a great and prosperous nation. “Great and prosperous” in Abraham’s day didn’t mean he would become CEO of a fortune 500 company or own his own golf course. Nope! Instead, this promise was all about having kids! Lots and lots of kids. That was the sign of prosperity and fruitfulness back the in ancient days of the Bible. It’s jarring to think that in our culture, children are almost looked at as a detriment! Gotta clothe and feed and educate and entertain them! What a lot of expensive work that sounds like! Better only have 1.2 of them lest you have to buy a Hutterite Van for the family car!
But in Abraham’s day, it was the exact opposite. Lots of kids meant God’s hand was upon you, blessing you and prospering you, just like the flocks of sheep and goats. More is always better and too much is just right! After all, this was the prime directive of Genesis 1:28 “Be fruitful and multiply” The only hang up was that Abraham and his wife weren’t successful in having children of their own. Sarah was barren. It’s hard to be the mother and father of many nations when you don’t have any kids! Was God’s promise to them Fake News?! Did God lie?? By this point they were already advanced in age. They already had a couples’ suite in the Bentley, hardly a place for a crying baby in a nursery!
But then these 3 strangers show up by the oaks of Mamre. Abraham rolls out the red carpet in the tradition of Middle Eastern Hospitality. ‘3 seahs of fine flour to make bread’ Abraham says. That’s a 5 gallon pail full of flour! That’s a lot of bread for 3 people! Likewise a whole calf from the herd. I love BBQ just as much as the next guy but even I draw the line at an entire cow! The point is, this spread isn’t just a make shift snack of cheese and crackers. This is the very best spread for royalty! And that is exactly who Abraham is entertaining. Angels. And, even the Lord of Heaven Himself.
“The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son” (Gen 18:10). God’s promise is re-told to Abraham and indirectly Sarah who was eavesdropping in the tent. The scripture says “the way of women had ceased to be with Sarah” (11). Literally, it was impossible that she would be able to conceive and have a baby at her age. She kind of laughs to herself about the whole situation, no doubt wondering how this absurd this must have sounded.
And you can’t blame Sarah for being cynical. She’d spent her whole life hoping and waiting to have children of her own and it never happened. Then Abraham gets this grand promise from God that He and Sarah will be the parents of a great multitude: “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be” (Gen 15:5). But now they are so old. If they had a child now, both the kid and the parents would be using walkers!
“Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son” (Gen 18:14). The promise stands. The word of God stands the test of time. But really, the problem boils down to people being sinful. We don’t trust God’s word. We get cynical. We give up on the Lord instead of waiting for the Lord. I think this is even more so the case in our culture. We live in an instant, fast-food, smart-phone society. If our internet is slow, we are aggravated to no end. If the line up at McDonald’s is 5 cars deep, we drive to Burger King instead! There was even a rumour, that can neither be confirmed nor denied, that a Lutheran Pastor was caught cursing the traffic lights at 9th Avenue and Lillooet because they take to long and are literally the worst lights in the universe!
Instant gratification is the name of the game in our culture. But patiently waiting on the Lord is the key. We are so tempted when we pray - and don’t get our way - to give up on God. “Well that didn’t work!” we figure, time to move on to something else. But following the Lord requires that we follow and trust. We repent of our impatience and ask instead to have the faith to follow God’s timing. This isn’t easy. But as we heard this morning, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?!” God is the God of the impossible. We can never forget that. Even when it seems like everything has gone to hades in a hand basket, we remember our Lord’s cross. The darkness of Good Friday gives way to the brilliant light of Easter morning!
This is what happened to Sarah and Abraham too. Isaac, the miraculous child of the promise was born to them in their old age, just as the Lord said he would. And from Isaac came Jacob and the 12 tribes of Israel and King David and Solomon and generation after generation right up to Jesus Christ our Lord, born of the Virgin Mary, likewise by impossible and miraculous means. And for 2000 years since our Lord was born for us and our salvation, our ancestors have been the people of the promise. And today we are the people of the promise and our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren will continue to be the people of the promise, right up until our Lord Jesus returns. And even when that long awaited promise comes to fruition, we will still be the people of promise. A people who trust in our Lord’s word and His cross and empty tomb. A people who have been washed by water and the word of Holy Baptism. A people who have been fed and nourished by the body and blood Christ Himself in Holy Communion. People of the promise we are and ever shall be.
This promise of sins forgiven and life and salvation is the promise that gives us hope and strength as we make our way through this world. We are always tempted to think God doesn’t hear us or listen to our prayers. We think that because results aren’t immediate, they won’t ever happen. It’s then that we have to rise above the muck and mire of our sinful nature. We remember who we are: Baptized people of the promise. God is always faithful. His word and promise hold true. He alone has the last word. And to Him belongs the victory. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (JN 6:68) now and forever more. Amen!