February 25 Sermon Lent 2: A little faith
A little faith
2 Lent February 25, 2018
Genesis 17:1–7, 15–16; Romans 4:13–25; Mark 8:31–38
Paul, St. Paul, the writer of many letters in the New Testament, was either off the wall, or crazy writing clause after clause before getting to a conclusion, or being all personal, or something being spot on in theological or spiritual prowess that breaks open a window and lets in fresh air.
For me, today is one of those days for a new wind blowing in, which takes you completely by surprise.
Paul winds these words around Abraham, which I want you to think is also for us who according to Paul are heirs of Abe and Sarah:
- that he would inherit the world (!)
- that the promise would rest on grace and be guaranteed
- he believed that he would be the father of nations
- and a great example of irony and for me hilarity: 19He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.
And there are two more phrases that stop me in my tracks, make my hair stand on end, and make me think that the scripture in this case sings a song against the demons that are being slung to shut down the beauty and glory of the world by those that seem to have it out for pleading students from Parkland and a nation mired in its own mud.
Romans says that Abraham believed, listen: hoping against hope.
And Romans says because Abraham believed and by extension because we believe, listen again: faith is reckoned as righteousness.
To me, this language sparkles. These words are a testimony to me, when I wonder what’s the use, when I want to crawl under the covers and hide. When I think of my life’s arc in considering faith and its implications for those who struggle while the church and religion and those in positions to enacts change only disappoint and fail and maybe I also contribute to that fail, I stand taller when I hear scripture tell me to hope against hope, and that my faith, Abraham and Sarah’s faith, our faith and others who have a little faith is the right thing.
Abraham and Sarah in their saga in Genesis were not stellar. They were not giants with an impressive resume, credentials, intellect. What they were was chosen by God. Their belief was not like beads on a string or on a linear progression. Listen, it was in fits and starts. It was sometimes just heading in one direction. It was through poor decisions and some pretty daunting odds.
Abraham is called the Father of faith, for his trust in God’s promises to him. He was going on a journey toward the promised land, guided by God who singled him out. But if you read the story in Genesis, you could say the old guy was making it up as he went along! He made Sarah pose as his sister to put one over on Egypt’s Pharaoh in order to protect himself, and the Pharaoh figured something was wrong when he started suffering after bring Sarah into his court, so he told Abraham and Sarah to get out!. Then Abraham’s partner in working the land, his nephew Lot was crowding him. So he offered to split the land, and gave Lot a choice. And Lot chose the more fertile section! Sarah was tired of not having an heir for Abraham, so she told him to resolve this by having a child through her servant Hagar. Hagar got pregnant, and had a son, Ishmael. Then Sarah got jealous, and Abraham (and God) had to provide protection for Hagar and her son (and Abraham’s son) Ishmael.
Abraham may have been blessed by God. He certainly needed it! So the covenant, God’s promise that we heard was given to Noah in last week’s first reading, is reiterated throughout the story of Abraham. And today it comes out not in the big land grant of Canaan, but in the promise of a long and numerous lineage, the promise of a child to ninety-year old Sarah and ninety-nine year old Abraham.
You think that Abraham would have figured out that his own way of thinking had become flawed, that anything he would devise to try to get with God’s ways would end up questionable, given his past less than stellar performance. But even in today’s story, with Abram paying great respect to God by falling on his face, and God speaking very seriously, you could even say lovingly and generously about being a multitude of nations, an everlasting covenant to you and your offspring after you, and bestowing the clever name change from Abram meaning exalted ancestor to Abraham meaning ancestor of a multitude, Abraham shows his very human side. The very next verse after the lifting up of Sarah as the focus of blessing, due to her becoming pregnant with Isaac and all in her old age, in the very next verse that was not read today it says that Abraham again fell on his face. And he laughed. He chortled. He slapped his knees, and said, “that’s a good one, God! Like I can be a father at 100 years old! And Sarah can be a mom at ninety years old!” Here was the old guy at it again, second-guessing God even after being told about the mark of circumcision. That should have sobered up even the most flippant ancestor of a multitude.
Hoping against hope, Abraham and Sarah kept on leaning into the ways of promise. Even as they failed in their journey.
They were set back on their feet. And God continued to guide them, even when the way was not clear. How would a 100 year-old father and a 99 year-old mother feel when Isaac was born? Happy beyond measure? Awed by the responsibility ahead of them? Thinking that God has a truly wild way of showing promise?
How about Jesus straightening Peter out and pointing out the cross as the way ahead?
How about a church that hosts Abraham’s Tent to shelter a clump of men from the cold and provides them a sign of promise?
How about a church that continues to hope against hope, that risks a little faith by receiving those that happen by on a Sunday morning and says that promise can be found in breaking bread and sharing wine?
How about we applaud a little faith shown in children serving as acolytes, students rubbing shoulders with Bethesda veterans.
How about we hold on for dear life for what see are gifts in this community as strength for what’s ahead?
Do you think that these acts of faith will be reckoned to us as righteousness?
I do.Tags: Abraham, Abraham and Sarah, covenant, hope, Lent