Unraveled: Sarah Laughs

Genesis 18:1-15                               Unraveled: Sarah Laughs                                  June 27, 2021

Genesis 21:1-5                                         Rev. Mark Allio                     5th Sunday after Pentecost

 

Our first reading today is from Genesis 18:1-15, I will be reading from the Common English Bible.

18 The Lord appeared to Abraham at the oaks of Mamre while he sat at the entrance of his tent in the day’s heat. 2 He looked up and suddenly saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them, he ran from his tent entrance to greet them and bowed deeply. 3 He said, “Sirs, if you would be so kind, don’t just pass by your servant. 4 Let a little water be brought so you may wash your feet and refresh yourselves under the tree. 5 Let me offer you a little bread so you will feel stronger, and after that you may leave your servant and go on your way—since you have visited your servant.”

They responded, “Fine. Do just as you have said.”

6 So Abraham hurried to Sarah at his tent and said, “Hurry! Knead three seahs of the finest flour and make some baked goods!” 7 Abraham ran to the cattle, took a healthy young calf, and gave it to a young servant, who prepared it quickly. 8 Then Abraham took butter, milk, and the calf that had been prepared, put the food in front of them, and stood under the tree near them as they ate.

9 They said to him, “Where’s your wife Sarah?”

And he said, “Right here in the tent.”

10 Then one of the men said, “I will definitely return to you about this time next year. Then your wife Sarah will have a son!”

Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were both very old. Sarah was no longer menstruating. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, thinking, I’m no longer able to have children and my husband’s old.

13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Me give birth? At my age?’ 14 Is anything too difficult for the Lord? When I return to you about this time next year, Sarah will have a son.”

15 Sarah lied and said, “I didn’t laugh,” because she was frightened.

But he said, “No, you laughed.”

The stories of God for the people of God.

Thanks be to God.

 

 

I’m a fan of sermon series. They help to guide and focus me as well as it allows us to explore a theme deeply instead of just quickly passing over it. So, I’m diving headfirst into a sermon series right off the bat.

 

This sermon series called Unraveled is from a group of pastor artists called A Sanctified Art. The series not only includes what passages to preach from but also art. You can see this week’s artwork on the cover of your bulletin.

 

When we look at the definition of unravel, we get: “Untangle, unsnarl, unwind; elucidate, decipher, reveal, clarify.”

 

What happens when our world falls apart? What does it look like to search for God in the gray area of our lives? How do we press onward when our tightly-knit plans unravel into loose threads? Sometimes we need to be unraveled—from shame, fear, patterns, or identities that cause harm. To unravel is to acknowledge and grieve what has fallen apart to allow God's newness to unfold.

 

This worship series will explore 12 stories of unraveled shame, identity, fear, grief, dreams, and expectations. These are stories where God meets us in the spiraling - unraveling our plans—and us—into something new.

 

In our first reading we find Abraham sitting outside the tent hoping to find some shade and catch a little breeze, when three men show up. Abraham greets them and offers them a little water and a little bread. Then this spry 100-year-old throws down three seahs of flour which would be about twenty-six and half quarts of flour tells Sarah to get baking. Runs out to the field to find a calf, gives that to a slave to cook. And then sets the table with milk and butter. So much for a little water and a little bread. Apparently, Abraham knows a little about hospitality.

 

The strangers ask about Sarah. And announce again God’s plan to give them a son. At hearing this Sarah can’t help but to let out a laugh.

 

But, God has time and time again told Abraham and Sarah that they will bear a son and each time they have found it to be impossible. In fact, when God tells Abraham in Genesis 17:

15 God said to Abraham, “As for your wife Sarai, you will no longer call her Sarai. Her name will now be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and even give you a son from her. I will bless her so that she will become nations, and kings of peoples will come from her.”

17 Abraham fell on his face and laughed. He said to himself, Can a 100-year-old man become a father, or Sarah, a 90-year-old woman, have a child?

Even Abraham laughs at the idea of the two of them having children! He laughs so hard that he falls to the ground laughing.

Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” or as the NRSV translates it, “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?”

I must say that my family and I left Mechanicsburg with doubts, worries and concerns. You see, we left not because the church was terrible, or we didn’t like the area. The school district was amazing. We had made so many great friends. The church was filled with many wonderful people whom we loved. When we arrived in Mechanicsburg, Asher was almost two. We grew our family there and it had become our home. But we left because we felt God’s call to leave. We came here because we felt God’s call to come here.

And what we found is joy. As the moving truck was emptied and as we began to feel settled in, we found joy. And not just joy but hope and excitement. Hope and excitement for what God is going to do here at Jefferson Center. Hope and excitement for what God is already doing here!

Is anything too difficult for the Lord?

Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?

Most of us are quick to worry and fear. Some of it is practical. When planning for trip, you pack for good weather and for a little bad weather. We wear our seat belts in the car, we keep the gun safety on, and perhaps even lock the doors at night. It’s all practical.

Sometimes though, its like we constantly expect the worst. Even worse we begin to grow accustomed to our hopelessness.

Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann writes:

“Once again, this story shows what a scandal and difficulty faith is. Faith is not a reasonable act which fits into the normal scheme of life and perception. The promise of the gospel is not a conventional piece of wisdom that is easily accommodated to everything else. Embrace of this radical gospel requires shattering and discontinuity. Abraham and Sarah have by this time become accustomed to their barrenness. They are resigned to their closed future. They have accepted that hopelessness as ‘normal.’ The gospel promise does not meet them in receptive hopefulness but in resistant hopelessness.”

Abraham and Sarah, you and me, we can all make a home in hopelessness. It’s safe. We don’t risk disappointment or heart break. It’s practical, right?

We pick up the story in Genesis, chapter 21:

21 The Lord was attentive to Sarah just as he had said, and the Lord carried out just what he had promised her. 2 She became pregnant and gave birth to a son for Abraham when he was old, at the very time God had told him. 3 Abraham named his son—the one Sarah bore him—Isaac. 4 Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old just as God had commanded him. 5 Abraham was 100 years old when his son Isaac was born. 6 Sarah said, “God has given me laughter. Everyone who hears about it will laugh with me.” 7 She said, “Who could have told Abraham that Sarah would nurse sons? But now I’ve given birth to a son when he was old!”

 

The stories of God for the people of God!

Thanks be to God.

 

Is anything too difficult for the Lord?

Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?

Abraham and Sarah, now realize that the joke is on them.

 

 

Walter Brueggemann continues:

. . .Sarah laughs because ‘God has made laughter for me.’ By his powerful word, God has broken the grip of death, hopelessness, and barrenness. The joyous laughter is the end of sorrow and weeping (Matt. 5:4; Luke 6:21; John 16:20-24). Laughter is a biblical way of receiving a newness which cannot be explained. The newness is sheer gift—underived, unwarranted. Barrenness has now become ludicrous. It can now be laughed at because there is ‘full joy’ (John 16:24).”[1]

 

There is a newness out there waiting for us. But can we trust that it’s good? And just because its new and good doesn’t mean it’ll be easy. It might come with its own struggles and work. Abraham and Sarah had a baby at 90 and 100, canes and walkers chasing a little boy through the Middle East wilderness. Isaac, the son of laughter, was a joy and a blessing but any parent out there can tell you that comes with a lot of work. It isn’t easy, but it is good.

 

God put on flesh to dwell among us. It was new and good. But we have the cross to remind us that it in no way was easy. And yet, in that cross we see Jesus’ love for us.

 

It is God’s heart to bless us, to love us. God loves you. God loves this church. Do we believe it? Do we trust it? Do we want it?

 

Is anything too difficult for the Lord?

Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?

No. There is nothing too difficult or too wonderful for our Lord.

 

May we hold on to that.

May we trust it.

And may we find that God is good and is calling us to something new.

 

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

[1]Brueggemann, Walter. Interpretation: Genesis. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982. 158-9; 182.

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