of my first years up here, there was a workshop led by Carolyn Kelig, who I
have more recently gotten to know better as she is the convener of our interim
ministry group. I had heard she had a
really good workshop, so I attended.
First activity, she had a bunch of cards with people and events, we just
had to put them into chronological order.
Well, birth of Jesus was easy, Adam and Eve were easy. But it quickly became apparent that even in a
group of about 30 ministers and church members, we had a hard time with
chronology. And honestly as ministers,
we jump around the Bible all the time, talking about Jesus, then Paul, then
something in the Old Testament, but never take the time to put it all
the story this morning was about Abraham and Sarah. This was before the Israelites went to Egypt,
where Moses led them out. So this was
before the 10 commandments, well before the first temple was even built in
Jerusalem, and well before Jesus. We
donít really know when Abraham lived, as dates were kind of fuzzy back then,
but many think it was around 2,000 BCE.
Abrahamís great grandson was Joseph. Many of you know the story of
Joseph and his coat of many colors. So
this story happened well before that story.
is considered the father of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. All three
religions can trace their roots back to Abraham. And Abraham is considered to have one of the
first covenants with God. Noah had the
rainbow, God promising he will never destroy the world with a flood again. Abraham was promised the ďpromised landĒ
between Egypt and the Euphrates river, and also promised to have nations of
descendants. Abraham had a son, Ishmael,
with his slave Hagar, which is where the Islamic tradition traces its roots to
Abraham. Sarah, Abrahamís wife, could
not have any children, so at least Abraham had a son, even though it was not
with his wife Sarah. This is Old
Testament, so back then they thought the wife didnít have a lot to contribute
to the child, didnít understand the whole DNA from both parents, the man was
the only one they thought was important.
The mother was more like an incubator to grow the child given by the father
until it was to be born. So Ishmael was
considered really Abrahamís son, just born from a different mother than his
in this covenant with God that Abraham made, God said that all of his children
would be marked by circumcision. And not
only his children, but also any slaves he owned, any children he adopted, his
nation would have this mark. So at about
99, just before this story, Abraham circumcised himself and all the males in
his household as a sign of their faithfulness.
Now guys, remember this was 2,000 years before Jesus, there were no pain
killers, no anesthesia, no antibiotics, and even knives were probably not as
sharp as a scalpel today.
after this all happens, all the men have been circumcised and they are
resting. Suddenly 3 men appear. There is a bit of confusion, as it was three,
then appears to become one. Lots of
speculation as to what that means. At
this point we didnít have any knowledge of the trinity, so maybe this was
foreshadowing what we as Christians would later learn, we donít really know.
Abraham welcomes them as was the custom of that day. He gets some water to wash their feet, asks
Sarah to make some bread, gets a lamb and has a servant prepare it. This was an extravagant welcome. And then Abraham gets the message that he and
his wife Sarah will have a child.
and I were both over 35 when we got pregnant with Collin. Well she got pregnant, but I had something to
do with it. Anyway, after they confirmed
she was pregnant, they brought us into a conference room. They explained that Keri was ďAMA, Advanced
Maternal Age.Ē She was just over 35, but
I guess anything over 35 is considered AMA.
So they wanted to start special tests.
They would send us to Jacksonville where they could do a special
ultrasound to measure the thickness of the skull. And then they would offer us genetic
testing. And they wanted to really keep
an eye on this baby, lots and lots of ultrasounds, lots and lots of doctor
you catch that Abraham was just circumcised?
And did you hear about Sarahís age?
99. Now even if we assume that
dates were a bit different back then, maybe she was not fully 99, but certainly
was beyond the age of having children.
She was beyond AMA, Advanced Maternal Age. Abraham was also said to be the same age. Men donít necessarily change in the way that
women do, but letís just assume they are an older couple. Nothing wrong with an old couple, but as they
would say in North Carolina, ďthey arenít making babies no more.Ē
Sarah laughed. This is church, but
pretty clear that Abraham and Sarah had not been together much recently. And so soon after Abrahamís little self-operation. So laughing was in order. It was ridiculous to think that, with all
this stuff stacked against them, they would have a child.
Sarah denied laughing, saying, ďI did not laughĒ; for she was afraid. The guest
said, ďOh yes, you did laugh.Ē I donít
sense a hostility here, and find the conversation kind of funny. It was not ďYou should not laugh because it
is going to happen,Ē just an acknowledgement that this may seem
of us have heard the quote ďWith God all things are possible.Ē It is found in the book of Matthew, but I
think fits this story pretty well also.
With Abraham and Sarah, the impossible could happen.
I started thinking about seminary, I really didnít know much about seminaries. I had passed all the classes I took in
college. For most, I was a solid C
student. Couple of Bís and a few ďAísĒ
in there, but also that C- in Chemistry and that D- in Calculus. In a non-major class, when I was going
through Maine, a D- was considered passing.
didnít know if I could get in. It is a
graduate school, and they wanted my transcript to make sure they felt I could
do the work required. And it was going
to be tough, they made that clear. More
reading assigned then you will ever be able to do, lots of long papers, some
pretty hard classes your first year, plus you were expected to work 10 hours a
week in a chaplain program somewhere they would assign you to. I had moved to the East Coast at that point,
so would be moving to Missouri, or Pennsylvania, I was considering two
seminaries at that point, but they were pretty similar.
then there was the cost. I was very
lucky; my Grandfather had put away money when I was young to help my sister and
me through college. My father also had
added to that, and I knew they probably had some savings they could dip
into. But my sister went to medical
school before I applied to seminary. If there was that pot we could dip into,
it was probably gone after medical school.
And my parents later told me that they didnít really expect me to even
finish college. I was a solid C student
in High School, so they thought I might go for a year or two, and then decide
to do something else. So saving for
their sonís possible graduate school was not on their radar.
applied and was accepted. I was offered
a full scholarship at both seminaries.
The second year, when money was a little tight, the church where I was
working 10 hours a week offered to up my hours to 15 hours a week, helped me
put food into my belly.
back the odds were stacked against me.
Marginal grades, lack of funds.
When I was a senior in college, my college chaplain suggested I consider
seminary. I laughed. Just like Abraham
and Sarah, I could not imagine that happening, too much stacked against me. A year after she suggested that, I was
accepted. A year after Abraham and
Sarahís visit, Sarah gives birth to Isaac.
The root of the Hebrew for Isaac is to laugh.
I look carefully, I see miracles every day.
I will brag for a minute, it seems like just yesterday I brought my boys
home from the hospital. Remember little
babies are so weak they cannot hold their heads up on their own, you have to
support them. I bought Glenn a little
rattle, he had no clue. He could not
shake it himself, and no matter what I did, he didnít seem to have any interest
in what I was doing. He wanted to sleep
and eat. As a teenager, kind of feel
like he has done back to the only wanting to sleep and eat, but heís grown.
both boys can make some music. They can both
read. They can both have
conversations. In just a few short
years, they went from not even holding their heads up to being able to discuss
some deep issues. Just the development
so far have been full of miracles. Seems
as a baby, both of them had everything stacked against them, could do almost
nothing on their own, totally dependent on others. A few years go by and everything
I have also seen it in the hospital. A
few years ago, got a call from a church member that her husband was in
intensive care, heart attack. I went to
the hospital. He was on a ventilator, on
drugs to keep him asleep, and they were going to look at his heart that
afternoon, see how much was damaged. He
had died, his heart had stopped, but they were able to put in a pacemaker to
keep it beating. It was really touch and
go. He ended up having a few surgeries,
got out of intensive care, and eventually was discharged. About a year after his heart attack he walked
we laugh out loud because the suggested outcome is unimaginable. You can find story after story of the
unthinkable happening. Jesus, Godís own
son, was born in a stable to a young girl.
He preached and lived among us, and did miracles, and then he was killed
on a cross with common criminals. He
didnít take over the world like we expected.
But then the unthinkable, the tomb is empty, Jesus is alive. We see it in the stories of our faith, and we
see it in our lives.
old, well past Advanced Maternal Age, and Abraham, just as old and just
circumcised are going to make a baby.
Robert is going to go to seminary and become a minister. Glenn and Collin are going to grow up and be
able to have discussions. A man in the
hospital, in bad shape is going to walk into church a year from now. Jesus, our
savior, is going to be killed but also be resurrected. With God, even the most laughable outcomes