Akind of stunned bemusement sometimes emerges unbidden at times of surprise, especially when our clearest thinking and best analysis make us expect failure. When success emerges through a con uence of unlikely circumstances or an improbable intervention, we cannot help laughing, especially when the pre- diction and analysis of the experts is confounded.
Sarah meets the announcement of her pregnancy with a dis- believing laugh, an unbidden snort at the absurdity of a promise that seems impossible to ful ll. Sarah’s initial laugh is wry and skeptical, born of a deep sadness and hope unrealized. But it is also truthful, for it sees the world as it really is. For most of us life is terribly predictable. The future ows on linearly from the past. New and amazing things do not happen. The elderly do not give birth.
Consider the stunned bemusement, then, that Sarah and Abraham must have felt when Sarah becomes pregnant. Against all odds, something different is happening in her life, something unexpected and joyful. And, when the child is nally born, the laughter of skepticism and bemusement is transformed into the laughter of joy. Sarah’s life is not predictable or driven by fate. Indeed God is faithful, and God’s promises are honored.
From start to nish, the lives of Abraham and Sarah involve risk, promise, and trust in the face of their own best judgment. They travel to far- ung lands, deal with powerful rulers, and attempt to establish a new communal life—even when they have no children of their own. Despite their human fallibility, their lives become a testament to the way that trust in God is met by God’s faithfulness. The story of Abraham and Sarah cer- tainly inspire much of the New Testament—including Romans 4; Galatians 3; Hebrews 11; and James 2. May it continue to inspire us today.
Surprising God, transform our laughter from wry skepticism to overwhelming joy. Amen.
Two threads run through all the readings. One is the claim that God is powerful over all things. Psalm 116 makes this claim most eloquently with its assertion that God “has heard my voice and my supplications.” The story of the promise of Isaac’s birth demonstrates that it is God and God alone who gives life. Matthew situates the call of the disciples within the larger context of Jesus’ mission and understands their work to be the consequence of God’s decision to send workers. Paul emphasizes God’s power by recalling that God’s act of reconciliation comes within the setting of human alien- ation and hostility. The second thread is that of the unworthiness of those whom God chooses.
• Read Genesis 18:1-15; 21:1-7. When has God presented you with a laughable opportunity? What incredible offer would you like God to propose to you today?
• Read Psalm 100. How do you create a future of hope by recalling God’s faithful action on your behalf in the past?
• Read Romans 5:1-8. When have you looked for a superhero in a crisis situation? Who came to your aid?
• Read Matthew 9:35–10:23. What field of harvest is God calling you to? Do you yearn for wheat rather than potatoes? How do you go about an attitude adjustment?
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