Cathy Cox

Sermon for Sunday, August 7, 2022
Hebrews 1 1 :1-3,8-16; Luke 12:1240
There was a time when God’s promises seemed easy to
believe.
when Terah took Abraham and his wife Sarah – who was
barren and had no child out of Ur in the land of the
Chaldees to go to Canaan, they were still young.
But the family halted in the land of Haran, and there Terah
died.
And then the Lord said to Abraham, “Go from your country
and your kindred and your father’s house to the and that I
will show you. I will make of you a great nation…and in you
all the families of the earth shall be blessed.,,
So Abraham went…and pitched his tent in Canaan at the
oak of Mamre…There the Lord told Abraham, “To your
offspring I will give this land…”
lf you read the whole long story in Genesis, you'[ see a
whole lot more of their adventures in Canaan and in
Egypt, and their struggles with their nephew, Lot.
And you will also see that Abraham and Sarah continue to
get older and older without any sign of a baby –
And still God says, “..-no one but your own child will be
your heir – Look towards the heavens and count the stars,
if you are able – so shall your descendants be.”
Maybe the promise was almost believable when they were
both young and healthy, but, as another commentator

wrote, “eventually, possibility gave way to improbability,
and improbability to impossibility. “
And so in despair, Sarah gave her slave girl, Hagar, to
Abraham so that he would have a child, and Hagar gave
birth to a son, Ishmael. But Sarah and Hagar struggled,
and Hagar was sent away; and God promised Hagar that
she would not die – and that her descendants would be
many.
But still, he was not the child of promise. And Abraham
must have despaired. For sure Sarah did.
But still God repeated his promise again and again.
So when Sarah, who knew herself to be long past the time
when she might become pregnant and bear a child, heard
the strange visitors announce that they would return
,
“and
your wife Sarah shall have a son, ” she laughed. of course
she would. Any woman would. The promises were too
slow. And time had run out for them. But the Lord said, “Is
anything too wonderful for the Lord?”
And she was afraid. was she afraid it was another delay?
or afraid that as old as she was, and as weary, she might
really have an infant she had to raise? To wean? To chase
after?
can you imagine their conversation that night, alone
together in the tent when the messengers of God had
gone away? Did even Abraham feel reassured?
And what about that promise of land?
To inherit that land as a promise, would require more
people than a single, elderly couple living in a tent – as
nomads, wanderers, like strangers in a foreign country,
always ready to pack up and move again. And it would
require more than a single baby – even if one might come.
And yet Hebrews says they held fast to the promises and
kept moving forward as if they would come true – That’s
what Hebrews means by faith.
Hold on – even when you are full of doubt – and keep going
in the direction of the promised homeland.
And Hebrews says they found God, however strange and
mysterious, to be constant and faithful.
And lsaac was born.
Now Luke’s story takes up this same question – what can
we trust? What can be expect? what can we believe? ls
there a future for us – who are so few, in an empire that is
hostile?
And the message?
The same as in Genesis, which it echoes: “Do not be
afraid, little flock – lt is God’s good pleasure to give you the
kingdom.”
You may remember that this section comes right after the
part where Jesus says, “Don’t worry about your life, what
you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear,
instead, strive for God’s kingdom, and these things will be
added to you.”
“Do not be afraid.” That’s the sign – the announcement of
good news, all through scripture,
We hear it again and again in Luke’s story.
It’s the way Luke announces another of God’s mighty acts
and saving deeds.
lf Abraham and Sarah could wait to see what was
impossible to believe, it was somehow because that
aching, aging couple simply hung on and kept Iistening –
even to what seemed like foolishness. And that is faith-, so
often in real experience.
The believers Luke wrote to were stressed by their
relatives who were afraid for them, stressed by their own
anxiety as the pressure by the Romans grew to denounce
Jesus, and they needed the same reassurance that
Abraham and Sarah needed: “Do not be afraid.”
It is. God’s good pleasure – God’s intention, God’s delight,
to give you the kingdom – to make a wholly new
homeland, a space for you in the midst of this world. Not
outside it – within it. Right where they were. An alternative
way of living where God – not Caesar – sets the tone.
And if that is true, if they really were being given the
kingdom, which is lN but not OF this world, then they
could live as if it were already present –
They could hang on to that promise, and they could also
live like aliens and strangers, nomads, like Abraham and
Sarah, looking forward to what they could not yet see.
lnstead of settling down as if that Roman-dominated world
was all there was – as if they had to either fight against it
or join it they could actually live at right angles to it – They
could reject the values of the kingdoms of this world:
security power, wealth – and live a wholly different sort of
life together in love, in service of others. That is faith.
Another commentator wrote that “There is an anti-social,
dislocating nature to faith; those who faithfully respond to
God’s call and who seek out the city that God prepares,
make themselves aliens to the world around them.”
Hebrews was also written to an anxious community of
believers, who experienced being socially, culturally and
religiously estranged from others because they followed
that radical and risen Lord that nobody could see – and the
author reminds them that they are in the same place as
Abraham and Sarah were – in a place where they could
demonstrate what faith actually looks like.
And how did they do it? They met together week by week
to break the bread, to pray, to sing, to tell the stories of
Jesus and of the power of the spirit their own lives –
The sabbath comes week by week – Sunday does – every
week.
How we enter into it is up to us.
But entering into it with some degree of intentionality
helps,
We reassure each other by our presence that we believe –
and that nothing is terrifying about these times – nothing
too hard – our ancestors have been here before us.

And we remember also that our ancestors are part of that
great communion of faith we say we believe in – that what
we do as we wait and move forward, living into the
kingdom that rs coming – matters to them, just as our faith
matters to those who will follow us – and that sometimes
we even seen glimpses of what our lives do mean..
And those ancestors – the saints, absolutely all who have
ever found God to be faithful mystery and tender Lover
passionate for justice and for good – are with us right here,
right now, cheering us on – and that they will wait to greet
each of us one day – with delight and joy and praise –
There is no threat in this passage – there is only assurance

“It is God’s good pleasure” – and an admonition to watch,
to wait with eagerness – for the Lord comes when we least
expect him – and in ways we don’t anticipate – not just at
the end of all things – but every day – even today.
And so we can disencumber ourselves – we can walk
lightly – was can run the race that is set before us – as
Hebrews also says a little farther on – looking unto Jesus,
the author and finisher of our faith.

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