“God of Unending Surprises”
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Genesis 21: 1-7
21 Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. 2 Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. 3 Abraham gave the name Isaacto the son Sarah bore him. 4 When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
6 Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” 7 And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
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This fall we are beginning a new series called “Unraveled.” This very word speaks so profoundly to where we are right here and right now. There is the coronavirus, the riots, the destruction of property, deaths, guns, pictures of fires…it does seem like our lives have unraveled doesn’t it?
The past six months our world has turned upside down. Our normal routines have changed drastically, and our rhythms in life are not the same. I’d like to stand here this morning and say well thank goodness that is behind us. Let’s just close that chapter on the coronavirus! Or let’s just get along, forget the protests, the riots, let’s just go back to the way things used to be…but we are not that naïve my friends. It’s just not that easy. And for some going back to the way things used to be is that picture-perfect world that we have conjured up in our minds.
Our world, our relationships with one another, our histories are seen through different perspectives and are so much more complex than simple solutions. Our future has so many unknowns. When will we have a vaccine? When can we gather together in larger numbers? When can we stop worrying about getting sick, when will the violence stop? These questions break into our perfectly planned lives with gaping holes of uncertainty. When we can finally realize and admit that we are unraveled, that life is not under our control, that our future is up for grabs…it is at this place and point in time that we turn to God. Unraveled is about “Seeking God When Our Plans Fall Apart.”
Scriptures are full of everyday people like you and me whose lives have become unraveled by life’s events. The passage this morning in Genesis is about someone’s life being unraveled, unraveled for years. Let’s learn more about Sarah and her laughter at God. The laughter that came in the unexpected way God broke into her life.
Sarah was barren…no children! No children after trying for years and years and years. In ancient times the ability or inability to bear children rested totally on the woman. God had promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation. Years and years ago God said, “I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth; so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted.” Sarah knew of this promise and yet even though she prayed to God for this promise to be fulfilled, no children came.
Sometimes when we read stories like this we move quickly to the part that gives us the good news, the part where Sarah finally does have a son. Our very souls want to jump from tears to laughter! But we must stay here and let scripture speak to us right now in our own lives to connect to our own times of feeling unraveled, we have to put ourselves within the story and stay with the story through the whole journey. So, stop for a minute and put yourself in Sarah’s shoes. She most likely was married as a very young age, maybe 16 or so.
All during her twenties, no children, most relatives, and most women around her have several children by now. But not Sarah. Then her 30s and 40s and 50s…year after year. Think how many prayers she lifted up to God with no answer! Surely she lost hope not just once but again and again and again. She is now too old to have children! The door is closed on this prayer! This unraveling didn’t happen at one moment…it was a gradual unraveling one day at a time, one month at a time, one year at a time! Each day piling upon another till…
How many times have you prayed for something that didn’t happen? Or at least hasn’t happened yet? Have you given up on that prayer being answered? Have you maybe even stopped praying? If you can answer “yes” to any of these questions then you are standing in solidarity with Sarah.
Standing in solidarity means you understand what it is like to be in her shoes. To be at this place of loose ends, unraveled till there doesn’t seem any way to weave it all together again. But then you also know what it meant for her to hear that after all this time she is now to have a child. God unexpectantly surprised her by the announcement that she would bear a son. With that news Sarah laughed! At first yes, perhaps laughter in disbelief but then laughter that dried her tears and…finally laughter in joy and celebration.
Where was God all those years she was praying, crying, calling out? Where was God when her life was unraveling, broken down and filled with frayed loose ends? This is the question facing us this morning. What if I told you we look for God in the wrong places, we look for God at only certain times.
I believe God was right beside Sarah catching her tears, drop by drop, holding her tightly giving her strength to begin each new day, God was keeping all the loose ends together giving her stability and most of all God was listening intently to each spoken word…reminding her ever go gently of God’s profound love.
God is present in all of life; the days, weeks, even years when we feel our lives are unraveling and in the days, weeks, even years when joy surrounds us. God is in ALL our days! God sometimes works in our lives in predictable ways and sometimes God works in our lives in unexpected ways! There will be days when tears abound and days when laughter slips into our hearts.
Whenever you feel your life is falling apart, when illness comes, when addictions weigh so heavily on your spirit you don’t think you can make it another day, when relationships disappoint you, when your marriage is on the verge of ending, when your children move away and when grief fills your heart…when life really, really feels like every part of you is unraveling…seek God for God is just waiting for you!