A Laughable Faith (Genesis 18:1-14)

Abraham and Sarah, by Marc Chagall, 1956

One hot summer afternoon while Abraham was sitting by the entrance to his tent near the sacred trees of Mamre, the Lord appeared to him. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. He quickly ran to meet them, bowed with his face to the ground, and said, “Please come to my home where I can serve you. I’ll have some water brought, so you can wash your feet, then you can rest under a tree. Let me get you some food to give you strength before you leave. I would be honored to serve you.”

“Thank you very much,” they answered. “We accept your offer.”

Abraham went quickly to his tent and said to Sarah, “Hurry! Get a large sack of flour and make some bread.” After saying this, he rushed off to his herd of cattle and picked out one of the best calves, which his servant quickly prepared. He then served his guests some yogurt and milk together with the meat.

While they were eating, he stood near them under the tree, and they asked, “Where’s your wife Sarah?”

“She is right there in the tent,” Abraham answered.

One of the guests was the Lord, and he said, “I’ll come back about this time next year, and when I do, Sarah will already have a son.”

Sarah was behind Abraham, listening at the entrance to the tent. Abraham and Sarah were very old, and Sarah was well past the age for having children. So she laughed and said to herself, “Now that I am worn out and my husband is old, will I really know such happiness?”

The Lord asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Does she doubt that she can have a child in her old age? I am the Lord! There is nothing too difficult for me. I’ll come back next year at the time I promised, and Sarah will already have a son.” (Contemporary English Version)

You never know what a day will bring.

Abraham and Sarah woke up one morning and went about their daily routines. But when they went to bed that night, their lives were turned upside-down. After all, God has a way of shaking up our lives, in a good way.

There’s nothing quite like an unsolicited promise. It seems the old couple, Abraham and Sarah, had come to grips with their childlessness. But the Lord was about to upset the status quo, in a good way.

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”

St. Thomas Aquinas

A divine promise was made. The only thing Abraham and Sarah needed to do was believe – and, well, do what a couple needs to do to conceive a child. I don’t know many couples who are sexually active at 100 years old. It certainly would take an act of faith to believe that you could become impregnated and give birth to a baby at that age.

True belief results in decisive action. Abraham and Sarah believed and God’s promise was activated in their lives, not only changing the couples’ life, but also transforming history. The experience taught them to keep their heads up and continue looking ahead for the fulfillment of all God’s good promises.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out without knowing where he was going.

By faith he lived in the land he had been promised as a stranger. He lived in tents along with Isaac and Jacob, who were coheirs of the same promise. He was looking forward to a city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

By faith even Sarah received the ability to have a child, though she herself was barren and past the age for having children, because she believed that the one who promised was faithful. So descendants were born from one man (and he was as good as dead). They were as many as the number of the stars in the sky and as countless as the grains of sand on the seashore. (Hebrews 11:8-12, CEB)

Sometimes faith seems laughable. Belief in God, or at least in God’s promise, might appear by some to be about as possible or relevant as getting a hamburger named after you at Burger King. But faith, nonetheless, is very real and very needed.

Without faith, there’s no hope, and no basis for love. Belief is the foundation from which we construct a life. Faith imagines and actualizes a new reality, even when that reality seems improbable, impossible, and far-fetched.

In the New Testament Gospels, there were people who believed Jesus could heal their paralyzed friend. They envisioned a different reality than the one their friend was experiencing.

Some people brought to him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven”…. Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” And the man jumped up and went home! (Matthew 9:2, 6b-7, NRSV)

The size of the faith is not the issue – it is in whom that faith is placed. The littlest of faith in Jesus can have massive results, whereas the biggest of faith in someone who cannot get you to the other side gets no results.  Small information put into action through placing complete trust in Jesus makes all the difference.

“I [Jesus] assure you that if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Go from here to there,’ and it will go. There will be nothing that you can’t do.” (Matthew 17:20, CEV)

God is ready to open a new future to us. And, indeed, it will be a good, just, and right future beyond what we ourselves can even ask or imagine. We just need a bit of faith to see the impossible become possible.

You never know what a day will bring. Maybe today you’ll experience a faith so laughable that it will change your life forever.

O heavenly Father, in whom we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray you to guide and govern us by the Holy Spirit, so that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight, and so, trust in your grace and goodness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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