Sunday, 4 March 2012 ~ “Promises and Challenges”

Scriptures: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 Mark 8:31-38

LET US PRAY: God of grace and glory: open our ears ~ open our minds ~ to Your Holy Word this day … that it may renew our trust in Your faithfulness to Your promises. Amen.

March 2nd was the birthday of one of my favorite authors ~ Theodore Seuss Geisel. He would have turned 108 years old, if he were still alive! We know him as Dr. Seuss ~ the beloved author of some of our favorite books … like: The Cat in the Hat, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Oh, the Places You’ll Go. Today, I would like to share one of my favorite stories: Horton Hatches the Egg. (see attached)

Our OLD TESTAMENT LESSON for today is also a wonderful story about God’s faithfulness / grace / love … AND faithfully living out His promises.

We hear that God comes to Abram … and this is 2nd visit from God to Abram
• Earlier: God sends Abram on a journey of a life time …
o Pack up family, home and possessions!
o Go to where I will direct you every step of the way
o And you will have descendants so many that you can’t count them all!

That was the moment that God made His initial COVENANT with Abram!

TODAY: we hear that God tells Abram:
• I am Your God
• Live blameless and don’t pass up ANY opportunity to experience everything in life and in the world around you … and experience it to the MAX!

AND then God reminds Abram of His covenant … even taking it one step further:
• YOU will be the father of many descendants
• And NOW you will no longer be called Abram but ABRAHAM
o And you, Abraham, will be the FATHER of MANY NATIONS .. not just individuals BUT whole nations of individuals.
• Great things and people will come from you and your descendants!

In essence, God’s covenant with Abram was the promise of an abiding RELATIONSHIP.

This covenant is an everlasting covenant that has now been established ~
• Between God and Abraham
• Between God and Abraham’s IMMEDIATE descendants … and, more importantly:
• Between God and generations of descendants

And, as if that weren’t enough, God then says: AND I promise that land will belong to you … AND your family … AND all of your generations of descendants … forever more!!!

As for Sarai … she will NOW be called Sarah! AND:
• I will bless her!
• I will give you a son by her!
• Nations will come from her!!!

Our Old Testament reading today is the beautiful STORY OF God’s covenant with people who were way too old to travel as they did … way too old to bear children … who had, by now, resigned themselves to never realizing their fondest dreams.

And, I have to tell you … yesterday I could certainly resonate with where Abraham and Sarah were at that moment in their conversation with God. I had reached a point where I just couldn’t stand the constant ache and lack of mobility in my left shoulder. After all, I was 5 weeks post-op and things should be fine by now. And, so I did my crying out to God ~ tears flowing down my face ~ “How long, O God? How long do I have to endure this??” And, for a few moments I thought about how easy it seemed for Abraham and Sarah to believe God … and, taking it one step further, OF COURSE they were good at this … they were people in the Bible!!! But, then I realized: DUH!!! They didn’t always just trust … they had their doubts about what was happening to them … they laughed behind God’s back when He told them they would be parents … YET: they followed God’s directions, believing that, ultimately, their God would be faithful to His covenant.

COVENANT is a wonderful word, isn’t it! And, basically means: a PROMISE! But, let me ask:
• WHAT does PROMISE mean to you? (Webster’s dictionary defines it as: a verbal declaration that you will do OR not do something specific.) IOW:
o When you say you will do something ~ or NOT do something … you DO it OR refrain from doing it!
o It is a binding pledge of a specific action on your part.
• How easy is it to keep your promises?
o Sometimes easier than others, huh? Especially when it is something that we enjoy or are vested in doing!
• BUT: what happens if we fail to keep our promises … or someone else fails us?
o We are disappointed AND our feelings are hurt
o It might be difficult to forgive the person who failed us … or even to forgive ourselves if WE are the one who failed to keep our promise
o For some: we never forget the insult
o We lose trust in that person or situation.

HOWEVER: at the heart of today’s life-affirming STORY is the dramatic reminder that this will never happen!
• It is God who INITIATES the conversation and shares His plan for His people
• It’s not up to us to do anything but follow God’s direction ~ which will become reality in God’s time.

OH … AND, in the meantime … God says: just TRUST in me and my plan.
• Popular phrase … “In the meantime” … meaning ~
o That space of time when you are not sure of what is coming next and are waiting for something to happen
o that time in between speaking our dream and realizing our dream.

Our God is a God who stands solidly in the IN-BETWEEN times with us … in between:
• Us and the harsh realities of the world
• Us and our problems that keep us awake at night
• Us and waiting for our dreams / visions to come true
And, throughout it all, our God is there ~ reassuring us when we most want to give up and just throw in the towel!

This LENTen season invites us to learn how to live into the MEANTIME ~ the in-between times … just like Abraham and Sarah … who weren’t quite sure of what might be coming next … but also had the faith to listen to God and do the seemingly impossible..

Barbara Brown Taylor’s calls the Meantime as the … “time to be reverently, deliberately, fully awake … this is what is means to live in the promise, where the wait is as rich as its end.”

This Lenten season invites us to take time to sit quietly in the MEANTIME and ~
• Face our brokenness, our hurts, our hopes
• Pour out our fears and doubts … our dreams and visions … AND …
• Trust that God’s promises will be fulfilled and His mercy and love will provide the strength ~ the peace ~ and all that we will need most in each individual moment … as we look forward to WHAT IS TO COME!

Horton had his own mantra that provided the peace and strength to withstand every trial in the IN-BETWEEN times he endures. I invite you to now share with me our new mantra:
God meant what He said
God said what He meant
Our God will be faithful
One-hundred percent!

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