Genesis 15:1-6 August 7, 2016
Heb. 11:1-3, 8-16 Lynne Smith, OSB
The exchange between God and Abram in the first lesson today caught my imagination this week. It is so down to earth and human. I can hear Abram’s skepticism about this stars-in-the-sky promise. He has heard this promise before but he hasn’t seen anything to assure him it will be fulfilled. He wants to see evidence that God is going to make good on the promise. “O God, what will you give me for I continue childless?” He is thinking, “I’m not getting any younger here you know.” To make sure God understands, he repeats, “You have given me no offspring, so a slave born in my house will be my heir.” God emphatically repeats the promise, and by the end of the exchange Abram believes God. He puts his trust in this promise even when there is as yet no evidence to support it.
The reading from Hebrews then lauds Abraham (and we might add Sarah) as one in a long line of faithful witnesses. By faith Abraham and Sarah set out for the place God promised to give them not knowing where they were going. By faith they lived in the promised land as foreigners, trusting their children would one day receive the land. By faith Abraham and Sarah finally received the child God had promised to give them. By faith, Abraham and Sarah took one step after another believing God was faithful who had promised.
Now we also know that Abraham and Sarah sometimes took things into their own hands when the promise seemed too unrealistic or far off. That never worked out very well, but it is a human tendency, and God did not forsake them for it. God just kept working with them were they were. It seems that the faithfulness of God can handle being laughed at for offering such outlandish gifts as a child to 100 year old parents, or a place to live when the land is already occupied by others. The faithfulness of God can withstand the chaos that follows Abraham lying about Sarah being his daughter in order to save his own skin or Sarai offering her slave to Abraham in hopes of a child and then hating both the mother and the child. Fortunately for us, the promise is not built on our wisdom but on the faithfulness of the One who desires nothing so much as to give us life in all its abundance. Faith means living in hope because we don’t see the whole fulfillment of the promise in our lifetimes. By faith, a glimpse of the seed of the promise is enough to keep us going.
We might add our names to the roll call of those who live by faith.
By faith, you set out into your life relationships and work not knowing where those would take you. By faith you give yourself to love, not knowing what pain that will bring. By faith, you raise your children and grandchildren, passing on your values, your hopes and dreams. By faith, you let your children go hoping that what you give them will be enough for them to faithfully navigate in a world very different from your own.
By faith, Mary David and Joanne set out into uncharted territory to begin an ecumenical Benedictine community not knowing where it would all end up. The vision they had been given of Christians together in one community at one table is the light that led them.
By faith, Rosy, Paz and I have come to add our life-energy to this community not fully knowing what this will mean for us. By faith, Denise has left her job and her home and come to listen to God’s call in her life not knowing where that will lead her.
By faith, you have come to the monastery and to Sunday Assembly following the promise of hospitality and right relationships you received from the Giver of life.
By faith, we, together with others, spend our lives working for justice and mercy through prison reform, education, health care; working for peace, better race relations, food, shelter and a change in government systems toward the poor. None of us fully see the fruits of our work. Too often what we do see is violence, hatred, division, mistrust, greed.
So, by faith, we come here week after week to pray for the promise to be fulfilled, praying to see clearly the God who desires nothing more than to give us abundant life. By faith, we come to pray for the will and courage to add our energies. In faith we pray and work because we consider God faithful who has promised.
By faith, we come to this table to experience what Jesus promises to his anxious and wavering disciples: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is God’s good pleasure to give you the dominion.” God wants nothing more than to give us the life for which our hearts yearn. The bread and wine is a foretaste of the life being given to us even now. Let us come to receive life as a gift from our faithful God. Amen.