Mother Ann’s sermon preached on Feb. 25, 2024

Posted by on Sun, Feb 25, 2024 in Lent, Sermons

The Second Sunday in Lent

Feb. 25, 2024

The Bible is one of the most realistic guidebooks to life ever written. If we want to see God’s world as it really is, and invest our hours and our energies living as God intends, then we need to take seriously the men and women we meet in its pages.

In the beginning, in the book of Genesis, we meet Abraham.  Let’s watch him closely as his nomadic family turns their backs on settled life, and journeys beyond civilization’s reach. God sets Abraham to leading, and gestures suggestively toward the western horizon.  “Go to the land I will show you,” God urges, “and I will make a great people of you!” Abraham steps forward faithfully and his whole clan follows. Many hair-raising adventures result, but perhaps the most distressing to Abraham is the continuing barrenness of his wife Sarah.  Where is this “great people” going to come from? God summons Abraham out of his tent and directs his gaze toward heaven. “Count the stars if you can,” says God, “so many will your offspring be!” With that Abraham is again heartened, and takes God’s promise on faith. He steps forward once more.

As today’s reading from Genesis opens, Abraham and Sarah are still wandering in the desert, and by now they are growing very old. Since they remain childless, God must persist, “I will make nations of you, kings will come from you, and I will establish my covenant with you and your offspring.”  Following God’s exhortation, three mysterious messengers arrive.  They predict that within the year Sarah will bear a son.  She overhears this incredible prophecy and laughs out loud. Laughter, full bellied laughter, tsachaq in Hebrew, or as we have come to pronounce it, Isaac.  Abraham and Sarah will name their miracle baby Isaac.

Lyricist Michael Card captures the irony of this 11th hour delivery as he writes,

A barren land and a barren wife
Made Abraham laugh at his wandering life
A cruel joke it seemed then to call him the ‘father of nations.’
A heavenly prank, a celestial joke?
Gray hair and babies leave no room for hope.
But hoping was something this hopeless old man learned to do.
A cry in the darkness and laughter at night.
An elderly couple sit holding him tight—
An improbable infant, a punchline, a promise come true.

Again and again Abraham resists what seems depressingly certain, and holds out for what might yet be. He moves through his days haltingly, searching for hope beyond all hope that God will redeem the hopeless moment.

Our psalmist this morning sings out the faith of Abraham, envisioning God’s grace when all seems lost: God rescuing, God reclaiming, God overcoming all obstacles to keep faith with our faithfulness.  This is the breathtaking hope beyond all hope that is our birthright as believers. This is the resurrection that breaks open the tomb, and releases Christ to reign world without end.

Most of you know that my husband Terry passed away two months ago.  The prayers you offered, the meals you brought, and the cards and flowers you sent were Godsends through the darkest hours.  Countless friends and family who gathered here and online for his funeral kept using a single word to describe the celebration of his life: they said it was “beautiful.” Beautiful.  I couldn’t agree more. Among the many ways everyone helped me hear the cosmic laughter was a card that kindled my imagination.

Imagine stepping onto a shore and finding it heaven
Imagine taking hold of a hand and finding it God’s hand
Imagine breathing new air and finding it celestial air
Imagine feeling invigorated and finding it immortality
Imagine passing from storm and tempest to an unknown calm
Imagine waking and finding it home

Lent provides Christians spring training each year by reinvigorating our ability to hope beyond hope. We are preparing ourselves to walk the way of the Cross with Christ, knowing already that the worst thing that will happen to him, or to us, will never be the last.  Our hope beyond hope is for healing after horror, life after death, and homecoming forevermore.  Amen.

© 2024 The Rev. Dr. Ann P. Lukens. All rights reserved. Posted with permission.

Post will be removed at 8:00 AM on Wed., Feb. 25, 2026.