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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, June 12, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Genesis 18:1–15

The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.” (NRSV)

Reflection
On reading this passage I was struck by two things. First, that the response to the angel’s announcement was silence, on Abraham’s part, and laughter followed by denial, on Sarah’s.

Both responses seem reasonable to me!

Even when we live with a desire for God’s presence in our lives, it’s another thing to face the real possibility of it, of the seemingly impossible suddenly becoming possible.

There’s a line about no atheists in foxholes, and I would say for most of us the opposite is also true: that precisely in the face of the miraculous, the impossible, we doubt. Because what does it mean to live with the kingdom of God ready to break in at any moment, wild and beyond our understanding?

This is why the angels have to keep reassuring us, “Be not afraid.” Which brings me to the second thing I noticed in the passage. That the visitors (from Abraham’s perspective) called out Sarah by name, though she was still within the tent and presumably unknown to them. But of course to the Lord we are all known; it is the Lord who has made us and formed us, who holds us.

If we can practice living with that certainty—knowing in our bodies that God is already in our lives and has been from the beginning—rather than in our ideas about God, we may be more able to accept the miraculous (including the everyday miracle of our even being here), to be open to God’s indwelling in our lives.

Prayer
God, may I live so that I am ever ready to respond with Mary’s yes, instead of with fear. To rest in God’s assurance rather than questioning it. And always to be quick to offer love. Amen.

Written by Anne Ellis, Program Manager for Congregational Life


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