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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Today’s Reading | Genesis 21:1–7

The Lord dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as he had promised. Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Now Sarah said, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” And she said, “Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.” (NRSV)

At its purest sense, this text is about God fulfilling his promises. God had promised Abraham he would have many descendants and become a “great nation,” a covenant made and renewed over many years. On a few occasions, Abraham and Sarah responded to it with laughter, believing Abraham was too old and Sarah was barren. Ultimately God has the last laugh. When God keeps his promise, Sarah says he has once again brought her laughter. Even Isaac’s name translated literally means, “He will laugh.”

What has God promised us? I don’t know about you, but God has rarely appeared before me to make a promise. Instead we believe that through Jesus Christ God fulfilled the promise of the scriptures and provided us with love and the hope that we will live to see a better day. That’s not a very specific promise. In fact, it often feels very vague. It’s also not a promise that things will always be good. On the contrary, life often gets a little rough.

So what if we view this as Sarah and see this as God bringing us laughter? What laughter—or joy—is God bringing to our lives?

I’ve had the good fortune of working with our senior high youth for many years. The great thing about youth is that they can find humor in the most mundane—and sometimes the most serious—situations. When I’m with them, I have the freedom to be a kid again. I’m reminded not to take myself, or life, too seriously.

Life is filled with many ups and downs, but laughter can brighten even the darkest days. One of my favorite hymns is “Live into Hope.” It ends with the following line by Jane Parker Huber:

Live into hope of captives freed
from chains of fear or want or greed.
God now proclaims our full release
to faith and hope and joy and peace.

Hope, joy, and peace—and perhaps a bit of laughter. That’s the fulfillment of God’s promise.

O God, remind me to laugh today. Remind me that in Jesus Christ, you have provided us with hope for a better life. Help me find that hope today. Help me to laugh. Amen.

Written by Mark Nelson, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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