Sunday 11th June- Communion
Call to worship
Hymn 255: Father hear the prayer we offer
Reading: Genesis 18:1-15 John
Hymn 701: When memory fades
Prayer of Dedication
Hymn 111: Holy, Holy, Holy
Hymn 36: God is our refuge and our strength
Welcome to our reflection for 11th June.
Today we are looking at one part of the story of Sarah.
What is it like to hope, and then maybe see that hope finally realised.
Is it the wonder we want, or a responsibility that we struggle with?
We will be reflecting on this after John leads us in our prayer and reading for today.
Remember, if you are struggling and you would like our prayer group to pray for you then please contact us at revjimalvakirk@gmail .com
There are times in our life when we want something so badly.
And sometimes we come round to accept that whatever it is... it just isn’t going to happen, and we are all right with that.
Then the worst thing that can happen to us is that we get hope.
And we are not too sure how to cope with that.
We always wanted that perfect house, but it was never going to happen, and then something comes on the market and we can just about afford it.
But when we go to the viewing we find out that there are already three other notices of interest.
What do we do?
Is it better to just accept that we won’t get the house and not bother?
Should we try to get the house and then try to cope with the disappointment when someone else gets it?
What if we actually get the house, would we find it isn’t the answer to our prayers that we thought it was going to be?
This incident in the Bible has a vey important message for us.
But I think we miss it because we are looking at it from the wrong perspective.
Let me give you the message as I think we often read it.
There is a man Abraham, three faiths will regard him as the father of their faiths; Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
And it all starts with a phenomenal act of faith; God tells him to leave his land and go to a strange land where he will settle and his people will become a great nation of faith.
But when he starts the journey he and his wife Sarah are already old and have no children.
Should he trust this God?
And in faith he does.
And really the next series of chapters are showing how he trusts,
then fails to trust, then God forgives and he tries again,
then he fails again, then goes back to God and finds that God is forgiving and gives him another chance.
It shows how Abraham’s heart is changed over time as he interacts with this constant, forgiving God,
and how we too can change as we interact with God.
And then this incident happens.
It is the middle of the day, a time of rest as it is too hot to do anything else.
And in the distance Abraham sees three men coming towards him.
Abraham rushes out and offers hospitality, not realising that these men are angels on a journey to judge a corrupt city.
It is a test to see if Abraham is the type of person who cares for the stranger, not knowing that the stranger here is God.
And because he is a good man who does good things then he finds a blessing.
In nine months time his wife will give birth to a son, Abraham will see his faith rewarded; he will have an inheritance, a legacy.
And that is a fair summary of what happens.
But maybe it isn’t all that happens.
Sure, the main message is that we should trust in God and do good; but maybe there is another message there for us as well.
Because there is not one character in this message, there are two; we forget Sarah, Abraham’s wife.
And maybe God has a message for her as well.
When I was first writing this sermon it was titled, ‘Poor Sarah.’
And it was titled that because she is ignored for most of this story except that last bit where she doesn’t come out of it very well.
She is the woman who doesn’t have faith.
She is the women who has to be put in her place.
She is the woman who is reprimanded by the angels.
And that seems very unfair.
Let’s look at this woman for a wee while.
When Abraham is 75 years old he travels from a settled area to an unknown place in the middle of nowhere because ‘God has told him too.’
She has no say in this at all.
Even though she will be old as well she just takes all her stuff and travels with him.
And then when they arrive at this Promised Land it isn’t very promising because they are going through a drought,
so they go to Egypt where Abraham is scared that people will see his possessions and try to kill him to take it all away.
So he sells his wife off to the Pharaoh in the hope that buys him protection.
And Sarah has to just go along with that.
Then Pharaoh discovers through a dream from God, what Abraham has done and exiles him from Egypt so then they go back to the Promised Land that isn’t so promising.
This is all very messy.
And Sarah has had to just accept it.
Her life is not that great, but she has accepted that.
And it is summed up in this incident that John read for us earlier.
Abraham sees the strangers.
Abraham decides without consulting anyone what should happen.
But he is not the one that has to live with the consequences of his decisions.
Even though she is old, even though she is trying to rest in the middle of the day, Abraham tells her to make bread, then Abraham picks out a calf to be cooked and the servant and Sarah have to prepare it.
All the work that involves is skipped out.
They have to slaughter the calf, drain it of blood, cut it into parts, cook it in the middle of nowhere, then prepare it all to be eaten.
Then give it to all to Abraham...where it tells us Abraham ‘took some cream, some milk and the meat and set the food before the men.’
So while Sarah and the servant in the middle of a hot day are literally slaving about to get everything ready, Abraham is laughing and talking with the men.
And then when the food is ready Abraham very humbly serves up the work that has been done by other people and gets the credit of being so hospitable.
Sarah is not invited to join them in the meal that she has prepared, because she is only a woman and has no place where the men are.
That is Sarah’s life. It is not great, but she has accepted that.
She is old, and she was given to this man, and she has no other options, and she has learnt to be fine with that.
And I think that from the middle of this sorrow, there is a message for Sarah.
No matter how much we have given up on ourselves, God has better plans for us.
God’s goodness for us is not dependant on our faith in Him.
God’s goodness for us is not dependant on our work or effort.
God’s goodness for us is not dependant on our enthusiasm or feelings or cynicism.
God just intends to help our life have goodness in it.
Maybe Sarah had forgotten that.
Or Sarah never really believed it.
Or Sarah had given up on that.
For when she is told, as it turns out, by angels, that she will have the child that she has always wanted and hoped for, she completely and totally doubts.
And that doesn’t matter.
God just intends her life to have goodness in it.
I think that is a message some of us need to be reminded of.
For some of us we have just learnt to put one foot in front of the other.
Life is a slog and we know it is a slog, but we have learnt to be ok with that.
We have learnt to accept that that is our fate.
The trouble is that God hasn’t accepted that.
As far as God is concerned he intends to help our life have goodness in it.
And it doesn’t matter how doubtful, or cynical or unbelieving we are; God still intends for our life to have goodness in it.
And maybe that’s all we need to hear.
There are two named humans in our story today.
One is Abraham and his message is that sometimes we need to make great acts of faith; if God tells us to go out there into the unknown then we need to do that.
But that’s not everyone’s story, and it certainly isn’t Sarah’s story.
Maybe some of us need to hear Sarah’s story; and our act of faith isn’t in the spectacular,
our act of faith is just to look for the goodness that God has put into our lives
and to trust that God will be acting for good in our lives.
Let us pray
as we look back over the last week,
we wonder . . .
Where did we see you in a stranger?
Or have we been too scared to let the stranger close to us...
Who did we share a meal with and where we suddenly felt your presence with us?
Or have we been so caught up in our routines that we go through our meals and don’t even think of your goodness in giving us all that we need...
When did you reveal something to us that caught us by surprise?
When did we last see the amazing truth that you actually cared deeply for us and what happens in our lives?
Or have we been so busy staring at the ground beneath us, that we forgot there are stars above us...
Help us to be open and alert to what might truly be happening in our lives.
That we might risk being there for someone we did not know before?
That we might learn from our interactions with others,
especially those who we do not know.
God, encourage us to offer generous hospitality and friendship to all in this coming week.
God, challenge our thinking about how we speak and act with others for we never know when the words they speak are your words to us, reminding us of truths that we need to learn, or truths that we need to remember.
God, guide us to the people you long for us to meet
and welcome them into our lives.