“You Gotta Be Kidding” June 18, 2023
“You Gotta Be Kidding”
Romans 5:1-11/ Matthew 9:35 – 10:23
The importance of today’s reading from the book of Genesis is almost self-evident: this unlikely event , after all, was the beginning of the nation of Israel. Because of that fact, it was necessary to inject a good bit of theater into the telling. Abraham was minding his own business when suddenly, three men appeared. That, in itself, is not such a big deal, I suppose. But when Abram Offered up some of the most radical hospitality we can imagine to these three strangers, well…. we knew something was up. I mean really now, he not only offered them water to drink and to wash their feet. But he ordered his wife to make enough bread to feed 10 people and then, on top of that, ordered that a calf be slaughtered Just in case folks didn’t get filled up on bread. By this point, we are starting to get the idea that these three “strangers” were more then just a few locals looking for lunch. So, once again from verse 9: 9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him“ “There, in the tent,” he said. 10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”
Now I don’t know about you all, but the last time someone came to my door offering untold riches and fame and fortune, I was a bit skeptical. Abram, however, was able to recognize that these men where indeed, messengers from God and accepted this incredibly good news with no foundation of truth whatsoever.
Abraham accepted the news in faith. With Sarah, however- not so much.
So what do we have here? Is this just another patriarchal Bible story where the man is all wise and all knowing with an unfailing faith, while the woman Is portrayed as flighty and unreliable? At first glance, it may appear that way. Heaven knows that we have plenty of examples in scripture of the domination in society by men. In fact, I don’t know if you have heard, But the news is that the big annual convention of the Southern Baptist Church was held recently and one of the most notable pieces of legislation that was passed ruled that all women be banned/ excluded from the pulpit in the Southern Baptist church. The kicker, of course. comes from the fact that according to the elders, this ruling was a scripture based decision. No surprise there. And so for the female clergy of the Southern Baptist church, some who have been preaching for decades, the next few months should be interesting, to say the least.
As for Abraham and Sarah, This is a story that just keeps on giving. We are all familiar with father Abraham; We even sang songs about him in Sunday school. The Jewish people of old and, I suppose, many today, are proud of the fact that they can be considered sons and daughters of Abraham. The name of Abraham has become revered; almost mythical. Among the Jewish people, It commands a reverence and a respect close to the level of King David or the prophets. With that being said, I can’t help but ask the question, “What about Sarah?” Was she not the mother of all Israel? Didn’t she have a huge stake In the prospect of who would become members of God’s chosen people. The answer, of course, is yes – – , yes she did.
And for those who might tell you That the faith of Abraham was far greater than his lowly wife, I would beg to differ. When God’s messenger asked Abrim Why his wife thought it was so hilarious that she might have a child at her age, He was implying that she didn’t believe it could happen. “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” He asked them. Sarah’s problem was not one of belief, however. Sarah’s problem was that she had been waiting most of her adult life to have a child, so of course she was bound to get a little snarky at the prospect of having one now. She was out of patience, she was out of hope, and I imagine in more modern times, she might have addressed these three men face to face instead of laughing under her breath: saying something like “What, are you kidding me? You guys are nuts.” But Sarah’s faith, trust, and conviction won out over any doubts she may have had About unrealistic expectations, and the rest is, as they say, history.
The mission statement of the United Methodist Church is simple enough: “To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” So think about that for a minute. Is this something that could happen in our lifetimes? How about two lifetimes, maybe 3? Or is this just another unrealistic expectation that is fun to talk about but, well you know. Someone once wrote, “yes, I would like my car to fly and make me breakfast, but that is and unrealistic expectation.
” Sarah got a bad case of the giggles when the messenger of the Lord told her that within a year she would have a child. Just hearing those words must have been painful for her,
but Sarah was about to learn two of those valuable lessons that we, as people of faith, all have to face up to sooner or later and that is ‘In matters of faith, no matter the plans we make or the precautions we take, if we don’t give it over to our God to guide us through this, then all those plans are for naught. Second, no matter what sort of crazy impossible task our God puts in front of us. He is going to stick with us no matter what. Like the man said, nothing is too hard for our God.
In our gospel text today, Matthew tells of how Christ sent out the disciples to go from town to town and door to door spreading the good news of the gospel. Piece of cake right? But wait there’s more. To make the task even more difficult, he sent them out with no food and no money and not even a change of clothes. “You’ve gotta be kidding,” Are the words we might have expected to hear from the disciples, But they were not phased a bit. The idea that some of these expectations might be unrealistic never crossed their mind. If it did, I imagine that they might have just laughed it off. For us, Let’s hold up Sarah as an inspiration: an Inspiration to make disciples of Jesus Christ, To be a disciple of Jesus Christ; And as for the transformation of the world, Is that totally unrealistic? Not even. Transformation is nothing more they’re making this world a better place the way Jesus has called us to do. “You’ve got to be kidding, right? That’s a tall order,”
But Here’s the thing, We may be called upon to do some Difficult things for our faith in our faith communities. But don’t sweat it. We have lots of help and the best kind of help To be found on heaven and earth.
Amen and Shalom