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The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost                                      July 17, 2016


This Weekend's Readings (click each reading to view the passage)

Genesis 18:1-15Psalm 15; Colossians 1:15-28; Luke 10:38-42
 


Pr. Christine's Sermon: The Awakening
Pr. Christine's Sermon: The Awakening


Children's Sermon: Three Hens and a Peacock
Children's Sermon: Three Hens and a Peacock





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Sermon Notes from Pastor Christine...  
 
This past week I was talking with Donna, our office administrator, about the appointed readings and for this week, she commented about how appropriate it is that I get the 'baby reading.' It is pretty ironic. I remember a year and a half ago when I was preparing to get married that I had to preach on the 10 bridesmaids and the wedding feast.
But, curiously (or maybe because of my own life experiences), when I read today's first lesson about Abraham and Sarah, I hear more than just the happy laughter of a birth announcement. As many of you know, even though my round, very robust belly makes me look like the epitome of fertility, it's a very misleading representation of the truth.
The road to a healthy pregnancy has been highlighted with miscarriage, grief, and emptiness. So, what I realized as I reread this story of Sarah is this is not a story of pregnancy, but a story of barrenness; a story of dormancy; a story of waiting.
And, it is a story of finally being awakened.  
But first, let me back up just a bit.
Many of us know that Sarah ends up being the matriarch of the Jewish people. Along with her husband Abraham, she answered God's call to head out from her ancestral home and journey to the Promised Land to found a new nation. That is the story we know of Sarah and Abraham.
And we also know that despite God's promise of blessing, she bore no children, at least not until she was 90 years old, which is where we find her in today's reading. As someone who has tackled the whole pregnancy thing at a very young age and at an 'older' age, I will tell you, there is NO WAY I'd be laughing if God made me pregnant at 90.
I'd be hysterically weeping, not to mention having a strong desire to punch my husband.
But regardless...
Sarah is 90 years old.
Now is a good time to sleep, to become dormant, and yes, maybe even to die.
Not really a good time to have a baby.
She's already waited a whole lifetime to have children.
To give Abraham the gift of descendants.
To be like all the other women in her town.
To know she's worth as much as the woman in the tent next to hers.
And yet, that is not what has come her way...
Maybe she had good reasons to think she didn't deserve the blessings that other people had. After all, Sarah did sleep with the Pharaoh.
She did squander her honor.
Sarah and Abraham did try to trick God.
There are many reasons she may have thought the impossible would never come.  
And yet, now, at the most curious of times, it's suddenly 'Sarah time,' awakening time. She has got to be thinking, "Seriously God, now?"
God apparently has a sense of humor... and for that, I'm a bit thankful.
The timing is all off, but truthfully, is there ever is a 'good' time to have your life interrupted and awakened to new things?
Think about it.  
If you're 8 years old and you have much to say about God - things you've seen in your dreams and heard whispered in your heart but nobody will listen to you or take you seriously. What could you possibly birth?
8 years old is not a great time to be awakened.
Or, what if you're 16 and all of a sudden you are awakened by 'God knows what' to something 'more' than yourself. I mean, who wants to stand out from the crowd when you're 16? The last thing you may want to do is talk about God, and yet, there HE is, being annoying in your life. The timing is so off.
16 is a terrible time to give birth. Not a great time to be awakened.
Or, if you're 45 and God knows you've been waiting a long time for some type of proof that God cares, listens, acts, or even exists... and then suddenly God surprises you. The thought has got to cross your mind, I mean, I know it has crossed mine, "You know God, I could've used this insight about 20 years ago. I'm getting a bit old to nurture something new in my life."
45 not a great time to be awakened.
Or, if you're 80 and your body is frail and God is still impregnating you with grandiose thoughts and yet your energy lags behind your heart. Where are these last pushes of life going to come from?
80 is also...Not a great time to be awakened.
And, what if you're any age, sitting here today, and you're still waiting, thinking, "I don't even know what she's talking about. God hasn't awoken me ever."
Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, in the Bible and in everyday life, God seems to operate on 'Sarah' time most of the time. God hardly ever acts on my or your timeline.
However, there is never a good time to be woken up, to come alive, to be born. Really.
For Sarah this whole experience must've been like being awoken from a hazy dream.
Her whole body suddenly awash with old longings blazing newly within her very body...
to feel this fresh sensation of aliveness...
for her body to suddenly ache with yearning beyond all reason...
Must've messed with her head.
Have you ever watched someone wake up?
I still wake my youngest son up in the mornings, even though he's 14. I know that at 14 he can set an alarm clock. My other boys have long decided they'd like to get themselves out of bed without mom waking them up.
But Cooper, he still enjoys it. Typically I sit on the edge of his bed and rub his back a bit. He wakes slowly as he wiggles around in his bed. When his body finally instinctively rolls over to face mine, because he knows where the source of disruption is coming from, a small smile creeps across his lips, even if I'm saying, "It's time for school."  
Then he spends an inordinate amount of time stretching - calling himself from slumber. I think his eyes are the last thing to awaken. I know this because if I don't stay on top of the whole awakening thing, he will go back to sleep.
There's something so very holy about the awakening... It is as if the union of love which exists between us calls to him even in his sleep.
It takes awhile to not only wake up, but to even want to be awake, to recognize what's happening. I can't help but wonder if this isn't sometimes God's perspective on us. God is there thinking, "I've been sitting here the whole time, rubbing your back, waking you up."
At 90 God woke Sarah up to life.
But, you know what I think might have been the most confusing piece of the whole thing for Sarah?
That God, the creator of the universe, the spinner of dreams, the birther of hope, sees so much worth and value and promise in her that He is willing to invest His life in her, to not let her die barren, forgotten, asleep.  
The story of Sarah and Abraham reminds us that they did not suffer in their pain alone, even when they felt so very alone. Even if Sarah and Abraham had never had a child, I am confident that God would've empowered them to birth many things, to have mothered and fathered many things.  
That is the underlying promise in today's story for us too.
Not that if you wish hard enough you'll get what you want...
Or even if you pray enough, or have enough people praying for what you want, you'll get the 'impossible..' But that God is birthing something from each of us, something that will wake us up and probably confuse us too. God is not content to allow us to lie in dormancy. To die.
Because, you just don't let your children sleep through life...
Allowing just a drip of that promise of God to soak into your being will open up more than just your future. It will open your womb. And if you're a guy... I'm just saying that in God's eyes - you've got a womb. Sorry.
A bit farther on in Sarah's story she laughs. Probably laughter hadn't come in a very, very long time. But finally... at 90 years of age it did. If you've ever faced barrenness, emptiness, or dormancy of any kind, then you know how very precious laughter can feel.
Sarah laughs not only because of how ridiculous the notion is that anything could be different, but also because she gave up crying and hoping long ago. Her laughter expresses so much of how it is once we are awakened.
In an odd way, laughter is an expression of what it is to become alive in Christ.
It doesn't mean that we will never weep again or feel barren again, but it does mean that once we start waking up, it's much harder to shut our eyes to what we've seen, known, held, heard...
It means - we can no longer go back to sleep.
Sorry about the insomnia, but God is waking you up to birth something new. Ready? Amen.