The Word This Weekend – March 17, 2019
The Rev. Dr. William L. Hurst
FLCS Senior Pastor
Hoping against hope, [Abraham] believed that he would become "the father of many nations," according to what was said, "So numerous shall your descendants be." He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. (Romans 4:18-19)
Lent continues. This annual six week pilgrimage of repentance and discipline is marked by the call to fasting, prayer, works of compassion and tending to the soul through worship and serving. While some Christian traditions have traditionally marked these disciplines as somehow gaining greater access to God’s favor and acceptance, the Lutheran tradition centers these actions in the fulfilled work of God’s redemption through baptism, and our dedication to these actions as grateful responses to the already completed salvation won for us and for all through the death and resurrection of the Nazarene.
This week we consider the promise to Abraham, that he would be the Patriarch of many nations, and that he and wife Sarah would be the ancestors of a multitude of the Lord’s followers. And so it is – the majority of the world’s God-followers – Jewish, Christian and Muslim – owe their origin and ancestry to Father Abraham. And the Abraham/Sarah family of Jews and Christians number more than a billion souls in our day.
Only one problem for old Abraham – being OLD! The saga told in Genesis is of an aging Aramean wanderer, with an equally aging spouse, struggling to grasp the promise and providence of the Almighty in the midst of a promise apparently left unfulfilled. The birth of Ishmael, through Sarah’s handmaid Hagar, does not abrogate that promise. As Paul remarks, Abraham dared to trust in God’s promise of a son and heir to be his and Sarah’s, even as their bodies weakened, as precious time elapsed, as hope dimmed and the promise seemed futile. Oh, to have the faith of Abraham – to trust in God’s unwavering promise in the midst of our slackening fortunes and wavering confidence.
And such is the promise of the cross as well. Our friend Simon Peter, who can champion the proclamation of Jesus as the Christ of God, can yet be tripped up by the path that Christ’s destiny and mission must take. “This (Crucifixion death) must never happen to you!” God’s promises – whether progeny for Abraham, or salvation through the grim death of Calvary – is God’s business to offer and to complete. For Abraham’s children, the task is not to rewrite or subvert that promise, but to submit to it in faith, and continue on in the journey in confidence, guided by the Spirit of the Living One who offers life through the Savior’s passion and victory.
I hope to join with you at worship this weekend and throughout Lent, as we follow the Christ, and especially as we follow along the oh-so-shrouded season of Lent. May the power of God’s Holy Spirit, freshly inscribed on our heads and our hearts, inspire and lead us to draw strength for the work of the kingdom in our own day, resting in the gifts of Water, Word and Table, that we might boldly overcome and obey in his service.
With You in God’s Good Work,