Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 and Mark 8:31-38
(click above for full reading)
“I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless.
Then I will make my covenant between me
and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”
“He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them,
‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves
and take up their cross and follow me.'”
(click on the title above to listen to the sermon)
God’s promises made to Abraham and Sarah in Genesis sounded so outlandish that Abraham fell on his face and Sarah simply laughed out loud.
We laugh Sarah’s laugh too. Not because we have faith, but because sometimes we find it difficult or even impossible to have it. That is the somewhat disturbing truth being held up before us in this week’s story: that faith is generally not a reasonable act. The promises of God are not just conventional pieces of wisdom that easily fit right in with everything else in our lives.
Abraham and Sarah laughed because they had reached a dead end in their lives and, here’s the thing,because they had adjusted to it. They had accepted their hopelessness just the way, if we are honest, we sometimes tend to accommodate ourselves to all those barren places in our lives where the call to believe in “a new thing that God will do” seems, quite frankly, out of the question.
And yet the promises of God keep on coming. “This is my body, given for YOU,” Jesus says, “my blood, shed for YOU, for the forgiveness of your sins.” Whether you fall on your face or laugh out loud will not affect the promise one way or the other. But if you actually believe the promise, well, your life will never be the same!
Questions to Ponder/Discuss
1) Have you ever heard an offer that sounded too good to be true? Was it?
2) How does our reaction to God’s promises affect what God does? How does our reaction affect our own lives?
3) Is there anything about the Christian faith that you find difficult to believe?
This week walk around with one of God’s promises made in your baptism ringing in your ears. “You have been sealed with the promised Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ, forever!” That one ought to do. How does actually believing that outlandish promise affect the way you live, give and love? Imagine your life without that promise. I wonder if you may know someone who has no idea such a promise can be given to them as well.