Sermon – Whom Can We Trust?

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-22; Mark 14:22-25

Farmville Presbyterian Church

February 25, 2024

– The covenant of family


It has been just a few days since we began this journey to the cross, and it already feels like it has been a month, but I don’t say that out of frustration or regret.  We are living the covenantal life that we have been given by the grace of God.  We have ups and downs, joys and concerns, struggles and celebrations together as we dare to share in life as a family of faith.  It is no easy thing as Abraham and Sarah found out the hard way.

When they were in their 20s, Jerome and Juanita were living in deep Texas, doing their thing and planning for great careers.  One day out of the blue, Uncle Moe found them at home and told them that he had the opportunity of a lifetime for them, the job of their dreams.  The only thing was that they had to leave Texas behind and travel to Montana (shout out to our Montana people).  Juanita and Jerome would have to leave their larger family and their life and go to this faraway place in an unknown part of the world for them, but the job would be tremendous and unbelievable.  Also, they would not be able to take another job but wait until Moe brought the job to them.  The temptation to embark on this dream career was too great.  Even though they did not know anything about life in Montana, they would be doing what they truly wanted to do for the rest of their lives, so they packed up and went.  25 years later they were still waiting for the job.  Anyone want to swap places for Jerome or Juanita?  Anyone think Uncle Moe pulled a fast one on them?  Who could wait for that?

Yet, that is not even as bad as the situation for Sarah and Abraham.  25 years before today’s passage, God promised Abraham when he was still Abram that he would have a child and a great people would come from him.  Then, for 25 years nothing happened to the point that the very idea was laughable.

It is hard not to appreciate the pathos, the emotion, in this story.  No, none of us would want to be in their shoes.  It would have been tortuous to wait and wait and wait for the evidence of this promise, but in the meantime, they had to learn who this God was that had called them to leave the homeland and whether they could trust this God.

And to be honest, everything else aside, that is really what this whole life of faith is about – finding trust in God.  Seriously, this is really our one occupation toward God, experiencing day in and day out whether we are willing to continue trusting in God.  That is what faith means.  If you have faith in something, you trust it.  If you trust in something, you have faith in it.  In a world where there are no human guarantees, we look for something or someone who can absolutely be our trust no matter what else happens.  I actually began to create a list of crazy, scary things that could possibly happen to illustrate some of the severity of life in this day and age, but the list became too much to name some of these things.  It scared me, so I will spare you the specifics.  Suffice it to say that we are at the whim of a world that does what it wants and people who do what they want.  We have known disasters, pandemics, wars, and crises, but what we have also known is a God who will walk with us through it all.  We will not get through life unscathed.  Most of us already have the scars.  There are no promises of idyllic ease.  What we have is a promise from God that our God will be our life and that God will provide.  God has been our past, is our present, and will be our future.  That promise is with us today because God made that promise to Abraham and Sarah.

The irony is not lost on us.  A 99 year old man who is named “exalted father” doesn’t have any children with his wife, but God had promised him one 25 years before.  Now, when Sarai is 90 years old and cannot have children for all the normal reasons, she is also promised to be the mother of this great world changing people.  Nations and kings will come from her so that her name is to become “princess.”  If it didn’t look so tragic, it would be comical, but for God, it is true.   God wants to know if Abraham and Sarah can still trust God.  And it is a real struggle to find that trust.  Can we underline that point?  It is a REAL struggle to find that trust.  And Abraham doesn’t still have that trust that made him pack his bags and follow God to a faraway land.  At this point, he has decided to settle for that he has already.  He is still thinking Ishmael, his 13 year old son with his wife’s servant, will be his only son.  It is so hard, so incredibly hard, to hold that trust, that faith, in God.  “Let’s go with what we already have, what we already know, what we already see and feel.”  But that’s too small for God.

Is the promise too small for us?

Don’t forget that God’s promise us not just for them.  God underlines that one for us.  This is an EVERLASTING covenant with all the people who follow.  Jesus renews it, but it is never lost.  Jesus shows us how seriously God takes that promise when he renews it, but it is never set aside.  We are still living in that promise with trust or faith, if we will see it.

This is what the world struggles to understand.  We usually do not see God’s goodness laid out as a package with a bow.  We have an invisible God who works in often unseen ways.  The power and mystery of God keep us guessing as to the specifics of God’s promise.  If it were obvious, then there would be no need for faith or trust.  People all around the world are looking for expressions of goodness and faithfulness right now.  Some are turning to God for that help.  Others are looking to worldly powers for that help.  I know where the Ukrainians are looking right now.  I’m not sure where Jews or Palestinian civilians are looking right now.  I have a sense where so many desperate, scared Central or South Americans are looking right now.  Unrest and trouble are tremendous in the world today.  We have been shaken, also, but God is for us all.  All who are God’s children can still look for God’s help.

I tend to forget just how impossible my life is.  It is far too easy to take things for granted.  Like Abraham, I am looking to Ishmael and thinking that I can look after myself or that what I have accomplished is by my own hands.  But that’s a lie.  Every goodness I have found, especially the really profound ones, are God’s doing.  There is no way I could have orchestrated my life like this, and I’m guessing you might have a similar feeling.  Sure, there have been disappointments and losses and griefs, but I could not be here today knowing the love we all share without God’s help.  That is what community in God is all about.  So many people out there don’t have this kind of community, this kind of love.  They struggle to see the goodness in their life and tremble to try to trust anything beyond their own hands.  They cannot see God’s promise.  Abraham and Sarah were there, also.  They understand.  God understands.

If you are in that situation, please allow yourself to be loved in community.  Find good people to remind you that you are part of God’s promise, also.  It should absolutely be part of our daily prayer to include those who are missing from our community and those who are wandering through life alone.  Some may feel they are impossible to love or that they are in an impossible situation to know community.  It might really feel that way, but Sarah and Abe found themselves in an impossible situation, also.

God’s love is not limited to our reason, our expectations, or our permission.  God’s love is lifechanging and world-changing, but it may take time to know for ourselves how loved we are.  It might take time for us to find our faith in God’s promise, but if there is one thing that every one of us should want to know, it is that God is worth our trust.  Together, we seek to live that trust in love.  To God be the glory.  Amen.