Incredulity anyone?

Jun. 18, 2017

Gen. 18.1-15; Ro. 5.1-8; Mt 9.35-10.8

In Shakespeare's play As You Like It one of his characters says, "All the world's a stage, and all men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, but one man in his time may play many parts." Sometimes it certainly feels that way...a plot played out according to a script. Of course, it isn't, we're all responsible for our own decisions and choices. But our actions may contradict the truthfulness of our words when they don't match up. There's an old chestnut of a story about a farmer who was in a hurry as he was hauling his horse in a trailer and with his dog was beside him in the truck. They sped around a corner, but to avoid a head-on collusion the farmer flipped the trailer and he and the dog were thrown out of the truck. It happened that a state policeman came upon the scene very quickly and being an animal lover he had great pity on the poor horse who was in miserable pain from its injuries. He pulled out his service revolver and put the horse out of its misery. He walked toward the twisted wreck of the truck and found the poor dog whining in pain and again took pity and ended the creature's suffering. Then he walked over with his still smoking gun in his hand and approached the man, who had a broken leg and a broken arm. He asked the farmer, "Sir, are you hurt bad?" The farmer forced a smile and said, "Officer, in my entire life, I have never felt better!"

When things don't go according to our expectations...we can feel that someone has hijacked our story. That's true in the OT lesson today involving Sarah, Abraham, and their mysterious visitors. Abraham was just a year from being a centenarian. And as the 100 year-old comedian George Burns used to say, "Living to be a hundred is good, because very few people die after reaching a hundred." It's a fact that mortality more commonly occupies the thoughts of a centenarian than family planning! Abraham meticulously offers hospitality to these strangers who are identified with the Lord, and they tell him, "Next year at this time, your wife Sarah will be cradling a newborn"? Sarah laughed to herself with incredulity...but the discerning guests picked up on her befuddled amusement and commented on it.

Often when our script differs markedly from the Lord's script, we experience just that: incredulity. "Incredulity" is not a word we use often, and it's meaning covers a wide range of things including--unbelief, doubt, amazement, and wonder. It's the inability or unwillingness to believe. I think the word very adequately describes the reaction of a menopausal woman to the news that she is going conceive and bear a child during the coming year! But how else could God's promises to Abraham be fulfilled?

Earlier in this Genesis story, God had established a covenant with Abram that God would make him the father of a great nation as populous as the stars of the sky, but, of course, that would require first that he become a father! And that was the issue...because although he's fathered children by surrogates, like his child Ishmael, he'd had no children with his wife Sarah.

This is where, it seems, God's script differed. God's timing is sometimes difficult to understand. In the Bible there are two primary words for "time"... chronos ...which, as you can imagine, is a measure of seasons and years--like a chronology. But the other word is kairos. And kairos means the "right" time...just as there is a right time to eat a piece of fruit...that is, when it's ripe. Often God's kairos...follows it's own good logic, meaning, and script. God definitely had the kairos for Abraham and Sarah's child Isaac.

This story raises the question of our own incredulity in the face of God's amazing faithfulness. God answers prayers in God's own good kairos . Given Jesus' amazing promises, like "I am with you always, even to the end of the age"...I, like you, find myself torn between what I hope will be true and what I fear might be true. I soar between these fantastic expectations and the dreadful fear of plummeting because God's script so differs from my own. As a result, in the face of God's promises we find ourselves like Sarah...incredulous.

I believe that the Lord Jesus is well aware of our difficulties with this...after all, he lived through it himself. He said in Gethsemane, "Father, if possible, take this cup (of suffering) away from me." If it had been a Hollywood script, lightening would have rained down on the malefactors as they prepared to torture the Lord. But as Oscar Wilde said of such stories, "The good ended happily and the bad ended unhappily and that's why they call it fiction." We know sometimes...the innocent suffer and the evil escape retribution, so when we think about it, we can become incredulous. It could even rob us of the discovery of God's faithfulness if we don't keep our hearts in the game. God has a way of surprising us...with miracle finishes. Sarah and Abraham thought they were finished, but God's promise was fulfilled in God's good time. As we act our part in God's script, we pray that we can be that character is faithful to the role in which God has cast us.


The Reverend WA Ray
St Thomas Church
Diamondhead, MS 06/18/17