An impossible child.
Sarah and Abraham receive wonderful news from God in today’s reading from Genesis. Though they have no children, and Sarah is long past child-bearing age (and Abraham is long past child-rearing age), God promises them that they will become parents to a multitude of nations. In a society where one’s worth was measured in living children, this was good news indeed! (Though I imagine it also made Sarah more than a little nervous…)
What about for us? In a world where infertility remains an issue for many couples, and the rates of infant loss remain high, how can we proclaim this story as good news? In our society, single folks sometimes choose parenthood, while others have it forced upon them by unhealthy relationships or lack of medical care. Some couples choose not to become parents, though there is no medical or financial or societal factor keeping them from parenthood. In this diverse family landscape, how do we preach the story of Sarah and Abraham as good news to all of our people?
Perhaps there is no magical answer, but do be attentive to the various needs of your folks. There may be an elderly woman who still mourns the stillborn child of decades ago, who she wasn’t even allowed to hold or name. There may be an expectant mother who worries every day that this pregnancy will turn out like the last seven, and the nursery will remain empty. There may be a young man who wants nothing more than to be a father, but he hasn’t found the right partner yet, and his employer wouldn’t allow him paternity leave if he chose to adopt on his own. In your preaching this week, please be gentle with the ways you equate parenthood with good news, as it is described in Genesis.
Of course, this week also brings Jesus’ rebuke of Jesus, and warning to his followers. This whole discipleship thing is not going to be a walk in the park! Though Peter has just proclaimed that Jesus is the Messiah, he doesn’t yet understand what that means. The same could be said of many of us. We believe that Jesus is the Messiah, but we aren’t quite ready to let that fact change the way we live.
If we did allow Jesus’ fulfillment of the messianic prophesy to change our lives, what would it look like? We might lose our lives. But most of your worshippers don’t have to worry about that. What else do they risk in order to be Christ-followers?
Lent always brings some sobering readings, focused on the importance of faith. How can you preach that theme to your people this week? Will you use Genesis or Mark, Romans or the Psalm, or something completely different? Blessings to you in your preaching this week.
Katya Ouchakof is an ELCA pastor in Madison, WI. She is passionate about justice issues, particularly pertaining to women. The last movie she saw in the theater was Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and she hopes that the next will be Black Panther.
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