The saga of Abraham and Sarah is one of my very favorite stories in the Bible. And here’s why: Abraham and Sarah had had an interesting life, they had moved around; they had made it through some tough times, accumulated some wealth and were well respected by their relatives and fellow tribesmen. There was only one real disappointment, they had never been able to have children of their own; But now it was time to settle down and enjoy their retirement. Which they were doing; But then something remarkable happened to upset Sarah was never going to see 90 again and Abraham had already hit one hundred, when they were told that they better dip into their pensions and build a nursery because the stork was on the way at last. At the news both of them almost collapsed. The Bible tells us that Abraham laughed until he fell on his face.”
Later in the story, the Bible reports that Sarah stood cackling behind the tent door so the divine messenger wouldn’t think she was being rude because tears of laughter were running down her cheek. And of course a year later the promise of an heir came to fruition; A son was born and he was named, Isaac, means means Laughter in Hebrew. I mean what else were they going to call the lad? Biblical scholars estimate that God’s first promise to Abram as he was then called that he would be a father with Sarah and eventually would have as many descendants as there were stars in the sky, had occurred 24 years earlier. Even then he was no spring chicken, but the point is that both he and Sarah never lost their faith in God’s promise to them; they continued to hope no matter how improbable it seemed. And for us? Well this in addition to the second Sunday in Lent, is Senior Citizen Day; or Never Give Up Hope Day. With a God like ours, no one is past our time. I know aging has its challenges-physical problems, memory issues, a tendency to become depressed or cynical. The good news for us today is that God still has something for each of us despite our doubts, our cynicism and laughter of incredulity. We need to be ready to be surprised but in the words of one of my favorite theologians, ex New York Yankee catcher, Yogi Berra, “it’s not over until it’s over!”
Abraham’s question to himself after being told that he and Sarah would be parents, was, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is 90 years old, bear a child? In other words do God’s promises really come to fruition? Such a question is especially fitting for the season of Lent.
In the Christian narrative, the cross, after all is the ultimate obstacle to realizing the promises of God; God has promised a redeemer a newly anointed king of kings, a savior to deliver the nations from sin and suffering. But that redeemer will be executed by the Roman Empire and who could really be raised from the dead? The prospect is improbable as a 90 year old woman having a child with a 100 year old man. When we hear the promise of resurrection it stretches our credulity, and seems a laughable, foolish promise. This can’t be we say. Laughter may seem a little inappropriate during Lent. After all, it is a season of self-examination, prayer, forty days in which we pack up our Alleluias and put them in storage. Even so, we do well to remember with St. Paul that the promises of the Gospel are foolishness in the eyes of the world.. Friday’s cross looms large over creation. Empires win every time and no one ever comes back from the dead. Who could think otherwise? So we laugh, even as we fall to our knees in prayer and praise. We wait for Easter Day, when we witness the promises fulfilled, and our stubborn doubt-filled laughter turns into the laughter of joy. Amen.