by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The readings for Sunday, September 16, 2012:
Optional reading: Luke 3:8
Today's reading shows God making extravagant promises that human brains cannot quite comprehend. It's not the first time, and it won't be the last. I've always thought that one of my favorite Biblical themes is the extravagant Divine promise fulfilled in ways that humans never would have dreamed otherwise.
God promises that Abraham's descendants will be as many as the stars. But Abraham has yet to have any children at all; how will this promise be granted?
In the chapters that follow, we will see Abraham and Sarah (when they're still called Abram and Sarai) try to make the promise happen on their timetable. Abraham fathers a child with a slave, Hagar,and Sarah's jealousy leads to the expulsion of the slave woman and baby from the household.
And still, it isn't clear how God will fulfill this promise. God continues to come back to this covenant, promising that Abraham will be father to a great nation, even as Abraham and Sarah become ever older, ever more barren in all sorts of ways.
And then, the miracle: Abraham and Sarah conceive.
And we see the abundance that God offers. Abraham does have a huge collection of descendants. Abraham also fathers metaphorical nations. Abraham becomes the father of not just one great nation of faith, but three: Islam (through Hagar's child Ishmael), Judaism, and Christianity.
Here again, we see one of the great messages of the Bible: God can make a way out of dead ends. God can make all sorts of wondrous events happen, even events that should be out of the realm of possibility.
And once again, we see God choosing unlikely methods. If humans had been in charge of founding a great nation, humans would choose someone young and strong, someone with many years to devote to having children, someone with a wide variety of talents. Humans wouldn't have chosen an elderly couple who had spent their most fruitful years fleeing famine and hardship.
Again and again, God sees possibility where humans see none. Again and again, God makes outrageous promises, and again and again, God fulfills them.
It's hard to trust in God's plan, especially when God takes us in surprising directions. It's good to remember that God has a long history of fulfilling extravagant promises, that God is generous in ways that humans can scarcely fathom.