Is It Just Too Much?

Narrative Lectionary Year 2, Mark

Genesis 18:1-15; 21:1-7

Is anything too wonderful for God? Is anything too much, too hard for God? It’s the key question at the center of our story today. And our grand matriarch and patriarch, our models of faith Abraham and Sarah both seem to answer, “yes” to the question. As in, Yes, that’s not possible, they say to God who visited them with a birth announcement. Yes, that is too wonderful to imagine. They say “yes, this is too impossible for God”, believing that their story will remain the same.

After all, Sarah and Abraham were long past retirement age, I suppose maybe somewhere in their 70s. They’d spent their lives together watching other couples have children and this was not their story. Sarah had not fulfilled her cultural duty as a woman to birth children, to further Abraham’s name. Just imagine her cultural shame, her personal shame. Just imagine her grief.

It’s no wonder Sarah gives a knowing laugh. Is anything too hard, too wonderful for God? That knowing laugh Sarah gives from behind the kitchen tent flap, that laugh says it all. It’s not joyful laughter. It’s a laugh with a little bit of “yah right” mixed in. It’s a laugh that has a deep echo of grief and longing in it but has gotten a little rough around the edges. Her laugh tells God how foolish she believes God to be. “Yah right. A baby. After all these years?”

The parents of all future generations were childless. These are the people who give birth to the future of Israel. Yet, when we first meet them, they’re just this childless old couple, perhaps feeling forgotten and pushed aside. Feeling forgotten or dismissed by their culture, forgotten and dismissed by God.

Sarah Bessey is an author and Christian leader and she shares her story here: (video clip)

New life is so close you can hear it breathing, she says. All things will be made new. You may not believe it in your own life and that’s ok. God will stick with you even when you’ve given up, even when you’ve said forget it, even when you swear that God isn’t strong at all. That God isn’t paying attention.

New life is so close you can hear it breathing. Sarah’s bitter laughter turns to joyful laughter as she gives birth to laughter, Isaac, his name means laughter.

Can you hear new life breathing today? Because Nathan, new life awaits you in the waters of baptism. This water has been waiting for you, anticipating you, designed for you Nathan. And we gather around you and this water, this sacrament, as a fantastic and flawed human net. And we promise that we will walk with you and love you in this life of faith. And together, we will practice forgiving and practice loving, because this water is all about loving you once and for all. That’s God’s promise through Jesus Christ. The rest of us have to practice, but God’s love for you will not end, Nathan. Not ever.

And you, River of Hope, you’re involved in this sacrament of baptism and it’s an act of Christian defiance. It’s a dangerous thing you promise to do today with Nathan as the children of God. You renounce the devil today. You renounce, you deny, you say no to all the things that threaten to be God and in the same breath you say no, nothing is too wonderful for you, God. It’s awesome. It’s really, really scary. Because this water claims you. This water names you. And if you’ve not been baptized before, I know this water is promise for you- this water knows your name, this water anticipates you. This water gives you your identity as Child of God when the rest of the world, through 10,000 messages each day tries to tell you you are too old or too gray, too fat or too unpopular. The world will try and re-name you by calling you divorced or cheater or flighty or dumb, unemployed. But this water and God’s promises? No one can take your identity as child of God away from you.

God never leaves us to do this alone. God is always making us new. And even after our best attempts to limit God, to deny God, to push God away, God never leaves us. That’s the way it works. Yet, when our answer to “Is anything too wonderful for God?” is NO, then we have confessed that God is God and we are not. Then we have given ourselves – our imperfect, messed up lives, our bodies that God has said are good – we’ve given all of this to God and live in God’s freedom – living our lives into God’s freedom. Which is much more expansive and wild and well, free, than any notion we could dream of.

It doesn’t mean we feel God’s presence. It doesn’t mean we’ve had our questions answered or our problems solved. It doesn’t always mean you have a baby. Sometimes being a child of God doesn’t feel any different than anything else. Yet God remains with you because you are not forgotten.

God has not and will not ever forget you. God is with you in our grief and in your joyful laughter. God is with you in infertility and doctors and miscarriage. God blesses you with new life in some way you never imagined. Thank you, God, for being God. Thank you for being too wonderful for us to even grasp it even a little bit.

You can say, Yes, God, it’s all too wonderful. But it’s too late for you because it’s for you and it’s free. You’ve already been claimed, you beautiful, beloved children of God, it’s all for you.

Thanks be to God.