Father Walter’s homily – Second Sunday after Pentecost 14.06.2020
Reading: Genesis 18: 1 – 15
1. The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his
tent in the heat of the day. 2. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When
he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the
ground. 3. He said, ‘My lord, if I find favour with you, do not pass by your servant. 4. Let
a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. 5. Let
me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass
on—since you have come to your servant.’ So they said, ‘Do as you have said.’ 6. And
Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, ‘Make ready quickly three
measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.’ 7. Abraham ran to the herd, and
took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. 8.
Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them;
and he stood by them under the tree while they ate. 9. They said to him, ‘Where is your
wife Sarah?’ And he said, ‘There, in the tent.’ 10. Then one said, ‘I will surely return to
you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.’ And Sarah was listening at the
tent entrance behind him. 11. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had
ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12. So Sarah laughed to herself,
saying, ‘After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?’ 13.
The LORD said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, and say, “Shall I indeed bear a child,
now that I am old?” 14. Is anything too wonderful for the LORD? At the set time I will
return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.’ 15. But Sarah denied, saying, ‘I
did not laugh’; for she was afraid. He said, ‘Oh yes, you did laugh.’
Abraham was called by God to found a great new godly nation, from which other nations
would emerge. These would be similarly blessed through Abe’s descendants. In obedient
faith, Abraham and Sarah with all their retainers, left Ur of the Chaldeans, their native
country in modern Iraq, and travelled between the mighty Rivers Tigris and Euphrates,
mentioned in the creation story at the top of the Fertile Crescent [Genesis 2.14].
From there, the party turned south to reach the land called Canaan, to found the nation
that God would call God’s own. Both Abe and Sarah came from an urban environment;
they were not like Bedouin nomads. Though small in size, the Holy land was to be a God-
centred, moral nation, the focal point for the history of Israel, for the rise of Christianity,
and for an uncountable impact on world history.
Abraham’s nephew, Lot, accompanied the march south, but veered off to settle at Sodom
and Abraham’s party continued on to Canaan. Years later, Lot and his family were taken
captive from Sodom by Mesopotamian overlords. Abraham, by now a very wealthy
grazier, had trained 318 soldiers from his household. This small army gave chase and
whipped the malefactors in a full-scale rout.
On his return from the victory, he was met by the King of Salem (now Jerusalem) and
priest of God, called Melchizedek [Hebrews 7.1], who, surprisingly, in the appearance of
a pre-incarnate Christ figure, brought bread and wine and blessed him [Genesis 14.18].
In turn, Abe gave him a tithe or tenth of the spoils taken as booty from the defeated king
of Sodom. Note: bread and wine was not the material offering for a sacrifice, yet Early
Church fathers made a connection between the bread and wine and wrote it into the
canon of the Roman rite of the Mass. We are their heirs.
You may have seen the popular Icon of the Holy Trinity by the 15thCentury Russian,
Andrei Rublev. It depicts three visitors to Abraham, perhaps God and three angels. In
Genesis, it was quite common for God to visit with humans in the form of a messenger-
angel of the Lord.
Genesis 18. 1: “The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre (called Hebron
today), as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.” The revered oak or
terebinth tree was thought to be as old as the world itself. It stood on the spot on which
the Temple would one day stand. Some time before, God had promised Abe “I will bless
Sarah, and I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations;
kings of peoples shall come from her” [Genesis 17.15]. This thunderclap revelation caused
Abraham to “fall on his face and laugh, and say to himself ‘Can a child be born to a man
who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” [Gen.17.17].
Abe and Sarah had received a seemingly impossible promise to begin a whole new
nation, when both he and Sarah were ageing, and she was allegedly barren.
Ten years later, Sarah had become tortured by childlessness. Her barrenness ate at her.
She saw it as a threat to the fulfilment of God’s pledge to make a new proud nation
through Abraham. Sarah longed to give birth to a son, who would set the whole process
in motion. Thus, in what was, perhaps, a fit of frustrated pique, Sarah took matters out of
God’s hands and took them into her own. She concocted a scheme, which was so ill-
advised, she immediately regretted it. She had her Egyptian serving maid, Hagar, sleep
with Abraham to produce an heir. Abe was then a rather juvenile stud of eighty-six
years. From their lack of faith in God’s promise, emerged a problem. Hagar, when
happily, haughtily pregnant, turned on her mistress with brazen impudence. Her
contentious words rubbed salt into Sarah’s barren wounded womb. In turn, shrewish
Sarah blamed poor Abe for the negative marital result. Then Sarah flew into an
unreasonable tantrum with flashes of petulance, and impulsively drove Hagar out into
the wilderness to punish her and her unborn child. But an angel of mercy, (again,
possibly the pre-incarnate Son of God) appeared to urge Hagar to return to Abe’s
protection, and submit to Sarah, for the health of her son, adding, “I will give you more
descendants than you can count” [Genesis 16.9]. Hagar was overcome and cried: “Have I
truly seen the One who sees me? [Genesis 12.13].
The far-reaching implication of Sarah’s act still exists in the Middle East today. Hagar’s
son, Ishmael, called by God’s angel “a wild ass of a man,” became the founder of the
tribes, which grew into nation states arraigned against Jewry, to cause grave tension
today. But, one can understand Sarah’s frustration. She had grown too old to have a child
of her own, so, she thought to engineer a fulfillment of the divine promise to Abe.
Unwittingly, Sarah stepped into the role of God. Sarah thought that her solution to her
problem had been ideal, but, her seeking to push along God’s timetable ended in tears.
The Holy Book says that, in all, Sarah waited ninety years for her baby. Sarah needed to
read Verse 14 of this day’s Genesis text: “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” The
One who created from nothing the limitless reaches of space and the vast earth and all
that lives therein, the One who sustains from day to day the insane bad choices of
ungrateful earthlings, can surely create another teensy-weensy little human poo packet
at will. There is nothing too much outside the ordinary that God cannot do.
God chose Sarah and Abraham not because they were the best candidates for
parenthood, but, because they were not. Quite often, God chooses unlikely candidates,
marginal people, for great purposes. We could well think, in the face of the corona
pandemic, that, overseas, and not here, God had an off day when God let some leaders
put up their hand for high office, and, have now been found wanting. But, we also know,
that in the midst of some of humanity’s messing up, God will remain faithful and try to
correct the error. Isaiah quotes God “Was my arm too short to ransom you? Do I lack the
strength to rescue you?” [Psalm 50.2]. God puts miracles on the top shelf, so high no-one
can reach them unaided. If we can’t reach them on our own, we obviously need God.
Verse 2: “Abraham looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them,
he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground.” This was
unusual, because, as we know, in the blazing heat of the day, only “mad dogs and
Englishmen go out in the midday sun.” It was also remarkable that Abe could “run to
meet them.” In the verse before today’s reading, to seal the holy covenant with God, the
old man had just lopped off the foreskin of all the males over thirteen years in his camp,
including that of Hagar’s lad, Ishmael. The gathering of males would surely have been
immobilized in post-operative pain. This covenant of circumcision will be visited on all
his following Hebrew descendants thenceforth.
Verse 3-5: “He said, ‘My Lord, if I find favour with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a
little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest your selves under the tree. Let me
bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and, after that, you may pass on.’ So
they said ‘Do as you have said.’” Hospitality established a relationship between parties.
Abraham, the tent patriarch, felt the need to receive his guests properly.
Verse 6-8: “Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, ’Make ready quickly three
measures of choice flour, knead it and make cakes. He ran to the herd, and took a calf,
tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds
and milk and the calf that he had prepared and set it before them; and he stood by them
under the tree while he ate.”
The ’hurry’ words in this passage show Abe’s eagerness to fulfil his role as a gracious
host to the three travellers. Instead of “a little bread,” his over-the-top hospitality
became a flurry of activity and became a 5000 calorie nomads’ banquet. This quality
meal would be unavailable in a supermarket. Abe took a tender calf and slaughtered it
before it reached full maturity. This was corn-fed, not a hay-fed calf; it was destined for
the farmer’s own table. Meat was reserved only for special occasions. A family could not
afford to slaughter an animal as large as a twelve-month old calf for hot veal cutlets; it
would feed dozens of mouths, not just three visitors. There was more. Sarah was asked
to grind an enormous quantity of choice flour, the flour used only in a royal house [1
Kings 4.22], and bake the equivalent of forty-five loaves! Was Sarah moonlighting as a
Bakers’ Delight franchisee? Or, did she have a standing order with a group of hungry
refugees? Then, there were curds and milk. The “Song of Moses,” a history of Israel,
detailed the abundance of God’s provision: ”Curds from the herd, (perhaps yoghurt or a
cottage-cheese salad?) and milk from the flock, the produce of the field” [Deuteronomy
Abe did not know that one of the trio was the Lord. He was not trying to impress. He was
not seeking credit nor recognition. He was not trying to display his piety. For all he
knew, the trio were nothing more than penniless desert nomads. But, Abe treated them
as royalty come to visit, because his heart was filled with grace and love, which
responded immediately to human need, without thought of self or praise from others.
Abe may have read the words on a scroll: “Your reputation is what you do when everyone
is looking, while your character is what you do when no one sees.”
Q. When the need arises, are we like Abraham, who “ran from the tent to meet them”
[Gen. 18.2]. (I must be excused from running anywhere. Having lived for eight years
under a nightly shower of cement dust from nearby industry, my lungs won’t let me run
to save myself.) We cannot be like the preacher who spoke on the growing spirit of
callous indifference in his area. He illustrated it by telling how his friends and he saw
what seemed to be a drunk lying in the street, and, how everyone was stepping around
him and going on their way. He preached that he was appalled at their indifference, and
“do you know, when we all came back from a three-course lunch, he was still there!” Abe
acted from the heart. What would be your response?
Abe did not sit and eat, but “stood by them under the tree while they ate” to ensure their
every need was met. He was more like a waiter than a host [verse 8]. When we practice
hospitality, we belong in someone else’s heart. As a community, we come together in
brokenness to find that our small acts of being human together mend the cracks and
Cracks? May I quote Leonard Cohen’s anthem? “The birds they sing at the break of day.
Start again, I heard them say. Don’t dwell on what has passed away, or, what is yet to be.
Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. There’s a crack in everything,
that’s how the light gets in.” By the time we get to the second half of life, there will be a
few cracks in our foundations and in our walls. But, be encouraged. The cracks are
essential. That’s “how the light gets in,” and that’s where the creativity gets out. Abe’s
animated efforts for the three strangers suggests that Abe still trusted that God can do
and will do the impossible. Hebrews tells us “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for,
the conviction of things not seen. By faith, our ancestors received approval” [Hebrews
11.1-2]. As Abraham and Sarah will show, a faithful life can require abundant patience.
Hospitality was a primary value. Abraham ensured that his guests felt welcomed even
before he learned their business. First, he refreshed them, washing their sandalled feet,
soothing and healing them. Jesus will perform this act of humility at the Last Supper.
“He took off his outer robe and tied a towel around his robe…he began to wash the
disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel” [John 13.4-5]. Jesus explained “If I, your
Lord and teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. I have
set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” [John 13.14-15].
Secondly, Abraham offered the travellers rest under the Tamarind tree. People believe
that the Church is a cool sanctuary away from the outside world or from the heat of the
battle front as seen presently in the USA. Above the church exterior lintel should be the
words “Come to me, all who are heavy burdened and I will give you rest.” Above the door
going out, after we have been refreshed, should be the words “Now, take up your cross.”
People should find comfort in knowing that the Church is a place of rest. Thirdly, Abe
gave the visitors the best seats. He said “Rest your selves under the tree” [verse 4]. He
may even have moved out into the sun to let the visitors have the best seat in the shade.
Fourthly, Abe energized the travellers for the road ahead. He invited them to “refresh
yourselves, and, after that, you may pass on” [verse 5]. With Sarah’s help, he offered the
visitors a sumptuous meal. The pair gave a thanksgiving repast. Fifthly, Abe stood
waiting to serve the trio. He adopted the attitude of a servant. He made it his personal
responsibility to see that all needs were met. This is how we should treat visitors with
proper hospitality, treating them as guests of honour, welcomed, replenished, rested.
By this stage, did Abraham know one of the three was God? Or was Abe’s apparent
generosity transactional? That is, did he think that, if he and Sarah were generous to
God, God will be generous and send a son, to be called Isaac “Laughter.” Abe had earlier
been told that he and Sarah will found the nation to be called Israel. The founding father
will not be Ishmael, the son of Abraham and Hagar, Sarah’s maid.
Q. Do we ever think that if we do our best for God, then God will respond and give us
what we desire, quid pro quo? Do we think that if we are hospitable to a concern that we
know will please God, then God will be gracious to us?
God’s grace is present always, because God will always respond with what is ultimately
the best, simply because God is God, and God don’t do junk. Because we know that we
have been found first by God, we must welcome God, in whatever guise God may come,
with hospitality and generosity as a favoured and welcome guest. Hebrews 13.2 tells us
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this, have
entertained angels without unknowing it.” Hospitality simply means making other people
feel comfortable and at home.
Verse 9-10: ‘They said to him “Where is your wife, Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the
tent.” Then one said “I will surely return to you in due season and your wife, Sarah, shall
have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him.”
Having finished the magnificent repast, God got down to business. To Abe, suddenly it
became clear that the trio were no ordinary strangers. They were divine beings who
knew the full particulars of Abraham’s and Sarah’s former life and their prior dealings
with God. Did Abe think that they must have come to do something about it. But Abe was
suspicious. He, himself, had been a real cad before. Earlier in their married life, and
shortly after the arrival in Canaan, the onset of famine swept the pair south from Israel
to seek to live for a space in the Valley of the Nile. Sarah was then a remarkable beauty,
stunningly attractive, perhaps spoiled by the attention given her in Ur as “princess.” Abe
foresaw that the kingly pharaoh would want to take Sarah to his harem bed, which he
did. It is hard to imagine how a husband would act in that circumstance today, but,
fearing for their lives, Abe had warned his wife to claim she was Abe’s sister, not his wife
[Genesis 12.13]. In truth, Sarah was Abe’s half-sister by different mothers. His selfish
thinking that he might save his life if he acted as a brother of the unattached beauty,
oozed patriarchy, cowardice and a weakness in his faith in God. He knew that, if he
owned that he was her husband, and pharaoh was besotted by Sarah, Abe could die.
Thus, he had been willing to use his wife as a sexual lure, to be traded for wealth which
pharaoh lavished upon the pair. One must ask: was the molestation of Sarah’s body less
an issue than Abe’s physical safety? Had Abe lost faith in God’s protection and God’s
promise “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt”
[Genesis 12.3]. God had more mighty plans for the couple, and interrupted the tricksters’
deceit by inflicting a great plague on pharaoh’s house. Realizing that the plague anger
came from on high, Pharaoh was of no mind to take on Abraham’s God, and dismissed
the con-artists from his realm, giving them lavish gifts to leave [Genesis 12.10-20].
Now, long returned to the Holy Land, Abe was puzzled: “What did this three visitors
want?” His apprehension turned to “Phew! Relief!” as the benevolent nature of the visit
became known. Even though the trio had allegedly never met Sarah, nor heard her
name, the God-One renewed the divine promise “Sarah shall have a son.” The promise
reiterated the godly commitment offered before, but, now, gave a date: “in due season.”
Translated, it meant next year.
Verse 11-12: “Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be
after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I have grown old,
and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure (conception)?”
For years, Sarah had been marginalized and excluded from men’s business, not by
corona virus, but, social distancing for women was enforced by the culture of the time.
Sarah was in her tent possibly reflecting how women assumed little importance until
she had given her man a son. It was through the son that a man lived on; it was how a
kingly line lived on. The years of marriage had, at times, been quite painful. To follow the
call of God, Sarah, obeying without question, had once had to follow her man from the
civilized, urbane life in fertile green Mesopotamia to travel down to experience the
harsh vicissitudes of a nomadic life in the dust bowl that could be Canaan. After years
and years of tent existence, Sarah was still away out in the desert, with no family or
progeny, and without any future happiness through her children. This fate would be
replicated by all the emigrant founding mothers of colonial Australia, who had to sail
away from their fertile “green and pleasant land” especially the British Isles, to a vastly
raw frontier country Down-under.
Q. In such a patriarchal society as existed in the Holy Land, was this the very first inkling
that Sarah had of a covenant relationship made between Abraham and God?
It may not have been women’s business to know before this hot day. Hence, Sarah’s fist
natural response was shock and horror. Did she laugh nervously at the stupidly
improbable idea of a nonagenarian having a baby? She may have owned to herself
cynically “I am worn out. Abe’s worn out. We both just haven’t the energy for pleasure,
let alone conception.” Sarah knew that her body felt almost dead. She could feel the age-
wrinkles on her face. She saw her white hair fall. She sensed the arthritis in her bones.
Naturally, soundlessly, so she thought, she laughed as if in a dream. If Sarah had been
aware of God’s covenant promise, as time passed, she may naturally have concluded
“God has forgotten us,” and revoked his agreement. But, now, the over-the-top promise
has been renewed. Did Sarah think “But, God. Look at me. I’m bedraggled. I’m no longer fit
for the cover of Vogue. I’ve grown old. Abe has grown older. It’s too late. It’s a nonsense
that I can carry a baby to term, now.” Sarah remembered the original love romance from
so long ago and shook her head negatively, “shall I have pleasure?’ Perhaps she
anticipated the thoughts of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, who captured the sentiment
of old age and advised: “Do not go gentle into the good night. Old age should burn and
rage at close of day; rage, rage, against the dying of the light.”
Verse 13: “The Lord said to Abraham ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say “Shall I indeed bear a
child now that I am old?”’
Used to the patriarchal society of her day, from inside her tent, Sarah had thought her
chuckle was inaudible: “These chattering men cannot hear me.” Alarmed at being caught
out, Sarah responded “I did not laugh.” But, God is never fooled. Did Sarah’s laugh try to
limit God’s capacity to act? Sarah was naturally convinced, that, when it came to
pregnancies, her baby-making ship had long sailed. There were so many emotions at
work. She experienced confusion, stress, bewilderment, because such a challenging
dream, for which the pair had long hoped, was simply, utterly difficult to believe. Did
Sarah’s nerves get the better of her and she laughed as a subconscious attempt to calm
herself down at the news? Or, was her response a snort of disbelief? She may have asked
herself “How did these strange guys from the desert know about me?” There could have
been yet another dynamic at work. The promise may not have been foremost in both the
would-be parents’ minds, that baby Isaac would ever be conceived, if their marriage was
not travelling well. Would the promise of a child bring both closer together? Did Sarah
laugh at the incongruity of seeking to warm and ignite a marriage that had gone cold?
Or, was her laugh a positive warning light to her husband’s ignorance of her feelings?
Did God want Abraham to wake up to the fact that it takes two to tango with marriage,
to get his priorities right and to do his bit to save the relationship? If this is the case,
God’s alleged rebuke to Sarah’s laughter was done with a smile on God’s face and a
twinkle in God’s eye, and the words “Oh, yes you did.” It was a gentle reminder that God
is God, not Sarah.
Abe was now a millionaire land, stock and slave owner, perhaps completely distracted
by river heights and sheep-drenching and cattle pleuro-pneumonia. Had he little time
for his wife? She was not invited to the change-of-her-life-meeting under the Terebinth
tree. Was her laugh a dream of a might-have-been, yet a possibility still, a dream of pure
joy, playful joy, filled with delight at their future unimaginable happiness at the prospect
of a child, The Child of Promise, on which to found the new Hebrew nation, after such a
tedious passage of waiting. This would only come to pass IF Abe would truly work on
their distracted relationship. Was Sarah an “in for a penny, in for a pound” optimist, who
was willing to embrace the unthinkable, the unimaginable, even at her advanced age.
Did she laugh because, through faith in God, she was truly open to God’s new
possibilities, however miraculous they may be? Hebrews tells us that, while “Abraham
was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and
built by God, it was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was
barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise” [Hebrews 11.11-
Verse 14: “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time, I will return to you, in
due season, and Sarah shall have a son.”
Sixteen years before, God had taken Abraham outside “Look towards heaven and count
the stars, if you are able to count them. So shall your descendants be” [Genesis 15.6]. And,
Abe believed the Lord. At this news, Abe earlier fell on his face and laughed. Now, Sarah
winced at the mention of a date-of-birth set. Among the men gathered, someone had ben
drilling down into her secret inner sanctum, where, until now, she had felt somewhat
safe. But, without faith in God’s promise, Sarah won’t get pregnant. Luke’s account of the
angel visiting Mary to ask would she bear the Saviour of the world, was the story that
could have been Sarah’s many years before. Mary was a young thing whose mind was
filled with the one day of her life, her marriage with her spunky-monkey, Joe, and a life
of blissful child-rearing to follow. Her reply to angel was “How can this be, since I (am
fourteen years old and) know no man?” Then a pause and her answer came “Here I am,
the handmaid/bond-slave of the Lord. Let it be with me according to your word” [Luke
2.34, 38]. Mary was but a slip of a girl. Sarah was at the end of her long life. It was only
natural that she would bemoan “God, why have you waited this long? I have grown old
and my husband is old. What on earth can you do to re-jig our hanky-panky?” God does
not force Godself on anyone. God gives us the faith of others as an example, but
encourages our personal faith to grow, until it is genuine and truly personal. Then, the
wonderfully awesome God of the amazing impossible outcome stepped up to the plate.
Earlier, Abe “fell on his face and laughed,” at first news that he would father a child as a
centenarian [Ge.17.17]. But, God did not rebuke the man. Did God perceive Abe’s laugh
as a burst of sheer joy as an old geezer imagined nursing his new-born son? Did God
seem to rebuke Sarah, because her heart was still full of doubt at her concurring with
the impossible promise? God had to add “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? Is
anything too hard for God?” In her long lifetime, Sarah had awoken over 34,000
mornings. Did she still have to learn that no problem is too big for God’s power and no
person is too small for God’s love? Did she have to realize that God is bigger than any of
our problems, and any of our fears and any of our challenges.
Q. Could it be that God is asking you to dream the impossible dream, to do something
you feel totally inadequate to accomplish? God will always supply the tools for the task
which God assigns. God is the God of the impossible, and, we can trust him to equip us to
do what he calls us to do. A grieving widow incised on her husband’s tombstone “my
light has gone out.” Suddenly, she met a second Mr. Right. So, she added a line “I have
struck another match.”
We must think big.
Q. Is your God too small?
Q. When big ideas come, are you a possibility thinker or a paralysed thinker?
Q. Is God big enough to understand your need or your talent and where it can be
employed to best work for God?
Anything is possible if we get out of our entombing box to face every issue with a ‘can
do’ aim. Our church should be a church that challenges us to attempt the impossible.
Great believers and great achievers are attracted to great challenges. Graced by God’s
Holy Spirit, we should be able instinctively, intuitively, and impetuously to look at our
future, and our ideas for the future of St Philip’s. Then, we will want to turn our
possibilities into opportunities, and our opportunities into achievements.
The story of Sarah and Abraham will be repeated at the angelic annunciation to Mary of
Nazareth, many years hence.
Q. Why do you think the angel approached Mary with the Good News of salvation, yet,
did not tell Sarah, the founding mother of a significant part of the human race?
Q. Why did Abraham have Sarah busy herself in the preparation of the food for the
saintly travellers, then, edge her out of the story?
Scholars believe that this whole narrative was added to the Hebrew Scriptures in 586
BCE, at the time of the devastating destruction of Jerusalem and the forcible exile of its
people into Babylonian slavery. There, they would be strangers in a faraway land,
captive and, without hope. Yet, they remembered that God had made a promise with
Abraham back in the mist of history, a promise to make the Chosen People a family.
There had originally been twelve tribes settled in the land after the Exodus. During the
exile in Babylon, ten of the twelve tribes would be swallowed up and cease to exist,
married and settled into the foreign lands of exile. But, two tribes will return to take up
the traces once more to rebuild the kingdoms of Judea and Israel.
Sarah did have the last laugh on those around her. When her baby was born, Sarah
laughed with joy. She named the Child of Promise, Isaac, which means “Laughter.” She
said “God has brought me laughter and everyone, who hears about this, will laugh with
me” [Genesis 21.6].
I was once a visiting chaplain at the Mater hospital in Brisbane. The head pediatrician
was Dr. Slaughter. I suggested he drop his surname’s initial letter to become Dr Laughter
to better work with the littlies. He had never thought of it! It was Queensland, after all,
where the then chief justice was Mr. Mostyn Hangar. With him on the bench, what hope
would one have to not swing? I do hope that this homily has been like Abraham’s calf,
“tender and good.”