A sermon preached by Bob Keller on June 15, 2008 (Father’s Day) based upon Genesis 18: 1 – 15
Connie came home from choir practice last Thursday and told me a little story.
Somehow the subject that I was going to preach today came up. Jack attends the Tuesday morning men’s breakfast. Usually at those breakfast gatherings, we discuss the scriptures for the coming Sunday. This is especially true if I’m preaching – I’m searching for sermon ideas.
Well, Jack said, and I had to agree with him, “He’s got nothin’. I don’t know where he can go with those scripture readings.”
My special concern was that it will be father’s day. How in the world do these scriptures tie in to Father’s Day?
But with God all things are possible. So let’s take a look at today’s scripture and see if you agree with me.
The first thing we learn from today’s scripture is to be hospitable
Our message starts in the heat of the day. Abraham is seated at the entrance to his tent. This was yet another “stopping off” point for the wandering Abraham. It was in the desert, a place where afternoon temperatures frequently reach 110 degrees. Work was usually done early or late in the day. The afternoon was for rest.
Yet Abraham saw three men standing nearby. He hurried from his tent to greet the visitors. Hurried? Abraham was 99 years old! Yet the scripture says he “hurried” and when he greeted the strangers, he bowed low. Only servants bowed. Yet, here was Abraham, probably appearing much older than the visitors, bowing before them as a servant would. Didn’t Jesus ask us to serve one another many years later?
Then he asked that water be brought that the visitors might wash their feet and then rest underneath the trees. Can you imagine how refreshing that would have been? You’re on the hot desert with nothing but sandals for shoes and a cool basin of water is provided for your feet, not to mention the welcoming shade of a tree to sit under. Abraham’s humility is on display here.
Then Abraham offers something to eat. And this isn’t just a burrito and a Slurpee from the Kwickee Mart! Abraham “hurried” into the tent and tells his wife Sarah “Quick”, get some flour and make bread for our guests. You heard the word “seah” in the reading Three seahs of flour would have been a bit more than 50 pounds! Then he ran to the herd to select a calf. And not just a calf, but a tender, choice calf that it could be prepared for his guests. He also provided cheese and milk.
So, imagine, you’re at a restaurant – a party of three, and 50 pounds of bread and 50 pounds of veal, not to mention cheese and milk are laid out before you.
And did Abraham join them? No, he stood by under a tree while they ate.
Abraham welcomed his guests, he refreshed them, he offered them rest, he gave them energy for the road ahead and he stood by waiting to serve them further.
Is this instruction on how we should treat our children, our parents, guests to our church, people we work with, people we meet and greet every day?
Then the story reminds us of Abraham’s faithfulness.
The visitors ask for Sarah, Abraham’s wife. When he tells the visitors that Sarah is in the tent, the Lord said – now here is the first time in the story that we learn that Abraham’s guest is really the Lord God – “I’ll be back next year and your wife, Sarah, will have a son.”
Sarah heard this and laughed. She said, “Sure, now that I am worn out and my husband is old, now will I have that pleasure?”
We have to turn back for a moment to the preceding chapter of Genesis. Here God changes Abraham’s name from Abram. Abram – exalted father in Hebrew – to Abraham – father of many. This was in fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham that he would be the father of God’s nations.
Sarah had also undergone a name change. God instructed Abraham to no longer call her Sarai, but Sarah which means princess in Hebrew, for she would be the mother of nations and kings of peoples would come from her.
Abraham believed God and he walked before God and kept his end of the covenant with faith like a child has in his Father. Sarah – not so much.
Sarah believed God, too, but she got a little impatient. I think she really wanted to believe that from Abraham and herself would spring God’s nations, but she wasn’t willing to see things through in God’s time.
Can any of us relate to that? We live in an “instant gratification” society. “I want it now” is so often heard in stores that you’d almost think it was being played over the Muzak system. Sarah was no different.
Sarah had a maidservant named Hagar, an Egyptian woman. She encouraged Abraham to sleep with Hagar so that God’s promise might be fulfilled. Abraham obliged and Ishmael was born. Also in Genesis chapter 17 we find Abraham laughing at the prospect of him and Sarah having a child together. And for the same reason – he thinks they are too old. He is 99 and Sarah is 90. In fact, Abraham pleads with God that Ishmael might live under God’s blessing.
But God insists that another child will be born, one to Abraham and Sarah, that will fulfill his promise, and his name will be Isaac, which in Hebrew, means laughter.
Abraham may have doubted God, but he took action anyway and as a sign of his faith in God’s covenant, everyone in his household, free and servant, himself and Ishmael included, were circumcised.
Abraham came to know that his guests included God himself, but Sarah was inside the tent. How could she have known who the guests were? So when she heard talk, yet again, of her, a barren woman, having a child at her age, she laughed.
The story is told of a woman in her late eighties that went to the doctor because she had a persistent case of hiccups. A relatively new young doctor was assigned to care for her, which he did.
As the young doctor was walking down the hall, he met one of the older doctors just as screams echoed from the exam room of the old woman. The older doctor quickly checked the chart and said to the young doctor, “She came in for a case of hiccups. What treatment did you give her that she’s screaming so?”
“I told the nurse to tell her that I checked her tests and to tell her that she’s pregnant. Bet she doesn’t have hiccups anymore.”
Just imagine a couple, aged 90 and 99, being told “There’s still time. You’ll have a baby.” God’s time, not our time. That comes to us in verse 14. God says to Abraham, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”
Barbara Folsom tells the story of a young, new preacher walking with an older more seasoned preacher in the garden one day and he was feeling insecure about what God had for him to do. So he inquired of the older preacher. This older preacher walked up to a rose bush and then handed the young preacher a rosebud and told him to open it without tearing off any petals.
The young preacher looked in disbelief at the older preacher and was trying to figure out what a rosebud could possibly have to do with his wanting to know the will of God for his life and for his ministry.
Noticing the young preachers inability to unfold the rosebud while keeping it intact, the older preacher began to tell the following poem:
“It is only a tiny rosebud,
A flower of God’s design;
But I cannot unfold the petals’
With these clumsy hands of mine.
The secret of unfolding flowers
Is not to such as I.
God opens this flower so sweetly,
When in my hands they fade and die.
If I cannot unfold a rosebud,
This flower of God’s design,
Then how can I think I have wisdom
To unfold this life of mine.
So I will trust in him for his leading
Each moment of every day.
I will look to him for guidance
Each step of the pilgrim way.
The pathway that lies before me,
Only my Heavenly Father knows.
I’ll trust Him to unfold the moments,
Just as He unfolds the rose.
Is anything too difficult for God? The God we’re talking about here is the God that created all of this out of nothing. But he didn’t create and move on. He cared enough to stay around to guide us, care for us, to give us what we need when we need it, and to withhold our wants when it’s in our best interest. He’s the God that comforts us in our sorrow, stays by us when we feel alone, laughs with us when we’re happy, cries with us when we’re sad, gives us courage when we’re in danger, strength when we feel weak and he gave us a pathway to eternal life with Him though His Son, Jesus.
So what does any of this have to do with Father’s Day?
Abraham, the father of nations, is an example for all of us, not just fathers, to follow. Be hospitable.
Look at the front of your church bulletin when you get a chance. Our church mission statement is there. It says, “In a hostile, hurting world we reach out…”
Let us always “reach out” to one another just as Abraham did to the three strangers.
And have faith. Believe that nothing is too hard for God. “For through Him all things are possible.”
A little girl asked her Daddy, “How big is God.”
Now how would you answer that one? That’s not unlike asking how big is the sky or why is it blue..
Hard question for Dad. But he wisely answered. “Just a little bigger than you need him to be.”
And there’s our answer. Allow God to be big enough to take away your temptations. To make you less desperate and less self-serving. Be a little more than you need to be. Be a little more hospitable. Love a little more. Give a little more time. Be a little more forgiving. Appreciate more the gifts that God has given you.
As God is the perfect Father to all of us, let us strive to be better parents. And if you’re not a parent, be a better example to those younger than yourself. We always hear adults talk of the younger generation as if we had nothing to do with them being here.