Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Ridiculous Investment

Jeremiah 31:31-34; 32:1-8
“A Ridiculous Investment”

        I was listening to NPR Tuesday when the news of the earthquake in Mexico was reported.  Because it occurred in a sparsely populated area it will probably not receive the publicity of some of our more recent catastrophes but it continues to remind us of how fragile and unpredictable our universe is.  In light of our text this morning, it reminded me of an earthquake in Lisbon on All Saints Day in 1755.  This event devastated the Portuguese capital, killing thousands, sparking a debate throughout Europe on God’s role in natural and manmade disasters.  At the time Lisbon was a religious center second only to Rome in importance. The fact that the event happened on All Saints Day was seen as blasphemous.  The earthquake spurred a conversation asking questions about the role of God in the life of God’s creation.  The two questions which caused the most alarm continue to be raised in conversations today.  First, why does God allow such devastation to ruin God’s good creation?  The second, and I believe more difficult is, why doesn’t God intervene, preventing the slaughter of the innocent?
        For anyone who would like to read about the history of this debate I would recommend a work recently published by Tom Long titled What Shall We Say; Evil, Suffering and the Crisis of Faith?  If you are looking for easy answers to this on-going debate, I warn you that Long’s conclusions may not be satisfactory.  I am not sure there is an answer that fully explains suffering, evil and God’s place in this complicated equation.  But the text that we have this morning pushes us back into the conversation and then leaves us with an answer that is either an extraordinary example of Godly reliance or absolute foolishness.  It is amazing how often faith is described as both.  
        The Book of Jeremiah is reflective of and responsive to the historical crisis of the last days of Judah, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 587 B.C.E.   This crisis is the dominant event in the Old Testament.  Much of Old Testament theology was shaped by this episode and the exile which followed.   In this midst of this crisis resides the bigger than life personality of Jeremiah.  Historically we can not determine if the prophet represents one or many voices, but we can be sure that the theological premise that drives this book is the concept of covenant.  Israel’s covenant with Yahweh is rooted in the memories and mandates of the Sinai tradition.  Simply put the covenant stated, “I will be your God and you will be my people.”  It was a contract based on the sovereignty of God and the expected obedience of Israel.  In simple terms, compliance to the law resulted in rewards.  Disobedience resulted in heavy sanctions leading to death or displacement.
        Therefore, in light of covenant theology, when the armies of Babylon camped outside the walls of Jerusalem, Jeremiah, while not denying the power of Nebuchadnezzar, believed the presence of Babylon was incorporated into the intention of Yahweh.  Because Jerusalem hadd sinned and ignored the covenant, the results would be destruction and exile. 
        I think we are all familiar with cause and effect theology.  We act, God reacts.  We sin, we are punished.  In truth it is a bit simplistic yet this thought pattern still prevails.  I remember a couple of years ago Pat Roberson responded to the earthquake in Haiti by proclaiming God was punishing Haiti for pacts it made with the devil 400 years ago.  Robertson was referring to the emergence of what we now call voodoo as an expression of religious belief. When Robertson made that statement I figured he must have been smoking something a bit illegal.  Now that he has publicly endorsed marijuana I guess he was.  But I digress. There is a second, more complicated theological issue which strongly emerges from this book.  It is the pathos of God.   Despite the stubbornness and defiance of Judah, God can not  give up on this relationship.  When I read Jeremiah 31 I am reminded of Hosea 11.  It depicts God as a loving and patient parent trying to deal with a disobedient child.  “When Israel was a child I loved him.  I called him out of Egypt.  But the more I called to him the more Israel went from me.  Yet it was I who taught Israel how to walk.  It was I who took him in my arms.  It was I who lifted Israel to my cheek. It was I who fed him.   How can I give you up, O Israel?  How can I hand him over?  My heart recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender.”
        Anyone here raise the perfect child?  Anyone here have a moment as a parent when you wanted to throw your hands up in utter defeat?  We set the parameters and we expected those rules to be observed.  We carefully explained our reasoning and lovingly did all the right things.  We read Green Eggs and Ham; we rocked them to sleep listening to Dylan or the Grateful Dead; we fed them apples, bananas and green beans; we even made sure their shirts and pants always matched.  Then one day we noticed little Adam and little Eve were next door climbing in the neighbor’s tree and talking to a snake.  Where did we go wrong?  What should we have done differently?  What do we do next?  Truth is, we never gave up on them, because we had taught them how to walk.
        Is God beyond those same feeling that we have as parents?  Not according to Jeremiah.  And that puts God in that awful place between a rock and a hard spot.  The covenant was to be obeyed and disobedience resulted in punishment.  And yet the God we find in the pages of Jeremiah and Hosea, this God that spills into Second Isaiah and Jonah, this God that dominates the Psalm, this God that explodes into the gospels, this God of compassion and mercy and grace loves us like a mother and a father and everything in between.  This tension between the covenant sanctions and the pathos of our creator exposes a passion, an ambiguity, even an absurdity we expect to find in parents but not in our God. I hope that last sentence bothers some of you because it bothers me to make such a statement.  Rules are rules, break the rules and the consequences are understood, especially when relating to a covenant with God.  And yet this God, this Yahweh, this Father of the one we call Jesus, disrupts the eternal sanctions of the covenant by promising that God will restore the unhealthy relationship.
        I love the words we find in Jeremiah 31.  God will no longer write the words in stone.  God will write the words upon our heart.  The covenant now will not just be with a chosen people.  It will be with each one of us.  Furthermore the broken covenant will be renewed and the relationship between God and God’s people will be once again be restored.   Of course there is a small catch.  This renewal will not happen immediately.  Jerusalem would be demolished.  The Jews would be hauled off to Babylon where they stayed for a generation.  But Jeremiah was promised that one day, the children of Israel would come home; one day, the city would be repaired; one day, the Temple would be rebuilt;, one day, the covenant relationship would be restored; one day, God would walk among God’s people; one day, maybe not this day, but one day soon.
        How does one react to such a promise?  How does one make a symbolic gesture to show that even in the midst of defeat, even in the midst of slavery, in the midst of death, even in the midst of unrepentant sin, God has a plan.
        Jeremiah went out and bought a piece of land.  Let’s understand the complete significance of this.  Jerusalem was about to burned to the ground.  Jeremiah knew this.  The warring tendencies of the Babylonians have been well documented.  Basically they carried off a segment of the population into slavery and killed the rest.  They burned anything made of wood and dismantled the rest. Everything of value was seized or destroyed. Jeremiah knew this.  He knew chances are he would not live to see his next birthday.  And yet he bought a piece of land.  What are we to make of this?  Walter Brueggemann calls this a case study in fidelity.  Jeremiah believed that God will always be faithful to God’s word.  If God promises restoration there will be restoration.  Therefore in an act that some would celebrate as unprecedented faith, an act others would declare as madness, Jeremiah purchased a piece of land everyone knew would be worthless with in hours.  
        What does that say about Jeremiah?  What does that say about God?  What does this say about us?  How much of our time is spent between the impending doom of death and the promise of life.  I think this is a critical question that we should grapple with each time we move toward Holy Week.  I suspect everyone here understands the pain of Good Friday.  I am not talking about the death of Jesus.  I am speaking about those moments of personal injury or impending illness.  I am talking about those sudden catastrophes when your life is taken from your control.  I am talking about failed relationship,  the death of a dream, the end of hope.  We understand Good Friday.
        On the other hand we have celebrated the joy of Easter.  Again I am not referring directly to the resurrection of Jesus.  We have witnessed days of liberation from that which enslaves us.  We have received doctor’s reports that announce miracles where none seemed possible.  Deb and I have two grandchildren by methods that were science fiction a generation ago.   We know the joy of Easter.
        But we live most of our lives as if it were Saturday.  We live between suffering/uncertainty and the dream of liberation/ rebirth.  We live most of our lives waiting… on God, waiting.. on each other, waiting.. on Easter.  It is in the Saturday time, between the calamities that befall us and the possibilities before us that we are asked to remember the covenant written on our heart that states, somehow, perhaps in ways that we might never understand, God will restore that which has been broken.  We are asked to buy a piece of land in Madrid, or Mexico.  We are asked to invest in lives that are broken and seem beyond restoration.  We are asked to have faith where no faith seems warranted, and offer hope where no hope seems possible.  We live in the shadow of the cross, there is no denying this.  But we also live in a time when even the cross gives way to life.   How do I prove this?  I can’t.  But I continue to believe, despite everything I might encounter, despite anything I might be told, despite all my questions, despite all doubts, despite everything that tells me otherwise, God is faithful…...and that…… despite all else…… is sufficient.
                                                        To God be the glory,  Amen.   

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Whine Country

Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:14-17
“Whine Country”

        My sister is an excellent educator and has dedicated her life to the development of young people.  Presently she teaches very young children in a Head Start Program.  Like it or not she is teacher, mother, confidant and protector to a group of children who are too young to fully appreciate how much my sister loves them.  For some of these children my sister might be the only person who truly cares and works toward the possibility that one day these children might have a chance to compete with other children their same age.  I don’t know how she does it.  I would not last a day in her situation and yet she has done this for years.  Like many children, they have short attention spans.  Like most children, have minds of their own.  And like every child, sometime they whine, just to be whining.
        God probably picked Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt because at some point in his life he was a Head Start Teacher.  The second half of the Book of Numbers seems to be a continual story about the moaning and groaning of the children in the wilderness.  They whined about everything.  God gave them manna and the next week, they demanded meat. God gave them quail, and they demanded something with four legs.  God gave them water and they said it tasted bad.  God gave them water that was sweet they said it wasn’t cool enough.  Sometimes when reading about their travels through the wilderness, it appears all they do is whine.  Once they had been slaves in Egypt, crying out for mercy; now they were free, heading for a land of milk and honey, whining all the way.
        They complained so much even God got fed up.  Moses on more than one occasion had to intervene and pray for their deliverance.  One of my favorite stories is when God wanted to let them die in the wilderness and Moses said, “God, you can’t do that.  If they die, the people in Egypt will say that even you couldn’t handle such a spoiled group of kids.”  So the  grumbling continued until we come to this strange and disturbing story about snakes and the salvation of God.
        It began once again with the people whining.  “God, why did you bring us out here in the wilderness?   There is no food or water and what food we have taste awful”.  So God sent snakes into the camp.
        I realize in some parts of the Middle East snakes are seen as wise creatures.  I have read where snakes are a symbol of healing.  That is all well and good, but as far as I am concerned, any mention of snakes is enough to make my skin crawl.  I know certain snakes eliminate the rat population, certain snakes make wonderful pets and any snake with a rounded head is not even poisonous.  That hardly matters.  To me a snake is a snake and if I spot one I start looking for a hoe rather than the geometric circumference of its skull.
        Sending children to bed without Manna is one thing.  But infiltrating their camp with snakes seems down right nasty.  And yet, if I am able to set aside my own inhibitions and view this story through the mindset of this ancient people,  there is some really good stuff here that plays well even today.
        Karen Joines, in her book Serpent Symbolism in the Old Testament, writes, “Snakes represent both life and death.  Their fangs are strong enough to puncture flesh, yet their eyes flash with wisdom.  Furthermore,  they annually discard their old flesh, signifying a reoccurring youthfulness.  The snake became an object of both intense animosity and reverence.” 
        Snakes fillled the camp.  According to the writer of Isaiah they were fiery snakes that spewed death.  Everyone bitten died. The people cried out asking God to intervene and once again God decided to rescue them. Moses was instructed to fashion a snake on a stick and hold it high above the people.  Those who looked up at the snake were healed.
        What a perfect vehicle for the writer of the book of Numbers to symbolize the plight of the children of Israel.  On the one hand they are mired in the Wilderness, a place of death.  You might remember, because of their unwillingness to trust God only two of them make it to the Promised Land.  And yet the wilderness also represents the opportunity for the transition from slavery to new life.  The second generation, those born in the desert, those who shed their skins of disbelief, looked up to God, and found life.   
        From the perspective of those of us living in the 21st century this story probably would have been lost in the annals of Jewish folklore had it not also been strategically placed in the third chapter of John.  Here we find that intriguing story of Nicodemus, a learned member of the Sanhedrin, who quietly spent time with Jesus to reap the wisdom of this young teacher.  The conversation began with Jesus informing Nicodemus that in order to fully comprehend what he was saying, Nicodemus must be born again.  This notion astounded the learned scholar.   In jest, the old Jew spoke of the impossibility of reentering the womb of his mother.  Jesus smiled and responded, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up.”
        Nicodemus’ mind flashed back to the wilderness.  He knew this story of death and life.  And I suspect he was beginning to understand that the person in front of him was more than a learned Rabbi.  Before Nicodemus could speak, Jesus spoke words that many of us learned as children, “For God so loved the world, he gave his only son, and whoever believes in him will not die but will have eternal life.”   (stop)
        There is a wonderful story that many of you may have heard, but it is worth telling again.  Arguably the greatest theologian of the first half of the 20th century was Karl Barth.  Certainly his commentary on the Book of Romans radicalized the modern approach to biblical scholarship.  Barth spent much of his life writing “Christian Dogmatics”, a twelve volume tome on the doctrine of God, the doctrine of Creation and the doctrine of Reconciliation.  If you would like to read it, it takes up nearly one shelf of one of my book cases.  Having completed an extensive three day lecture on his Dogmatics, a student asked if Barth could briefly summarize his faith.  The audience gasped at the absurdity of the question.  Dr. Barth raised his hand to calm the crowd and then said, “God so loved the world”.  
        Of all my favorite scriptures it still remains the one that many folks cling to.  “God so loved the world.”  When you think about it, it is an absurd statement.  Why should God care about me?  Where is it written in the Manual of Gods that the Almighty is obligated to respond to my needs and desires?  And yet here is Jesus, late at night with one of the best and brightest the Synagogue has to offer, comforting Nicodemus with the very words that have comforted hundreds of millions.
        God knows we whine.  God knows we find reasons to complain. God knows we often look up to heaven and say, “Is this all you got?”  And yet Jesus still says to us, “Look away from disappointment; look away from momentary tribulation; look away from death and look to me, the giver of life.
                Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
                Look full in his wonderful face;
                And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
                In the light of his glory and grace.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Foolishness of the Cross

“Foolishness of the Cross”
I Cor. 1:18-25

        Monday morning, at about 6:40, I opened my front door to begin a new week.  I had a fresh agenda and a lot of exciting ideas rolling through my brain.  I was half way to the church before dawned on me not only  was in the middle of a snow storm, I was probably going to be the only person to show up for the Prayer Group.  But that hardly mattered.  I looked forward to beginning the process of what I knew was going to be a brilliant sermon on the fourth commandment, “Remember the Sabbath.”  Monday and Tuesday I spent extensive time developing my thoughts and it wasn’t until about 3:30 Tuesday that I realized I had nothing.  I had composed a wonderful lecture on the history of Sabbath and its development or lack there of in Western civilization and sometime, if Bill Neville would allow me to do so, I have a four part series, complete with power point, pithy illustrations and compelling discussions questions I would love to present during the Sunday School hour.  But I had no sermon.
        So Wednesday morning I reluctantly looked at the text from Corinthians and was greeted with these words, “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”  Those daunting words are what drove me to consider preaching a sermon on the Sabbath in the first place. Paul’s approach to the conflict dominating the church in Corinth leaves all of us gasping for breath.  I find myself agreeing with Ian Markham who writes,  “From time to time, Christians stand back and acknowledge how odd our faith looks.  We claim the most divine action in history is the humiliating death of a poor Jew at the hands of an occupying power.  Our central symbol is the equivalent of a hangman’s noose.  Instead of a demonstration of God’s power, we confirm weakness and failure.” 
        OUCH!  It would be so easy to run from Paul and rework my Sabbath effort minus the power point and four part harmony.   But the problem is, this passage points to perhaps the greatest point of contention in the history of the Christian religion.  While we have this desire to approach faith intellectually, faith by its very nature confuses and even threatens us with its paradoxical nature.  What greater paradox could there be than the cross?
        Paul wrote at least five letters to the church in Corinth.  Those letters comprise what we now call First and Second Corinthians.  This was a church with serious problems.  The members fought over communion, baptism, and sexual issues.  It sort of resembled our denomination.  All of this was secondary to a battle over which the proponents of human knowledge and freedom found themselves in direct opposition to Paul’s understanding of the origins of grace.  I might suggest that this conversation is also alive and well within many congregations.   Who champion the concepts of intellect and freedom?  Isn’t our thirst for freedom birthed in the ability to develop independent thoughts?  Wasn’t it Jefferson who said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be”?  I couldn’t agree more. So how do we respond to Paul’s paradoxical message concerning the powerlessness and foolishness of the cross?
        I have a theory.  Like most of my theories it is based on little more than a slightly educated guess, but I have a theory that many of you sitting here this morning wished ministers would speak a little less about the cross and a little bit more about our human potential.  Another way of putting that is to say you wish preachers would spend less time on sin and more time on the advancements accomplished by the human species.  I am in complete agreement.  If we want to dwell on bad news, we can watch CNN, Fox News, or listen to any political debate.  We come to church to hear good news, uplifting news, news that will carry us through the next week.  God knows that.  In both Exodus and Deuteronomy we are given a wonderful list that outlines how the human experiment is to proceed if it desires to live harmoniously.  I believe it goes like this:
        Believe in One God;
        Don’t try to limit God through human made images;
        Don’t insult God by misusing God’s name;
        Value the seventh day as one of rest and worship;
        Honor your elders;
        Don’t murder;
        Don’t break covenant relationships in order to love another; Don’t steal;
        Tell the truth;
        Don’t worship the false god of materialism.

        How has that worked out so far?  How have we, God’s most precious creation, responded to what we often refer to as the 10 Suggestions.  As a scholar of the Old Testament, I can assure you the original recipients of these commandments miserably failed to respond to this code of moral guidelines.  I am willing to be persuaded the human experiment has shown signs of promise since the days of crusades and inquisitions, I cannot believe God is completely pleased with our effort.
        How often do we lie?  How often to do cheat or steal? How often do we run after the god of materialism? How often do we ignore our elderly?  How many gods do we worship?  And we are the choir.  We are the one’s who are trying.  We are God’s chosen.  What about everyone else?      How hard are they trying?
        I believe the first great truth of biblical ethics is God has worked harder than us to achieve human perfection. 
        The second great truth of biblical ethics is God loves us a whole lot more than we love each other.
        This leads to my third, greatly debated, truth of biblical ethics.   Perfection was sacrificed for my imperfection.
        I believe this is the single uniqueness of Christianity.  We are not the only monotheistic faith.  We are not unique in saying God has a personal relationship with us.  The essence of the Ten Commandments is not exclusive to us.  Other faiths believe in an afterlife.  All religions claim you are to love your neighbor as you love yourself.  Many religions have a great prophet. I would suggest our only uniqueness the significance we place on the Cross.  And this idea is seen as absolute foolishness to not only our religious counterparts but to many Christians who struggle with the theological concept we call atonement?
        The cross raises so many difficult questions.  Who exactly was Jesus?  Who was responsible for his death?  Would a loving God condone a sacrificial death?  What significance do we attach to that death? Did the gospel writers, particularly the writer of John, misunderstand the significance of Jesus?  Were we all taken in by Paul’s emphasis on atonement?  And finally, particularly for those who were raised in the Protestant tradition, were Calvin and particularly Luther mistaken when they rejected the classic Latin understanding of atonement and returned to the Pauline confession that “God was in Christ, reconciling himself to the world.”
        Recently theologians such as Marcus Borg have struggled with the conventional Christian idea that first, the only way God can forgive sins is if there is an adequate sacrifice and second, only those who know and believe Jesus was this sacrifice can be saved.   I think there is a third concern for Borg, which is if God has already saved us why would we be willing to live radical lives that might transform the world.
        Those are all good questions.  I hope during this season of you explore your own beliefs and raise questions to your fellow travelers in faith. Personally, I confess that I am overwhelmed by the concept of the cross and cling to it as a means of radical grace.  I believe the suffering and death of Jesus to be sacramental expression of the love of God for all creation, without exception.  I believe the significance of the resurrection is it proclaims that love is more powerful than hate, compassion triumphs over oppression and vulnerability overcomes power.  Please understand, that is a statement of faith, not fact, and to many it will sound like a lot of foolishness.  But this faith has allowed me to believe that God through Christ has the capacity and willingness to celebrate and suffer with me no matter the circumstances.    This not only excites me, it compels me to be a transforming agent to others, no matter who they are and no matter where they encounter may path in life. 
        I believe, Jesus freely took up the cross for me, and that single act of grace becomes my reason for sacrificially taking up the cross for others.  And should I fail…………………………. God’s grace still abounds.                                         Amen.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Communion Meditation

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-17; Romans 4:13-17
“Communion Meditation”

        I would guess that 99.9% of all jokes about heaven have something to do with our unworthiness.  This is not an open invitation to tell me jokes about heaven after the service.  I suspect I have heard every heaven and preacher joke told.  After all, I play golf.  Once I join a foursome, golfers figure they can’t cuss so they have to tell jokes and evidently the only clean ones they know are about preachers and heaven.         
        Jokes aside, the great misguided theological question of our time might just be, “Am I worthy enough to get into heaven?”  When I arrive at the Pearly Gates will I find an entrance that rivals the access to Augusta National or an elevator that only goes down?  Will a guy resembling Alex Trebek be standing there with a tally sheet that announces if I qualify for the final Jeopardy question?  Did I do enough before my final breath was taken?  The Apostle Paul rejects this talk about our unworthiness and reminds us of God’s faithfulness.
        I will be the first to admit the answer Paul gives this morning will hardly be satisfactory to a vast majority of folks who fall into two distinctively different categories.  The first group has carefully evaluated the worst society has to offer and come to the logical conclusion that their sinfulness is really no big deal.   When we compare ourselves to Hannibal Lector, it is amazing how easy it is to conclude that we are fairly good folks.  The Apostle Paul burst our bubble by reminding us that the original expectation of God is perfection. God knows the corners we cut, our thoughtlessness, our deeds done and undone, our selfishness and pettiness. Paul sums it up by saying all have sinned and fallen short of God’s expectations.
        The second group believes sin is beyond even God’s forgiveness.  These folks sink so deep into human despair that pharmaceutical companies can’t keep up with the increasing demand for Prozac and the like.  To this group Paul would say the grace of Christ restores our relationship to God and to each other so stop rehashing your failures and your sins.
           Paul is usually so serious.  Therefore I find it refreshing that Paul uses the comical story of the announcement of the birth of Isaac to make his point that God’s faithfulness trumps our merit…….. or the lack there of.
        I love this story.  One can hardly read it and keep a straight face.  Abraham, the father of three great religions, was nearly 100 years old.  Years before, Abraham and Sarah had left the home of their ancestors on the promise that God would establish a great nation in their name.  Everything God had promised had come to pass, except a child.  At the ripe old age of 86, Abraham decided he had waited long enough.  He impregnated Hagar, the slave of Sarah, and Abraham was blessed with a son.  Now between you and me I am not sure how dealing with the terrible twos at 86 is a blessing, but I didn’t write this story.  13 years after the birth of Ishmael, God came by for a visit.  The news God brought was, to say the least, interesting.  Ishmael will not be the link to greatness.  There will be another child and Sarah, ninety year old Sarah, will be the mother.  In one version Abraham laughed.  In the other, Sarah laughed.  Does it matter who laughed loudest?  Frederick Buechner wrote, “Isaac was born in the geriatric ward and Medicare picked up the bill.” We should all laugh, first in amazement and then with joy when we tell this story.
        Beyond the humor, beyond the absurdity, exists a God that knows no limits.   We can get all caught up in the exact ages of Sarah and Abraham.  We can write volumes concerning their faithfulness and sometimes their unfaithfulness.  But the truth is, the One who is the most faithful is the One who makes the covenant, the promise, with the blushing bride and groom, “I will be your God and you will be my people.”
        From the beginning of the Abraham story, we are told that Abraham will be the father of a great nation.  Except for the birth of a son, wonderful things happen. Abraham and Sarah are given land, wealth, prestige.   They settle into their retirement home and have a beautiful view of the mountains.   They seem quite content that almost everything God promised came to pass.  But this story is not to end incomplete.  This story was not to end with the death of Abraham and Sarah.  This story was not destined to end with the family of Ishmael.  God made a promise, a covenant. And God’s faithfulness does not fall short.
        I am reminded of the people of Israel when they were slaves in Egypt. They had no hope of survival.  All that kept them alive was one memory, the covenant Yahweh had made with their father Abraham.  And God was faithful.
        I am reminded of a young boy standing before a giant in the valley of Elah.  No man or woman of Israel dared to stand in the shadow of Goliath, except this boy….. this boy who trusted the God of Abraham….. this boy who demonstrated a radical faith in a God of radical possibilities.  And God was faithful.
        I am reminded of a poet, living in exile.  Amidst the towers of Babylon this grandson of Abraham, sang, “Comfort, comfort,  my people.  Every valley shall be lifted up. Every mountain made low and we shall know the faithfulness of our God.”
        I am reminded of a cup, a cup of salvation lifted by a great grandson of Abraham.  “This is a new covenant, a covenant for all people, a covenant for the remission of all sin.  Drink all ye of it and rejoice in the faithfulness of our God.”
        We laugh at a 90 year old woman getting pregnant.  Is that more impossible than a nation walking on dry land to liberty?  Is that more impossible than a boy slaying a giant?  Is that more impossible than the Jews streaming out of Babylon without a hand raised to stop them?  Is that more impossible than the grace of the God of Abraham being poured out on all people?  
        No matter your age,
                God is faithful.
        No matter what imprisons you,
                God is faithful.
        No matter what lords over you,
                God is faithful.
        No matter what sin taunts your spirit,
                God is faithful.
        No matter what transgression haunts your soul,
                God was faithful……..Yesterday                                                                  God is faithful……..Today
                                        God will be faithful……Tomorrow.
                        Laugh….. Rejoice……. even Cry,
                                        In the faithfulness of our God.