Sunday Proper 6 Year A Track 1
Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7, Psalm 116:1, 10-17, Romans 5:1-8, Matthew 9:35-10:23
Sarah, poor Sarah. When we come into the Genesis passage, our heart goes out to Sarah. She’s barren and hasn’t been able to give her husband an heir. And now she is very old, beyond the point when any woman could even think of having a baby. Then we find her in what should seem to be an embarrassing moment. We hear her laughing at herself as she eavesdrops on a conversation between her husband and three mysterious guests. ‘Me! Have a baby at my age? How preposterous.’ But no one else laughs, and no one else even thinks it is unusual that she was listening in on the conversation.
When we look at the passage, one of the guests asks Abraham “where is your wife.” He replies, “there in the tent.” It appears that where they are sitting is just outside the tent’s entrance. And I wonder if this question is actually the cue that these guests use to make sure they have Sarah’s attention. Regardless they knew that Sarah is within earshot. She was right there in the tent. So I think these words were made for Sarah to hear. After all, Abraham heard these words just a short time earlier.
If we turn to the previous chapter of our Bible, just 13 verses earlier in Genesis, we read,
“God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover 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.’ Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said 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?’ And Abraham said to God, ‘O that Ishmael might live in your sight!’ [May Ishmael, the son I had with my handmaid, be acceptable.] God said, ‘No, but your wife Sarah shall bear you a son, and you shall name him Isaac.”
We find that Abraham had the exact same reaction as Sarah did. He laughed at the unbelievable sound of having a baby so late in life. I think he wasn’t fully convinced that this would actually happen for he never told Sarah about it. If he did, she wouldn’t have been so surprised by the pronouncement. Neither of them could hardly believe this is possible even for God. But they do what God says and name the baby Isaac. The name Isaac means ‘he laughs’ and as we see before he was born, before he was even conceived, Isaac made both of his parents laugh.
God can take us places that we want to go but we are often afraid. Sometimes we pray for things and we don’t realize the full ramification or how difficult the answered prayer might be. They wanted children but how difficult would it be to raise a child at 90 or 100 years of age; even if you did have extra help. Many people have asked to find a lifelong companion and we found our spouse as an answered prayer, but this doesn’t make marriage easy.
The disciples find themselves as the answer to a prayer today. Jesus is going through the villages teaching, proclaiming the good news, and curing every sickness. The passage states at least one reason why Jesus does this. It’s because “he has compassion for them,” the people. “They were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus then says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” He continues, “Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Can you imagine the disciples then praying for these laborers to come, laborers to be shepherds to these marginalized people? Possibly no sooner then they finished this prayer did Jesus call the disciples together and give them authority to go into the neighborhoods and help. Imagine just praying for what Jesus asked and the next thing you find is that you are the help you prayed for. Even with all this authority, Jesus doesn’t say this job will be easy. You will be “like sheep [thrown] into the midst of wolves.”
Even with the dangers that Jesus points out, he doesn’t send the Apostles into the world to make disciples of all nations, as we read last week. That happened after his resurrection. Today’s story could be two years prior. Instead of tackling the world, Jesus says they are to look toward the people they have the most familiarity with; the Jewish people. Not the pagans and not the Samaritans. This seems to be good advice to start out small, start out in familiar territory. Then by following the Sprit and learning from their achievements and mistakes thy may, over time, find their ministry growing into something bigger.
The disciples weren’t sent blindly into their towns and village, nor are we. We can’t just be led blindly into the world. We need to investigate how we prevent mishaps and to create space for safety. But even after we have done our research it also doesn’t mean that we go into these experiences knowing all the answers. We are sent “out like sheep into the midst of wolves.” We are to “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” This takes courage and being humble enough to accept people that are different without imposing our ideals or prejudice on them.
As we move into our village helping those who are without a shepherd, we may have many questions. How will this get paid for? Who will keep us safe? With a large problem, we may wonder, am I actually doing anything? But I am confident that the Holy Spirit is before us and that these questions will be answered in the ways of our hearts. For when we do God’s work in the world everyone is blessed.