Sarah had every reason to laugh. To chuckle at the sheer ridiculousness, to cackle

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1 Oh yeah, she laughed. She certainly laughed. A version of this sermon manuscript was preached by the Rev. Erin Counihan during worship at Oak Hill Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, MO on Sunday, July 17, Text: Genesis 18:20-32 I love that she laughed. I love, love, love that she laughed. Sarah had every reason to laugh. To chuckle at the sheer ridiculousness, to cackle at the absurdity, to giggle with doubt. Sarah s life hadn t been easy. She was supposed to be this expected wife and mother. She was supposed to spend her days raising the heirs of a good man, the heirs of a great nation. And yet, she couldn t make that happen. Out of desperation, she d tried to trick her way into motherhood and out of her culture s shame, sending her servant Hagar to her husband, and she had been successful in this shifty method to success, but it still hadn t solved the problem. She still wasn t a mother, and now she had this complicated situation with her servant and Abraham s other child and it had all become a shameful, painful mess. She was old and weary and yet, God had promised them this future, this family. They were already old when that promise was made, and it had now been about 25 years. 25 YEARS of waiting on God s promise. I get mad when I have to wait 72 hours to move on to the next level of candy crush. 25 YEARS?!?! 1

2 And now these three show up here. And Abraham is all about welcoming them and showering them with food and hospitality and they have this message, that this is the year, finally, after all this time, when she is well past the age of it even being possible, not to mention being pleasant or comfortable or responsible, but past her own dreams of it being possible, she gets word from this stranger that this is the year she will become a mother. And she laughs. When I was in seminary, I sang in the choir, and my first year, at the end of the year, when they were handing out awards, I was honored when my name was called by our esteemed choir director, Dr. Martin Tel. He gave me the award for Best Laugh, then said I just wish we didn t hear so much of it I tend to let out a loud, some say obnoxious, I prefer to call it enthusiastic, laugh when something really gets me. Sarah didn t do that. The text says she laughed to herself. But, there was one who heard. And who called her on it. God asks her: why do you laugh? Why do you doubt? This woman, Sarah, of all, deserves that laugh. She s been waiting for God to show up, to fix things, to answer her prayers, to help her, to follow through on this promise to make it right to DO SOMETHING- FOR. SO. LONG. 2

3 We know how Sarah feels, don t we? How long, O Lord, we cry. When, O Lord? When will this pain end? When will you send help? When will I know what s next? When will it get just a little bit easier? When will you fix this? When will there be peace? When will our dear ones and our neighbors and those strangers stop bleeding and breaking and dying? When will the tragedy and the fighting and the hurting end? When will we feel safe again? O Lord, how long? In the 25 years, since God gave that covenant to Abraham, my guess is Sarah had a few of her own How Longs for God. So yeah, now that she s nearly 100 and her prayers are finally answered, she laughs. And I like to think of God s calling her right out as a little giggle back. Yes, Sarah- of course now is the time. Because I am God. And I can! Church, I will confess to you that my own prayer life has been weak lately. I ve grown tired of praying for peace and safety and justice and understanding and help that never seems to be coming. Each new week it seems is filled with new bad news- another mass shooting, another black body judged in the street, another horrific terrorist act. And even closer- another illness, another cancer diagnosis, another accident, another broken relationship, another miscarriage, another job 3

4 opportunity lost. It gets overwhelming, doesn t it? So I found myself giggling and smirking and sassing my way through my prayers, almost half-heartedly. And then. I friend comes through for me in the middle of the night when I m really in a jam. Another friend shows up the next day, and another later the next evening. A church member in a really hard situation texts me to share a story of a miracle in the middle of that hardness. I notice, in between all the seriousness and pain that has become my Facebook and twitter feeds, a stream of videos- #carefreeblackkids2k16 with singing and dancing with joy and laughter and light during a week that was beating us all down. And then I hear this story. Perhaps some of you have heard it already. Some of you, I know took part in making it happen. One of our members, Ms. Carole Moehle has been ill for some months, and has had a hard time getting out and getting to church. Well, a couple of weeks ago, Carole was feeling good and strong and wanted to be here at church. So she and her home health aid, Remani, came to worship. Remani had just started working with Carole, it was a new job. And she took one of those little yellow pew cards and wrote down a prayer, thanking God for this new job. But she also wrote that she needed some help. Because this new 4

5 job, while being the answer to so many of her prayers, was a challenge to get to. Remani had to get up at 4am, to catch a 4:40 bus, to get her to Ms. Carole s at 7:20 for her 7:30 shift. That s a two hour and forty minute each way daily bus commute. When I asked her about it, Remani said she s not one to complain or ask for help, but that she knew she should pray for an answer to her transportation problem. So on this card, when she came to worship that day with Carole, she wrote her thanksgiving to God AND she wrote her plea- for help with transportation. Now, then a true miracle happened and I actually remembered to read the prayer card out loud when the ushers brought it up to me during worship. When the service had ended, another member of our congregation, came up to me and said, Erin, I have a car to give away. It s old and doesn t have air conditioning, but it runs well and we d be glad to share it. Over the next few hours, with help from other members, rides arranged, a small exchange of money to make the title transfer easier, and the deal was done. Remani had a new car. Remani had a reliable way to work. Remani could sleep in to a more reasonable hour and a more reasonable commute, and could shock her family and her parents with this car, that they didn t believe she actually owned until she showed them the paperwork. And we would all learn a lesson in how God can use a community, how God IS using this community to answer some prayers. 5

6 When we laugh when we pray, when we think it s too much, when Sarah laughs, God challenges her- is anything too wonderful for the Lord? Friends, I admit that I don t know how God is going to show up in our world today. I don t know how or when God is going to show up for us, for you or for me. I don t know if it will be under a tree in a holy place, or in the face of three messengers, or in where or when or how. But I know that the same God who loved and cared for Sarah her whole life, who remained faithful to her all those years she was in pain, and who surprised her to doubt and laughter late in her life, and who loved her through it all, that same God is still at work in this world, in this community, in this church, in your life and in mine. My honest prayer is that it was for Sarah, that God will remain with us. That God will show up for us. That God will surprise us. And even, that God will make us laugh. May it be so. Amen. 6

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