Flawed and Faithful

Genesis 18:1-15

Everyone here likely has stories about their father.  Some which point out his super hero attributes, some which show why we do or don’t do certain things.  Some filled with joy and others filled with sorrow.  Some filled with humor, others sternly serious.

These are the stories which help shape who we are and in many ways impact how we live out our faith journeys.

We can find a number of stories about fathers in the scriptures.  Biblical fathers who also impact our faith journeys.  These stories reflect faithful, although flawed servants of God.[1]

Adam, who joins his wife Eve in disobeying God by eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, breaks trust with the Creator, is thrown out of the garden and becomes the father of Cain and Abel, who take sibling rivalry to the point of Cain killing his brother.  Yet both Adam and Cain, flawed as they were continued to serve God and went on to build a civilization.

God calls Abram out of the land in which he lives to go to a new land and to father a nation.  But Abram, now Abraham, isn’t a father, and as the years go by, his hope of becoming one fades.  He remains faithful to God’s direction in his life, but tries to find ways to make the promise come true on his own, laughing at the thought God could make it so he and Sarah could have a son.

Isaac has a story of his own.  One of his father’s faithfulness to God which put him on an altar of sacrifice.  A story of his father’s plan which found him a lovely and gracious wife in Rebecca.  Isaac is the only patriarch who is not described as having other wives or concubines, although she remains barren for a long time until the birth of their twin boys Jacob and Esau.  Then family drama emerges as Jacob steals Esau’s birthright and blessing.

Jacob ends up working fourteen years for his future father-in-law who switches brides on him at the end of the first seven, forcing the second seven.  He has twelve sons and one named daughter with his wives Leah and Rachel, the names of which the 12 tribes of Israel bear.  His son Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers and ends up saving his entire family from a famine that threatens their existence.

Joseph, the father of Jesus brings us into the New Testament listening to the voice of God, protecting and raising the one who brings salvation to us all.

All of these fathers did their best to follow God, to love and raise their children with the strength, resources, and wisdom they had.  All of these fathers were faithful and flawed at the same time.  They all have stories which help us as we seek to be faithful to God and each other in the midst of at least a flaw or two.  Their stories help us see God working through the chaos that sometimes envelops our day to day lives.

We heard a fuller version of Abraham in this morning’s reading.

We find him suddenly recognizing three strangers coming to his home needing food and shelter.  Some identify the strangers as three angels, some as the Lord and two others, and one of the commentaries I read this week suggested it was the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit who visited that day.   Regardless of the specific identity of these strangers in Abraham’s tent, they were not ordinary guests and their mission was not an ordinary task.[2]

Before knowing the message the three strangers brought, Abraham welcomed them in.  Not just with the minimum standards of hospitality for the day, but with much more than was expected.  He was generous in sharing of his food and humble in serving them himself.

We can look for God in the strangers who come into our lives, offering humble, service and hospitality.  That generosity is faithful to God’s call on our life and God is faithful in offering us hospitality through others when we need it.

Abraham and Sarah had moments of doubt regarding God’s promise to them.  The first time Abraham heard the news he fell on his face and laughed.  This time, it is Sarah who laughs, both thinking about all the things they believe make the promise impossible to fulfill.  Reassurance rather than rebuke is forthcoming, as God asks, “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?”

When we hear God’s call on our lives, and are quick to laugh it away when it seems too impossible to be possible, these words shared with Father Abraham can remind us that God is faithful in God’s time and we need to follow faithfully and with patience.  Moments of doubt are to be expected, but God is faithful to stand by us providing us with the grace we need to move through the, emerging with stronger faith.

God can overcome all obstacles, even our impatience and drive to do things our way.  God’s grace is greater than our inability to perceive it.  These stories of fathers and families in the Bible show us over and over the faithfulness of God in the midst of what seems like chaos.  Even when we deny our doubts, God knows, and reminds us with a question:  “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?”

 

Just as Abraham and Sarah had Isaac to remind them that the answer is that “there isn’t anything too difficult for the Lord,”  I suspect that somewhere  in the stories of our fathers ywe can find more than one which testifies  to how God fulfilled promises and formed a new personal history despite improbable and unbelievable circumstances.

The faithful fathers into whose lives we are granted a glimpse through scripture are not saints living lives which have reached perfection.  Their experiences are reflected in our experiences, complete with sometimes difficult family situations, displacement, disillusionment, frustration, times which seem to be hopeless, opportunities to welcome in the stranger and to look for God in the ordinary circumstances of our lives.

The stories in scripture show God working in a world just as messy and chaotic as ours is at times.  They show God working through the flaws of the faithful using ordinary people in ordinary circumstances to do extra-ordinary things to further the kingdom of God.

God is with us in our moments of greatest joy, and God is with us though the inevitable chaos and sorrow that life brings. God us with us in our friends and family, and God is with us in strangers who suddenly show up and bring us a word of hope and clarity in the midst of the jumbled, chaotic messes of life. God is with us in the familiar and God is with us in the unexpected.

These Biblical Fathers remind all of us that The good news is, no matter what we must face, we don’t face it alone. We face life together, in community with Christ, and in community with one another, until Christ comes in final victory and we feast at his heavenly banquet.

God is with us.[3]

[1] TheRev. Joan G. LaBarr, Biblical fathers -faithful, flawed servants of God, umc.org

[2] Sermon Options June 18, 2017 Ministry Matters

[3] Rev. Dr. Dawn Chesser, Preaching notes June 18, 2017

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