Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” – Genesis 18:10-12
Like Sarah, many of our people, congregations, denominations and church bodies have been around for many years. Over that time we have all experienced beginnings and new beginnings and yet, the older we get, the more impossible another birthing event seems to us.
In fact, we do much to protect ourselves from the probability. Yes, we may welcome and congratulate others in their new births, but good order, stability and security are what we work for.
A friend of ours became pregnant in her late 40’s and although I was happy for the couple, I could never see my wife and I welcoming another child at our age. I would most likely not be laughing at such an announcement, but crying.
In the midst of such attitudes God comes to us to proclaim that he has started a new thing in our day and time. The church is indeed pregnant, birthing and being reborn.
Now some of us will laugh at this possibility from inside the well constructed church institutions we have made. “Over my dead body” may be the declaration of a few. Some of us may agree with our need to be reborn, but limit it to controlled test tube events that really do not change the substance of life as we know it.
However, whether we laugh, cry or grieve, God is still in the process of birthing a new thing in the midst of the old.
Sarah laughed, but that didn’t prevent her from conceiving and giving birth to a child that would become part of God’s continually unfolding story of salvation. I wonder how much more she laughed at herself as she looked at what God had blessed her with.
May God bless us with the pleasure of participating in new beginnings.
I served a church in the United States that was in the same predicament that Sarah faced. Should we make some radical changes to bring new life to ourselves and to our community, or should we have an abortion (get rid of me) and keep the status quo. It was upsetting to me that they chose abortion, but–from a distance–they made a wise choice. Like all living things, churches also have a life cycle. According to their parochial reports posted on the ELCA website, they are now approaching their hospice phase, kept alive (on life support) thanks to their endowment. But it was their choice and I have to respect their autonomy. Should their mission statement read, “Would the last member standing please turn out the lights?” Still, I wonder, what would have happened if they had chosen otherwise?