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  • Writer's pictureNorthminster Church

"How Long is the Wait?" by Rev. Jillian Hankamer

October 1, 2023

Genesis 21:1-8

I. Intro

-Anyone else have a family member who’s allergic to waiting?

-For example: my dad was almost never willing to wait at a restaurant

Erich can’t wait to give people presents. I’ve known what I was getting for Christmas the last 2 years.

-Then there are folks who’ll wait but comment about it as they’re waiting and even once the wait’s over

Erich and I have family members who’re pros at this

II. There are serious things in life that are difficult to wait for

-Hearing back from an employer when you’re unemployed/underemployed

-Results of medical tests or complex surgeries on loved ones

-Financial resources that can improve your family’s life

-The end of a semester for tired teachers

-A positive pregnancy test after years of trying

-stressful, anxiety-inducing, challenging to relationships, often doesn’t bring out our best

-Abraham and Sarah knew about waiting

-How did it affect them?

-We know they laughed at God, “ because the thing God promised was hopelessly impossible.”[1]

Sarah laughed, because she was ninety and God was still promising a child.

-by then, she’d been waiting for years

-months and months that added up to years wondering what was wrong with her

-going through the vicious cycles of infertility’s hopes and crushing reality

-hoping, despite it all, that this time would be different

-But the years went by, and Sarah knew, despite the painful hope, despite God’s promise, that she wouldn’t have a child.

-So, in chapter before this one, when news comes once again of God’s promise that Abraham will be the father of nations through child Sarah will bear, she laughs.

-”... Abraham laugh[s] too, only he covered up a little better…”[2]

-Sarah and Abraham laugh because God’s timing is terrible!

“There’s no point…now, Lord. Don’t bother. We don’t need any more promises now. Can’t you see? It’s too late. (After all, Abraham is ninety-nine. Sarah is ninety.) “Enough already with your promises, Lord…Besides…we made do with what we had. We found [another path] Look! Take Ishmael here! Isn’t he a fine young man?...“At our age, Lord, we’re too old to start something new. Life hasn’t been everything we hoped for, but we can’t wait anymore.”[3] It’s crushing us. Turning us into people we don’t recognize. Lord, we’re done waiting.

III. Does this mean Abraham and Sarah lost their faith?

-To be clear, if they had it would be hard to blame them. I would’ve given up much soon!

-But the text makes it clear Abraham had very close relationship with God.

-So close, in fact, that in Genesis 17 when God asks Abe to circumcise himself and his entire household Abe agrees

-this is covenant between them that Abe obeys at age 98!

-Abraham was an imperfect but firm believer in God, long committed to following God obediently

-Harder to know how Sarah feels

-we don’t hear from her nearly as much

-she never stops Abe from practicing his faith

-never says anything against God

-does laugh, but who wouldn’t?

-leave it to you to decide

II. Put a pin in Abraham and Sarah

-Go to different time and home that’s full of excitement, laughter, people talking over each other

-“Were you there when. . .? Don’t you remember. . .When did you see him. . .? That’s amazing! Who told you first. . .? I still can’t believe it!”[4]

-Excitement is palpable

-Everyone you encounter is almost physically buzzing with joy

-Except Thomas who’s still lost in grief

-He didn’t see what they saw. He’s still waiting, still hurting and their joy pushes him to explode,

“How can you all be so happy? Have you no idea what’s going on? Get in touch with reality, folks. He’s dead!. . .Can’t you understand that?”[5]

-Doesn’t matter that the others tell Thomas, “No! He’s alive! We saw him! He was here!” -Thomas is waiting, waiting to see, waiting for his friend, and so his response is,“I doubt it.”

-Not a skeptic, not being difficult, Thomas believes in Jesus wholeheartedly

-”He had left everything to follow him. When many others decided to leave, Thomas stayed, and when Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you want to go too?” Thomas agreed with Peter, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of life. We believe and know that you are the holy One of God.”[6]

-It’s because Thomas believes and his waiting that “his despair [is] so deep… Thomas’s doubt came from a strong faith that had been shaken at its very core smashed into pieces by an insane trial and a death that mocked everything that was fair and just. And when Jesus cried, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” Thomas [likely] felt forsaken too. Thomas believed and doubted.”[7]

III. Putbelieved ands

-Let’s go to a modern time, and a different kind of house much like this one

-People laugh, shake hands, hug

-And they sing - like all of them. Not looking at their hymnals like they’re dying

-Song goes, “Standing, standing! I’m standing on the promises of God!”[8]

-But there’s an older man in church who sings the words as he wonders about God’s promise keep ability

-Pastor prays, “Our loving heavenly Parent. . .”

- a teenager cannot imagine what a loving parent is like because hers are neglectful and distant.

-Then there’s another hymn, “Great is thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see!”

-”And the Abrahams and the Sarahs and the Thomases sing along with the rest,” but they’re stuck in cycles of waiting. Waiting for a way to make the big payment that’s due on Thursday. They’re waiting to get their grade, but they know they failed their midterm exam. And their thoughts turn once again to their aging parents, their youngest child, or a distant friend.”

IV. Conclusion

-Our society is pretty good at teaching us to be skeptical

-We teach our children - Don’t believe everything you hear or see. Just because you see it on the internet doesn’t make it true. Get proof that something’s legitimate before you invest.”

-What our society isn’t nearly as good at is teaching us how to wait. How to deal with waiting. What healthy waiting feels like and how it affects our everyday lives and relationships. -But the good news is that we have biblical examples to look to.

-Not that Abraham, Sarah, and Thomas as the examples we should emulate but that our waiting is nothing new. Generations of believers have waited and remained faithful. Have not lost their faith, or even if they have, they remained in relationship with God and their community.

-Abraham, Sarah, and Thomas show us that waiting is part of being human.

-And the even better news is that at one point or another, we’re all Abraham or Sarah or Thomas.

-Because ”they are all of us!”[9]

-Our name is Sarah, for we too live with barrenness, and wonder why God has not heard our prayers! Our name is Abraham, for we too have made our deals with life, our little compromises. We too have learned to live with less and to be satisfied with Ishmaels. Our name is Thomas, for who is there among us who has not felt a crushing loss or disappointment?”[10]

-Yet here we are, gathered to celebrate and give thanks to God

-Here we are in our waiting, our hoping, our faith, our disbelief

-As biological families, chosen families, and a church family

-As the Body of Christ

-Because along with our waiting there is hope. Hope for a world fashioned in God’s love. Hope for the rooting out of inequality, injustice, racism, homophobia, and gender inequality. Hope that we can be imperfect but sincere examples of Christ for each other and our community. And hope that God hears us, sees us, and notices the deepest desires of hearts no matter how long the wait is.

[1] John Unger, “Faith in the Face of Doubt,” via Direction Journal, Direction: Faith in the Face of Doubt, Genesis 18 (Sermon) ( [2] Ibid. [3] Ibid [4] Ibid [5] Ibid [6] Ibid [7] Ibid. [8] Ibid [9] Ibid [10] Ibid

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