In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
No one on earth is righteous in the eyes of God. (Rom. 3:10; Eccl. 7:20) Yet the Lord, Yahweh, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, appears to Abram and says, “Walk before Me,” as in, “Walk with Me. Trust in Me. And be blameless.” (Gen. 17:1) And the only way anyone on earth is blameless—or righteous—is if they are forgiven and given the Lord’s righteousness. Thus, the Lord who says, “Trust in me and be forgiven,” goes on to say, “I make My covenant—literally: I set My covenant, My righteousness-giving legal agreement—in your midst, between me and you. And I will multiply you greatly.” (Gen. 17:2) So by faith, which God gives, by a covenanted promise that God makes, He will take a 99 year old Abram and multiply him. Greatly. Miraculously.
For when you received His promise to you—His long promised Son, God in our flesh—you, like Abram, were renamed. (Gen. 17:5) God’s name was placed on you at your baptism. You were Father Soned and Holy Ghosted. (Matt. 28:19) That’s why Holy Baptism is sometimes called christening. Historically babies were brought as quickly as possible to baptism—often due to infant mortality rates—and named on that day. This is why we ask during a Baptism, “How is this child to be named?” Then we name them before our Father in heaven, and then we place the Father’s name on them. His own name in which is salvation. (Acts 4:11-12) So that that child is no longer called by God Child-of-wrath (Eph. 2:3), One-who-is-doomed-to-damnation (2 Pet. 2:14; Matt. 23:15), but is now called by his or her own name and has the family name of Father-Son-Holy-Spirit. Legally adopted. (Gal. 4:4-6) Now God’s responsibility. God’s child. (Rom. 8:14-16) God’s to take care of and love and save throughout all your days. Even unto eternal life. (Eph. 1:3-6)
For He is no man that He should lie. (Num. 23:19) He is no human father that He should fail you. He is no absentee-father who has abandoned your mother, the Church. He is not a monstrous abuser like some “fathers.” He is the Father from whom all true fatherhood is named. (Eph. 3:14-15) He is your loving parent who places His name on you so that as dear children we might call upon our dear Father. And He is a father of infinite means. When you are in trouble where else will you go, but to this loving Father who holds life and death in His hands, who has all authority in heaven and earth, who owns the whole universe and can multiply your limited, meager possessions so that they last like the flour and oil of the widow of Zarephath. (1 Ki. 17:7-16) He is the same God who made the Israelites’ sandals not wear out for 40 years as they wandered in the wilderness (Deut. 29:5; 8:4) all because of His name which He places on you. For He is true to Himself. (2 Tim. 2:13)
It had been 25 years since the Lord first appeared and called Abraham. It is beyond the realm of logic or nature that this old man should now have a child, especially from his 89 year old wife, Sarai—whose name may mean “princely” or “contentious”. And she was contentious at times, foisting her own maid on Abraham 13 years earlier (Gen. 16:1-2)—which is where the child Ishmael comes from. (Gen. 16:15) Then later she changes mind and insists her maid and Ishmael be tossed out (Gen. 21:8-10) bringing a rift between those brothers and their offspring that lasts down to this day. But instead of a woman of contention she becomes Sarah (which means “princess”). God’s princess. The mother of kings. (Gen. 17:15-16) All the kings of Israel come from her and kings of many other nations also, but the king of kings, Jesus Christ, comes from her line!
And the Lord tells Abraham to name him Isaac—Laughter. (Gen. 17:19) For whether he laughed at the Lord’s promise in joyful faith or in unbelief Abraham laughed at this laughable situation. (Gen. 17:17) And so his child of promise’s name would be a constant reminder of Abraham’s joy and how ridiculous, absurd, and impossible our Lord’s promises are. They can not be believed by human logic. They can not be accomplished by human strength. Only by Holy Spirit given faith will they be believed and come to fruition in us. And so Abraham was faithed. He was named. And childed when he was 100 years old and his wife 90.
Why have our numbers diminished around here? Well, some obvious answers are a poor economy and people getting old and falling asleep in Jesus. But what is the Lord up to? How long will our congregation last? I don’t know. But the Lord is in control. He can answer every plea we send His way. He will answer every request we make to the praise of His glorious grace in Christ Jesus. He will answer so that those whom He has called will be gathered into His Church. Which tells us we ought to pray that His lambs be gathered unto us here. (John 10:16) We ought to pray that we are ready to receive them when He calls, and gathers them to us, His flock in this place. But it takes faith to believe that. Faith that you of your own logic, reason, or strength can not muster on your own. Faith that the Holy Spirit must give. So repent of your doubt and fear. For the Lord is the Lord. He has told you of His grace in His Son Who is our promise; Who increases our joy and laughter; Who makes our hearts light with His peace which passes understanding. (Phil. 4:7) He gives you faith.
One last thing. The Lord’s promises are so impossible to believe that God does not leave Himself without witness to them. He again comes to Abraham. By the oaks of Mamre. This time not only the Second Person of the Trinity, but all three Persons—the saving Godhead in human form—come to visit Abraham and again reassure him of the joy and laughter which will belong to he and wife. For by one witness nothing will be established, but by the witness of two or more a thing is made certain. (2 Cor. 13:1; Deut. 17:6) and so the Lord repeats His promises again and again and again to Abraham. The Lord appears again and again to Abraham. Strengthening his faith. Renewing him day by day, year by year. The Lord comes with the Father and the Holy Spirit to strengthen his faith which is also why you, little flock, come again and again to this place. For here the Father Son and Holy Spirit come to you. In bread and wine. In Word and water. To be yours this day and forevermore. To give you the impossible Son of promise by Holy Spirit given faith in His promise of eternal salvation. Faith that conquers this world. (1 John 5:4) Faith in Christ who works miracles beyond what your logic and eyes can see, or imagine, or your strength accomplish.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON