Archive for November 26th, 2021

James Tissot: Abram’s Counsel to Sarai

Friday, November 26, 2021

Genesis 17:15-19

Joy and the Promise of Birth 

What I like so much about this story, and what I liked as a child, is the fact that God changes Abraham’s and Sara’s names when they enter into their covenant with him. I also like that both of them laugh when they hear the news that they will have a child so late in life. These are outward and visible signs that when God approaches with a promise of fortune, even when these promises appear to be impossible to keep, we can expect change and joy.

There is also a motif of wonderful and simple surprise in this story. I like wonderful yet simple surprises in my own life, and I am always grateful to discover that I am still capable of finding joy in small things of life. I have always found that it is in the quiet and in the stillness that jumbled thoughts and prayers become crystalline and clear.

I also smile when I read about Abraham and Sara’s happy hospitality. In the next chapter, Abraham runs out to greet the strangers who approach his tent, while Sara prepares a meal. I was raised in a family in which we were taught that to open one’s home and to share one’s table was a sacred act, one in which we leave ourselves most vulnerable to others and the possibility of betrayal, but an act to which we must commit ourselves. When we turn people away we also turn away the opportunity to be transformed, the possibility that God may enter our own tent for “is there anything too wonderful for the Lord to do?”

As a child, I always wondered why Sara was so fearful that she “dissembled”, saying that she had not laughed. Was it that she did not want anyone to know that she was inside the tent listening to the conversation between these men? Did she find God’s promise too ridiculous to believe? Had she lost the sense of wonder, hope and joy as she aged? I suppose we shall never know.  

Now that I am grown, with children and grandchildren of my own, I hope that I never lose my sense of humor. I also hope to be always open to the surprises of joy God has in store for me.  And I hope to have the patience and perseverance God requires or me.  May I be worthy of the promise God has placed in me. May I rise to do the work God has asked of me, and to give birth to the work God requires of me. For in this will be my joy.

Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tissot_Abram%27s_Counsel_to_Sarai.jpg

Adapted from a reflection written on October 5, 2007. 

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