Title: The Crumbs of Hope
Theme: God uses faithful actions to sustain the Church while it waits for God’s year of jubilee.
Scripture: Preaching Text; Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 Secondary text; Genesis 21:1-7
Genesis 21:1-7 NRSV
The Lord dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as he had promised. 2 Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him. 3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him. 4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6 Now Sarah said, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” 7 And she said, “Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 NRSV
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.
8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”
13 All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, 14 for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.
So Sarah, uh, how does, uh, moving sound?
Moving? Where? Do you mean to the big room in your father’s house? Has your father passed?
Sarah! No, no.
Um, uh, I don’t really know.
Excuse me? Then why?
Um, uh, well, see, uh, this god, Elohim, said to me to leave my father’s household and move.
This God said what?
To move. To leave UR, take all of our possessions and move to a land that will be shown to us. In fact, not only will we be given an entire country, we will have an entire nation come through us!
You mean through me.
Well, you know what I mean.
Abram. Do you believe this God?
<><><>Unfortunately, we do not have such details. Nor do we know what it must have been like to tell his father that he wasn’t going to stick around to carry on the family business, worship the family gods, and accept his inheritance. Today’s passage from Hebrews comments on the lives of Abraham and Sarah, which can be found in Genesis 12-25. The writer of Hebrews, whoever she was, offers up in this chapter examples of faithful and faithfilled saints. These saints offer up for the people of God signs of hope, or crumbs of hope, for they do not satisfy our desire but nourish our faith. We don’t know how that went. All we know, is that he encountered God and said yes, his life was never the same.
Abraham, a young man of 75, lived in the land of Ur of the Chaldeans under his father’s household. It’s normal for sons and daughters to grow up, move away to college, choose a profession, and move to different cities. Back then, the sons carried on the profession of their fathers. With the family profession came also the family inheritance. At 75, Abraham was close to receiving the family inheritance. All that his father and his father’s father had worked for and accumulated, was to be his. We do not know much about Abram before God called to Abram. What we know is that, at the age of 75, Abram, with the promise of his father’s inheritance about to become a reality, said yes to God’s calling, to pack up his bags and move to a land he had never heard..
<><><>Our Hebrews passage today, says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Abraham was sure that God would deliver upon what was promised. He did not know or see the land to which he was called to dwell in. He did not know how a city would come to be established for him and his family to dwell, but he knew that this was the God of hope.
<><><>Time continued on for Abraham. God led him to the land of Canaan, Abraham’s new home. Abram’s flocks grew, he became wealthy. Flocks are good and increase in laborers is good but it it’s still not a city. A city is something permanent. It’s something stable. It’s safe, secure. It includes citizenship and all the benefits therein. It’s hard to say you’re a citizen when you’re on the move. Living in a tent, as a herdsman, keeps you moving. Keeps you from putting down too deep of roots. You know that things are about to change again when you’re living in this way. Yet, Abram and Sarah continued to be without a child and still living in a tent. No city. No nation. No children. If you’re going to have a nation come through you, then you need children. It’s a scientific fact. Abraham is now 99, nearly 25 years have passed since God called him away from his home land, from comfort and stability. 25 years is a long time to live in a tent. You may enjoy camping but 25 years is a very long time, especially when are hoping for a city. God appears to Abraham again and makes a covenant with him. Through Abraham and Sarah, they will be not an ancestor of just one nation, as originally promised, but of a multitude of nations. What?!? At the age of 99? What is this God some sort of sick joke? People do not have children at the age of 99? But Abraham and Sarah believed God at God’s word. A year later, Abraham and Sarah found themselves holding a baby boy whom they named Isaac.
<><><><>The writer of Hebrews, states, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval.” By faith, Abraham and Sarah waited for God. In faith, they found God’s approval. God’s approval came in the confirmation of hope. But the hope that was confirmed was not a complete hope. It was a crumb of the very hope itself. It was miniscule in comparison to the entirety of the promise. That moment, when they finally held Isaac in their hands and experienced such joy, pales in comparison to the rest of the promise. Nation upon nation shall come through Abraham and Sarah and they will not even be around to see it. They are still living in tents with the promise of a city to come.
<><><><>We may speak of Abraham, Sarah, and all of the Old Testament figures as examples but they never set out to be examples. They lived faithful lives to God as they journeyed towards God’s future. This is the stuff that makes up the crumbs of hope, the evidences of God’s work in the world, the hope that proclaims that today does not have to be a repeat of yesterday. The best evidences of God’s activity in the world is not by way of philosophical argument, though those arguments do have their place, but in the lives of the saints. The best argument for God’s existence are the stories of the saints. It’s a life faithfully lived to God in hope of God’s future for the world. These are the lives that make up the crumbs of hope for a world dwindling into despair.
<><><><>The lives of Abraham and Sarah show us that the world of faith is a world of hope. Each new day offers a promise of hope that things shall be different. This is so because they are miraculous lives of hope. The kind of hope that’s placed in our own achievements and abilities has it’s place but it is not the biblical hope. To say, I hope to see all 50 states in my lifetime. Is certainly a hope and with enough planning and saving, I could see all 50 states. THIS IS NOT A GOD SIZED HOPE. It’s not the hope of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It’s not the hope of Jesus. (SLOW DOWN)
Divine hope takes shape when it extends beyond our own capacities to navigate the world. Duke Divinity’s Chuck Campbell once observed that hope is divine when it confounds us, even as it claims us, spoken in love, service, and words that no one will believe: words like, “All will be well.” These words “posit eternity to those that only want an end, caught in the daily ritual of counting food and time.” The way of Jesus requires a miraculous way of living, a way that seeks to love your enemy, bless those who persecute you. If we think the moral demands of Jesus are easy, then we are not following Jesus. If you think that Jesus died and rose again to make you a better American citizen, then you’re not following Jesus. We are following something else – a god in our own image. Jesus’ work upon the cross made possible for us to become citizens of God’s kingdom. That is to say the faithful living of the Bible, is a life that identifies first as a citizen of God’s kingdom and then as a stranger and sojourner of any and all earthly nations. To follow Jesus is to rely upon the Spirit of God to give us the miraculous virtues of faith, hope and love.
<<<OPTIONAL>>>> People such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. offer us modern day examples of what it means to live with a God sized hope. It is a testament that the civil rights movement under his leadership did not turn to violence to accomplish their desires. It is a testament to the power of the life of faith that follows after the God of hope.
<><><>The faith of our Fathers and Mothers, which inspires us to hope in the God of Abraham and Sarah, are the a kind of lives that cannot be understood apart from faith in God. For their very patterns of life depended upon the God who calls in the night to tell Abraham that the land of Canaan shall be his and his descendants shall outnumber the stars. It’s the same sort of logic that sees a loaf of bread and cup of juice and believes it to be more than just a snack. We call it a meal, yet what we have when we take of communion is a small hunk of bread and a taste of juice. We say this is the body of Christ given for you and this is the blood of Christ shed for you. It’s bread and it’s juice but it’s so much more. It is a crumb of hope that reminds us that one day we shall feast at the Lord’s table.
<><><><>At the Lord’s table we are given a promise that one day we shall all be at the table feasting and celebrating together – both saints of old and saints of new. It’s at this feast where Jew and Gentile shall share bread together. Where Conservative and Liberal will sit next together in harmony. It shall be a feast where all are invited. Rich and poor. White and black. And all the colors of the rainbow shall be welcomed to feast. The food and drink shall not run out. This is the promise of God for the people of God that gives us a vision of hope that draws us into God’s future. For in faith, we taste God’s future when we celebrate communion together and when that celebration resembles God’s future, which is our sure and certain hope.