Reflection March 17, 2019
Genesis 15:1-6/ Luke 13:31-35
Trust and Follow
Today, let’s start by talking about anxiety. I was tempted to be like a counsellor or psychotherapist and begin with, “Today, let’s talk about your anxiety issue”; but cool head prevailed, so, instead, I will start with a joke about anxiety. The New Zealander comedian Cal Wilson says she calls herself an ‘over-thinker’ to avoid pronouncing her real problem, which is anxiety. She said, “If you say you’re an over-thinker, everyone’s like, “Oh, that’s efficient and thorough.” But if you say you’ve got anxiety, everyone’s like, “Oh, should you be out without a carer?” I come from a family of anxious people, like I would describe us as pessimistic optimists. We believe the glass is half full, but we’re worried that someone has put bleach in it.” I think, even if you are not an anxious type, you can still understand what it’s like to worry about something. I learned that for Christians, worrying is a sign of lack of faith; but according to my experience, the knowledge that God will take care of us and we shouldn’t worry doesn’t completely get rid of the worrying. If you can relate to this dilemma about worrying, don’t worry; we are not alone. Meet our ancestors in faith Abraham and Sarah before God changed their names and they were still called Abram and Sarai. God changed their names because they were to become the father and mother of many nations.
Abram and Sarai were chosen to be the ancestors of many nations, but Sarai couldn’t have children. It was a difficult promise to believe. They waited and waited, and their patience and faith faded. They were getting older and the chance of having a baby decreased drastically; I mean they were already old when God called them! Abram was 75 when their journey with God began! What chance did they have of becoming parents? When they ran out of patience and faith in God’s promise, they got themselves a son through Sarai’s handmaiden Hagar. But in today’s story in Genesis, God is saying, “No, that boy you got from Hagar is not going to be your heir. God made a promise of a great nation with a lot of descendants; Abram and Sarai couldn’t believe it. Now God made a covenant with Abram and he finally believed. That’s how Isaac was born, and eventually the twelve tribes of Israel.
It is understandable how difficult it was for Abram and Sarai to trust God’s promise and persevere instead of doing something stupid like getting pregnant from someone else. If we can understand them, we will be able to understand how humanly it is to worry about things that don’t seem humanly plausible. Remember Psalm 27 we read today; I don’t know about you, but when I read this Psalm, what I can feel is someone for whom life is bumpy and full of challenges constantly reminding himself of God’s steadfast love and help. He needs to keep reminding himself so that the challenges of life don’t strip him of courage and hope. “God is my salvation and I shall not be afraid” is like a mantra to convince himself as well as a bold affirmation of his faith.
We are only human, and it is difficult to just trust and follow; but this is what God requires of us as God’s children. In Luke 13, Jesus laments that Jerusalem failed to follow him like little chicks follow their mother hen. I think all of you who are parents remember the times when your children would not listen to your advice/ guidance and get hurt, both literally and metaphorically. “Oh that silly child doesn’t know what is good for him (or her)!” “I told him not to run out into the street!” Well you know what? My mother used to say whenever I ran away from my piano teachers and quit my piano education, “Some day, you will regret this!” And of course, mother was right! That’s why I am currently relearning things I knew how to play when I was 7 or 8. When our beloved children don’t follow our guidance, we can get exasperated because having been through life, we know stuff that children don’t know.
This passage in Luke that we read today is puzzling in a lot of ways and there are debates about what Jesus means here. I will make things simple for you by emphasizing on the imagery of Jesus or God as the mother hen and us as the baby chicks. God and Jesus are exasperated because we were offered the eternal love and ways of God but they were spurned. Let us learn from Abram and Sarai’s failure to trust God and be patient. The ability to trust God even when hope seems bleak can come from building intimate relationship with God. Let us learn from the author of Psalm 27 to keep praying and repeat mantras to stay hopeful, trusting of God, and patient. Lent is a waiting/ training period and it can feel dreary and long. We can get impatient, thinking, “When is Easter coming?” Let us relax, take a deep slow breath, and take a slow path spending time with God. Let us enjoy the time we spend with God, and God will teach us patience and help us to be more trusting.
Rev. Sunny Kim