Daily Encouragement - June 16

Genesis 17:1-6, 15-17 (NRSV) When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless.  Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers."Abram fell facedown, and God said to him,  “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations.  No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.  I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah.  I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” Genesis 18:1-3, 9-15 The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he said. Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.” Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 (NRSV) A couple of days ago, the grandchildren left, after spending a week with us.  We hadn’t laid eyes on them for 6 months.  Words cannot convey how it felt to hug them after all that time.  The week flew by.  Within seconds of their departure, the house echoed emptily; but while they were here, they made a joyful noise, to say the least.  Winston, Wesley, and Wallace Warren (now 10, 8 and 6) still do a lot a shouting and shrieking; they still love to turn the volume on every device as far up as it will go; and they still really, really enjoy beating the tar out of each other...but some things are beginning to change.  Their ability to sustain a conversation has grown by leaps and bounds in the last 6 months - though those conversations still take some odd twists and turns.  On their first morning here, Wesley looked up from the dining room table at my engagement portrait, and then asked, very seriously, “Who is THAT?”  “Don’t be silly,” said Winston, who is beginning to develop both diplomacy and compassion, “that’s Gaga.”  “Really?” Wesley commented.  “Yes,” I confirmed, “that’s Gaga, just before she married Papi, 33 years ago.”  “Really?” he repeated, somewhat incredulously.  “Yes,” I responded acerbically, “Who did you think it was?”  “Actually,” Wesley replied innocently, “I thought it was the Tooth Fairy.”   I’ve been called a lot of things over the years, but never the Tooth Fairy.  I suppose I should be grateful he didn’t think I was the Wicked Witch of the West. A couple of days later, we revisited the topic of the passage of time.  Wallace Warren was cuddled up next to me, when, with no warning, he said, “Are you old, Gaga?”  “I’m 66,” I replied, “what do you think?”  “That’s not so vewy old,” he lisped.  “Old-ish?” I suggested.  “Sort of,” he sighed, “but you’re not weally old...like the others.”  “What others?” I inquired. “Oh, you know,” he said offhandedly, “the other gwandpawents.”   Better stay out of this, I thought.  “But you’re not young,” he remarked, digging himself in deeper,  “not weally... like, you’re not going to be having any babies, wight?”  “Certainly not!” I retorted, thinking to myself, Thank You, God.   And then, I thought of Sarah. Or Sarai (“my princess”) as she was before God knocked her socks off with the news that, at the “ripe” old age of 90, she was she was about to be the World’s Oldest Mother, and therefore, needed a new name, Sarah (“Woman of High Rank”).  She  probably needed a tranquilizer, too; except that she didn’t believe the Lord for a New York minute, and literally laughed in God’s face.  Just like Abraham - or Abram (“exalted ancestor”) as he was before God informed him that, at 99 going on 100, he was about to become the Ancestor of Multitudes (which is what Abraham means).  Even though this represented quite a promotion for both of them, neither one could believe their ears, and promptly dismissed the possibility out of hand.  Who knows?  Maybe they thought God was joking...so they played along, guffawing their heads off, splitting their sides laughing.  At least Sarah, for one, had the delicacy to claim she hadn’t really laughed; to which God replied, “Oh, yes, you did.”  (You can lie to God if you want to, but it won’t get you very far.)  Nonetheless, the Lord doesn’t seem to have been overly offended by their outright disbelief.  “You’re going to call him Isaac,” God decreed, which means, in Hebrew, “he (and, in this case, she) laughed.” And people think God doesn’t have a sense of humor.  In any event, they both were laughing all the way to the Maternity Ward, when  -one year later, exactly as promised - their bouncing baby boy Isaac made his appearance, proving once and for all, that God really can do bigger and better things than we can ask, or even imagine. Whether we believe it or not.  Which is the good news, as I told Wesley the next day, when he came in out of the rain and, with no preamble, informed me, “Gaga, life is hard.”  Not what I was expecting to hear from an 8 year old, but I just nodded, not wanting to interrupt him.  I put down the dishcloth and gave him my full attention.  “I mean, sometimes you can live a long life,” he continued, “but all along, there are so many things trying to kill you.”  What kinds of things, I inquired.  “Well,” he replied, lifting his fingers to tick off his list, “things like wars, and car wrecks, and murderers, and  germs, like bacterias and viruses...and pandemics, and racists.”   OMG, I thought, the last several months have been so hard on children.  He looked so gloomy that I wanted to cry, but I pulled myself together and said, “You know, Wesley, you’re right about all that.  There’s a lot of stuff that can happen to you in this life; some of it we bring on ourselves or worse yet, on others; some of it, nobody can see coming.  But God can take the awful-est stuff, and bring something really good out of it, amazing things we could never imagine.”  He shook his head at me, reproachfully, as if I was suffering from a failure to remember where he stands on this.  “Gaga, you know I told you, I don’t believe in God anymore.”   As if I would forget that.  “No, I haven’t forgotten it,” I said, “and I’m still sorry to hear it; but the good news is, God is alive, whether you believe it or not.”   “I still don’t believe in God” he repeated, smiling a little.  “Maybe not,” I smiled back, “but God believes in you anyway.”   What a strange and sometimes terrifying world they will inherit, the children of today.  By the time the W’s and their generation are “in charge,” I will be long gone, and so will many of you.  But if you have children, or grandchildren, or great-grandchildren - or neighbor children, or children you mentor, or read to, or care for - then, like me, you have a connection to tomorrow.   We have a stakehold in the future, if only we will claim it.  The legacy we will leave for them is, thankfully, more than the current events they will one day read about in their history books.   Our legacy is woven of the conversations we’ve had, the stories we’ve told, the truths we’ve affirmed, and (here comes the scary part), the lives they’ve watched us live. Because they are watching, and listening - even when they seem to be doing everything but watching and listening -  and above all, they are  remembering.  My prayer is that we will give them something worth remembering - like, for instance, the firm foundation of an unwavering faith in the goodness of our God, who can do far more than we can ask, or even imagine.   Whether we can believe it or not.  Even if we laugh when we hear it.  How Firm a Foundation, UMH 529, verses 3&4 “When through the deep waters I call thee to go, The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow; For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless, And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress “When through fiery trials thy pathways shall go, My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply; The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.” O Lord of every generation, help us to remember that we are not only receivers of your grace, but also passers-on.  Grant us the wisdom and courage to pass on what is of greatest importance - your mercy, your love, your power. We ask this in the name of Jesus our Savior.  Amen. Pastor Susan Pate Greenwood 

Centenary United Methodist Church

309 New Street, New Bern, NC, 28560 

P.O. Box 1388, New Bern, NC 28563

Phone: 252.637.4181

Fax: 252.637.5602

Email: centenaryumc@centenarychurch.com

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