10Then one of them said, “I will return to you about this time next year, and your wife, Sarah, will have a son!”
Sarah was listening to this conversation from the tent. 11Abraham and Sarah were both very old by this time, and Sarah was long past the age of having children. 12So she laughed silently to herself and said, “How could a worn-out woman like me enjoy such pleasure, especially when my master—my husband—is also so old?”
13Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ 14Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
15Sarah was afraid, so she denied it, saying, “I didn’t laugh.”
But the Lord said, “No, you did laugh.”
This whole narrative makes me laugh. I laugh because I can relate to hearing a promise from God that all logic and facts say is impossible. I laugh because Sarah is eve’s dropping on the conversation that the Lord wanted her to hear. I laugh because she thought she got away with her cynical response and when she is confronted for her cynicism she lies. As if lying to the Lord who hears and knows all things will ever work to our benefit. I laugh because I know how the story ends up. Sarah didn’t know that in a year she would be naming her miracle son “Isaac” which means laughter. God would redeem this moment of the cynical and fill it with the joyful. The skeptical would be overcome by the beautiful, the doubting would be overshadowed by delight. This moment of shame would be redeemed by the sheer generosity of our God. Sarah wasn’t the only one who had lost joy in the journey of faith. In today’s New Testament reading we see that even John the Baptist, the one declaring the way of the Lord, was slipping into cynicism at the strange way’s of Jesus, “18The disciples of John the Baptist told John about everything Jesus was doing. So John called for two of his disciples, 19and he sent them to the Lord to ask him, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” (Lk 7:18-19). This is not how John saw this playing out and when our expectations go unmet, when God doesn’t fit in the box of our choosing, we slip into cynicism quite quickly.
Like Sarah, I can be sitting in my tent and looking at my limited options rather than God’s limitless provisions. Like John the Baptist I can be looking through the prison bars of doubt and wondering why Jesus didn’t do what I thought He was going to. So, am I going to laugh at God or laugh with Him? Am I going to descend into cynicism as I survey the world we live in or am I going to rejoice that Jesus is on the move and is moving in ways I never saw coming? It would be easy to grow cynical and lose my joy. This is the time of year when everyone denotes the trends that are bound to define this year. “America is moving from a Christian to post-Christian culture faster than most people imagined, and will soon match the level of secularization found in places like Europe, Australia, Canada, and other Western nations. The nones, or those claiming no religious affiliation, have now emerged as the largest religious demographic in the US—a larger group than evangelicals or Roman Catholics. Leading people to Jesus in a world that’s moving away from Jesus is an increasingly difficult challenge…and increasingly larger opportunity. There’s so much at stake.” (Carey Nieuwhof). Barna's research just released a report stating, “The percentage of young-adult dropouts has increased from 59 to 64 percent. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. 18–29-year-olds who grew up in church tell Barna they have withdrawn from church involvement as an adult after having been active as a child or teen.” Unlike in past generations, these younger generations are not moving back towards the church once they get married and have children. Again, it would be easy to be cynical in the face of all this. Yet, this morning, this year, this decade I choose to cling to the promise the Angel gives Sarah, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” I choose to cling to the Promise of Jesus that He can use me and those around me to turn this thing around one person at a time, “28I tell you, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of God is greater than he is!” 29When they heard this, all the people—even the tax collectors—agreed that God’s way was right, for they had been baptized by John. 30But the Pharisees and experts in religious law rejected God’s plan for them, for they had refused John’s baptism.” The Pharisees were cynical but the people were joyful because they took Jesus at His Word. So will I!
I believe there’s a promise that has been stalled through cynicism. There’s a birthing of something new that has been stalled through the hurt. There’s a joy about to be released in the Body of Christ that will melt the coldest of hearts when we choose to forgive those who have hurt us in the past. May those who have laughed at us laugh with us. May those who have given up on God give in to God! May breakthrough come through in this very moment of trading cynicism for sincerity. Trading our unending problems for the unending promise of God!