Saturday, February 19, 2005

Sermon: Lent 2 - Year A

Today I’d like to tell you a story about an old man named Abe. If Abe’s business gave out gold watches he would have received one. Maybe even two. A week later his first pension cheques arrived. Abe and his wife had planned to head to the cottage, fix the place up, and turn it into their summer home when they returned from their winter condo in Arizona. Abe did his time, paid his dues, now he just wanted what was coming to him.

Abe sat back in his favourite rocker outside on his back yard. The fire’s soft crackle warmed his feet. It was dark and Abe looked up and scanned the stars in the sky. Abe was looking forward to not moving except to fill up his coffee mug and take a slice out of the stack of books had been growing on his night table.

In the heavens, God began to snicker.

“Abe!” God shouted in which Abe could hear only in his bowels. “Too much salsa for dinner,” Abe said reaching for the Tums in his pocket.

“I want to lead you on a great adventure.”

“What adventure? What are you talking about?”

“See those stars? More people will call you “father” and your wife “mother than what you see in the sky.”

“Are you crazy? Look at me! I shouldn’t be having kids at my age. My wife is no spring chicken herself (don’t tell her I said that).”

“You and your wife will be the parents of millions.”

“She couldn’t have kids when we were young. Why would you wait until now to screw up our lives?”

“You have been blessed. Now you will be a blessing to the world.”

Abe put his mug down and walked over to the front of the barn. He reminded God that it took 12 generations to build up the family farm into the well- oiled business machine it now is.

“See that spot right over there?” Abe asked, “That’s where my daddy’s daddy planted the first tree. There was nothing here when he arrived. NOTHING. Now you want us to walk away from all of this.”

“Yup,” said God.

“Can you see that small fence just over the east hill? That’s the family plot. Generations of my family and Sara’s are buried there. This is not just traditions that I’m leaving behind. It’s my family.”

“I know,” said God.

“But why us? Why now? There’s a young guy that helps out around here every now and then. You want him. We just can’t do what you’re asking us to do.”

“I want you.”

“Why? What makes us so special?”

“You are special because I choose you. I know what’s in your heart. I know the battles between good and evil that rages in your soul. I know every murderous thought. Every mixed motive. Every seed of hate. I still choose you and Sara.

“You will have wisdom because I will give you wisdom. You will have strength because I will give you strength. You will have a family because I will give you children. Generations will honour you because of what I will do for you. They will call you “father” and Sara they will call “mother.” Don’t be afraid. I will guide you.”

Abe sat down on the bumper of the truck. He looked up at the night sky and tried counting the stars. He stopped after a couple minutes feeling stupid to even consider taking the voice seriously.

He argued with God until he heard Sara turning off the lights for bed. God left. Abe stayed outside wondering what he was going to tell his wife.


“Look at the wrinkles in these hand, Abe” Sara cried in disbelief. “We’ve lived our lives. We’ve done our work. What do mean that we have to begin all over again?”

“Sara, I know what this sounds like. But God told me we are supposed to change history.”

“Change history? Boy, someone’s full of themselves. We’ve worked hard our whole lives. It’s time for us to retire. Let someone younger do this because we’re not leaving. Our parents built us a home. How can we turn our backs on all that our family has done for us? You’re asking me to throw away all the blood, sweat, and sacrifice, of everyone who built this house. You just want to put it out on the curb!”

“I know. We need to honour our past,” said Abe, “We need to remember all the blessings that we’ve received. Maybe the best way to do that is for our lives to be a blessing. Maybe we’re not turning our backs on the past as much as we are looking ahead to the future. God is asking us to have faith.”

“Faith!?” said Sara, rolling her eyes at her husband. “What are talking about, faith? You’re talking about insanity! You’re telling me that I should have faith that God wants us to pack up our things, head off to who-knows-where and start a family. We couldn’t have kids them what makes you think we can have them now?”

“Faith, Sara. God is asking us to trust. I know this is insane. I know this is terrifying. It’s like fumbling around in the dark, groping for something to cling to. Following God is like tracking a voice we can barely hear, or chasing a shadow we can barely see. It’s like that poem we read that says that after we jump into the darkness of the unknown, faith lets us believe that we will either land on solid ground, or we will be taught how to fly.”

“Look around. Is this the world God wants? Does God want the world to fight with one another? Does God want children to starve when there’s enough food to go around? Does God want our cities to collapse under the weight of human pain?

“Remember those folks over in Babel building that skyscraper? They thought that just because they were smart they could build a world better than what God had in mind. Look what happened to them. The building crumbled. The structure wasn’t solid. It buckled under the strain of everyone demanding to live on the top floor.”

“How will us moving end all that? We are just two old people. How can we help, really.”

Abe paused for a moment. Saw the sun setting in the western sky and said,

“Maybe it is our job to get the ball rolling.”

That night Sara tossed and turned. Fearful of where her husband was taking them. Abe stared at the ceiling, hoping it was actually God’s voice he heard and not some bad salsa. He hoped that he wasn’t asking his wife to give up everything for a fool’s errand.

The next day, just as the sun was peeking over the eastern horizon, Abe and Sara put some clothes in a suitcase, packed up the truck, and slowly pulled out of their driveway.

As they drove out of town, Sara felt a rumble in her belly. An eagle soared above the rising sun and dipped down in front of their truck. Even though they didn’t know where they were going, they knew they weren’t alone. God, somehow, was guiding them. They only needed to look at the rising sun to know their direction, and scan the stars of the sky to see their destination.

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