Brothers and sisters:
Abraham believed, hoping against hope,
that he would become “the father of many nations,”
according to what was said, “Thus shall your descendants be.”
He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body
as already dead – for he was almost a hundred years old –
and the dead womb of Sarah.
He did not doubt God’s promise in unbelief;
rather, he was strengthened by faith and gave glory to God.
As Jesus passed on from there,
he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
Dare to Bear Fruit
With the exception of about four years in total, I grew up in northeast Iowa. From age four plus until I was eighteen or so I lived in two small towns, both having less than 10,000 in population. The towns comprised a religious mixture of Catholics and Protestants. We had Jewish neighbors in the first small town; they had to drive an hour and a half to go to a synagogue.
So for the most part, I grew up meeting a lot of people who looked like me physically and our differences were which school they went to and the possibility that they may have gone to a different place to church on Sunday. Some of my Protestant friends had church on Wednesday night, too, but since I went to Catholic school I did church everyday, but Saturday.
In the second small town where we lived, I was the “new kid” from sixth grade until I graduated from high school. This was primarily because my parents didn’t grow up in this town and we didn’t have any relatives who lived here before we moved there; being new for such a long time often made me feel outside the “special circle.”
Only in hindsight was I able to see how being outside the special circle prepared me to look to a bigger world to feel at home. My first experience of this was in college and working as a community organizer in Chicago. It was obvious from my color and rural background that I didn’t blend in the neighborhoods where I worked. However, this gifted me with the knowledge that I needed to look at my differences to see where I connected with those with whom I worked.
As a hospice chaplain I continue to recognize the different ways in which I look at today from those who are dying look at everyday. At the same time I see how similarly we embrace our challenges and fear, as well as our hopes.
In the readings for the Sunday of June 8th, Paul’s letter to the Romans talks about Abraham’s ability to hope against hope that God’s promise would happen. I would imagine that Sarah, whose womb was dead, also had to draw from a deep place of faith to bear the seed of life for Isaac. Being a woman she stood outside of the “special circle.” Being a “barren woman” she even was outside of the “women’s circle.”
Yet like Matthew the tax collector, she followed the call of God to give birth to a message of hope that was often seen as being only worthy of a selected few. Matthew dared to hear the call of Jesus, Abraham dared to hope against hope, Sarah dared to bear the seed of life in a womb thought to be barren…where do these readings dare us to bear fruit in the here and now?