June 14 – Genesis 18:1-15 and Matthew 9:35-10:8
May 4, 2020 by Rev. Dr. Neal Presa
The reality and new normal for the past few weeks and will likely be for many months, and the effects of which will be with us for a very long time is the ravages of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Almost every news story, almost every conversation, almost every social media post has to do with COVID. Our communication with one another has essentially been distilled to: subject verb COVID. And it’s understandable. The number of persons confirmed to be infected is on the logarithmic scale, with the corresponding number of deaths increasing each day. Economic markets are tanking, as are the employment numbers. Of course COVID-19 is on our minds and hearts. It’s seemingly everywhere, in every place.
As people of faith, in the midst of any challenge, of any trial, of any shadow of death that casts a foreboding presence evocative of fear, we hold to this communication pattern: the subject is love, the verb is love, the object is love. Think about that and hold that close to your heart. Preach it, teach it, live it. God, who is love, acts. God is the subject. Everything that God does in Jesus Christ, even when it doesn’t seem like it, is love. God loves. Whenever God creates, whenever God redeems, whenever God accompanies us, whenever God instructs and commands – what God is doing is loving God’s people, an individual, a community, a nation, the world. And towards what end does God do what God does whenever God acts and speaks? God’s end is towards love.
We see this powerfully exhibited in Genesis 18 as the bewildered Abraham and Sarah are confronted with three unexpected, uninvited visitors, whose appearance prompts Abraham to immediately prepare a feast. Some have argued that Hebrews 13:2 makes an oblique reference to this scene – “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” – concluding that those visitors were angelic beings in human form delivering a message to Sarah that she would bear a son. Whether they were angelic beings is beside the point; the three evoked fear and confusion not only with their appearance but with their strange message. We see the Lord was intimately and intricately connected to the scene because sandwiched in the confusion of whether Sarah laughed in disbelief, we read that the Lord inquired of Abraham about her laughter. Her laughter of fear and disbelief is understandable. We would be freaked out, jumping out of our shoes at the prospect of birth at an old age. Sarah had the right, understandable response. I’m only 43; I cannot imagine my wife and I having any more children at our age. Not now. No longer.
But yet, the Lord’s response as we read it and meditate upon it is, “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” Let that sit for a moment.
The text from Matthew 9 and 10 presents Jesus Christ going from town to town, city to city, synagogue to synagogue teaching, proclaiming the power and presence of the kingdom of God. God’s rule and reign was about healing – “he had compassion for them” (9:36a). He encountered and felt the need. He was touched to the heart for the many who needed to be healed, to be freed from unclean spirits. He commissioned the disciples to serve, to show acts of mercy and compassion, with the authority of Jesus. They were, likewise, to be the hands and feet of Jesus, in effect, by bearing witness to the kingdom of God in what they say and in what they do.
We know how Sarah and Abraham’s story unfolds. We read of their storied family, of the dysfunctional nature of their clan, as with all of the mess that all of our families have. Why does God bless? Why did the Lord come upon Abraham and Sarah in the way the Lord did? Why does Jesus and his disciples do what they did? The common thread is that God is on a mission: to love the world. The expansive love of God radiates from the family of Sarah and Abraham to bless the nations, as innumerable as the stars in the sky, as the sands on the seashore. The expansive love of God and the reign of God’s love radiates from the cabal of the disciples, to the crowds, to the towns, to Jerusalem, Samaria, Judea, and to the outermost parts of the earth.
So yes, subject verb COVID is what we are about, for now, and with that, all the fear, uncertainty, anxiety, and confusion. But that’s not all there is right now, or ever. It’s always been love as subject, love as verb, love as object. Because God in Jesus Christ is love.