St. Matthew’s Sermon 06-18-2017

St. Matthew’s Sermon 06-18-2017

Sarah Laughed; Should We?

Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7), Psalm 100, Romans 5:1-8, Matthew 9:35-10:8, (9-23)

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

Right off the bat, I can assure you that this week’s sermon is nothing like last week’s; so take a deep breath, relax, and say to yourself, “isn’t it funny how things work out”!

Last week I told you that I really wanted to lighten-up; preach on something more uplifting, more joyful, maybe even bring a bit of humor into my message… but I couldn’t. Now, this week, what do we find in our scripture lesson from Genesis, handed to us on a platter… laughter! “Isn’t it funny how things work out”!


Now, I don’t know how things were for you when you were little, but for me, in my early days of life, excessive laughter wasn’t appropriate. I remember being told to “quit being silly” if I laughed too much. And in Church I was taught that laughter was-not acceptable (period). “This is serious stuff and we should not be laughing in Church”. But, really, how can a child, when hearing the story of Jonah being swallowed by a fish and then spat out on dry land, not find it funny? And if we, as adults, miss the humor in it, maybe it is us that need to back up and notice the satire. And besides, laughter is “serious” business; it’s a primal means of communication.

When we laugh at someone’s joke we show our common sense of humor; when we laugh at satire or sarcasm we express our common view of a life situation; we may laugh as a means of releasing extreme tension; and we laugh to express great joy. Each of these are expressions of mood that bring us together in the common experience.

Then, yes, there is that one kind of laughter that comes to my mind that carries a negative, separating effect; the laughter intended to belittle someone. These cases are in the Bible too, but, in cursory review, most of these are when God is doing the laughing, usually at his enemy.


My guess is that we often fail to see the humor in Bible stories because of our seriousness as we read. Like I said about my early life, my elders set my predisposition to “all seriousness, all the time” with their words of criticism. And with that, until I was reeducated, I failed to see the humor and receive the message it gives us. So, now, let me give you a few of my findings in more recent years. (In Biblical order)

#1 in the Book of Numbers, Chapter 22: The Prophet Balaam isn’t quite getting the message God has given him and rides his donkey toward Moab, summoned there to curse the Israelites in favor of their enemy. God gets angry and sends an Angel to block his way. Balaam doesn’t see the Angel with a drawn sword but his donkey does and veers off the path. Balaam beats the donkey back toward the path but the donkey squeezes him against a wall injuring his leg and Balaam beats it again. Then, the donkey just lays down under him and Balaam really gives the animal a beating at which point the donkey looks him in the eye and says “I’ve been faithful to you all my life, what have I ever done to you to be treated like this”.

The message: If your faithful friend is no longer faithful, maybe you better take a closer look at the situation.

#2 The story of Elijah from 1 Kings 18: This is the familiar story of the competition between Elijah and 450 Priests of Baal to see who’s God would consume their sacrifice. Elijah lets the others go first and at noon, with nothing exciting happening yet, he mocks them saying “Cry louder, surely Baal is a god; maybe he’s thinking, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened, or he is relieving himself on the toilet.” (My translation based on English Standard Version)

The message: Our God is never too “busy” to hear us.

#3 I have to get one in from Jesus here; in Matthew 18: the parable of the indebted servant who owed ten thousand talents. That is quite a debt considering that the annual tax income for all of Herod the Great’s territories was 900 talents per year. That’s like your college-student child coming home and telling you “Mom, Dad, I ran some money up on that credit card you gave me”. How much?” Oh, 10 or 12 times the national budget”.

The Message: How much debt has God forgiven you?

#4 One of my favorites is from the book of Acts chapter 12 and includes 2 pieces of humor. First, after an Angel breaks him out of prison Peter sneaks to a house where the Church was praying for him; he knocks on the gate and the servant Rhoda comes out to see who’s there. Recognizing peter’s voice, Rhoda gets so excited that she runs back into the house loudly announcing the great news, ‘Hey everybody, Peter’s at the gate”, leaving Peter cringing on the other side of the locked gate.

The second piece of humor in this story is that those gathered don’t believe Rhoda, saying “you’re out of your mind”(probably the same thing Peter is thinking outside).

The Message: When you’re praying; for heaven’s sake expect an answer!


Of course these are just a few examples of humorous stories with a serious message found in the Bible. But, for me, if I were pushed pick ‘thee funniest’ Bible story I’d go for the one in today’s reading from Genesis.

I surely would have missed it as a child with little understanding of the limitations that age puts on men and women and reproduction; but now… it’s funny!

It actually starts a chapter earlier when God first tells Abraham that Sarah will bear him a son at which point “Abraham fell on his face laughing, and said to himself, “Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”

In today’s story it is Sarah who overhears the conversation and laughs!

And three chapters later, after Sarah does bear a son she says, “God has brought laughter for me; and everyone who hears will laugh with me. Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

To put this… (acting interrupted) To put this story into our modern context… (Stop mid sentence) excuse me… (turning around and looking up as if speaking with God) Yes, I’m listening… what!? No way!… I’m not going to tell him that! I’m not telling him; you tell him! Oh okay. (Turn back)

(Nervously speaking to a senior member) Ken, um, God has a message for you… he says that this time next year Nancy will bear you a son!

The message: Isn’t it funny how things work out with God in your life!


And my message: Not only is it okay to laugh at some of the Bible stories, we should laugh at them alongwith the God who inspired them! Whether sharing a common sense of humor, recognizing satire, releasing tension, or expressing great joy; laughter brings us together as people of God and brings us together with God.

So go ahead, laugh with Abraham, laugh with Sarah, laugh with Christ and the Apostles; and consider this; when God is laughing at His enemies, who are also our enemies, we will laugh with Him!



Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7)
18:1 The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.
18:2 He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground.
18:3 He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant.
18:4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.
18:5 Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on–since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.”
18:6 And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.”
18:7 Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it.
18:8 Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.
18:9 They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.”
18:10 Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him.
18:11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.
18:12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?”
18:13 The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’
18:14 Is anything too wonderful for the LORD? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.”
18:15 But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”
21:1 The LORD dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as he had promised.
21:2 Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him.
21:3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him.
21:4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.
21:5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
21:6 Now Sarah said, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.”
21:7 And she said, “Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”


Psalm 100
100:1 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.
100:2 Worship the LORD with gladness; come into his presence with singing.
100:3 Know that the LORD is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name.
100:5 For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.


Romans 5:1-8
5:1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
5:2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.
5:3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
5:4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
5:5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
5:7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.
5:8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.


Matthew 9:35-10:8, (9-23)
9:35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness.
9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
9:37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;
9:38 therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
10:1 Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.
10:2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John;
10:3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;
10:4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.
10:5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans,
10:6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
10:7 As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’
10:8 Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.
You received without payment; give without payment.

10:9 Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts,
10:10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food.
10:11 Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave.
10:12 As you enter the house, greet it.
10:13 If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.
10:14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.
10:15 Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
10:16 “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
10:17 Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues;
10:18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles.
10:19 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time;
10:20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
10:21 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death;
10:22 and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
10:23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”