Scripture: Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 (NRSV)
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old —and Sarah herself was barren$mdash; because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, ?as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.?
All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.
Many summers ago the theme song for Vacation Bible School was "I am a Promise, I am a Possibility" (William Gaither copyright 1975) with my favorite line being "I am a great big bundle of potentiality." Okay it was a kid's song, but it had a catchy tune, and I can't help but hear it in my head as I read this scripture! God saw the potentiality of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob… you and me, even when some days they/we could not/cannot see what that promise even is, let alone try and live into it.
I have always wondered how Sarah saw herself in a culture that defined a woman by her relationship to a man and to a child. Who was she all those years when she could not be a mother? What did she think about the world God had "prepared for her?"
These days I need a bit of that "assurance of things hoped for!"
I am a year into my retirement and things are not going as I expected. We haven't moved yet, and I am bored with having all the time in the world to read and do what I want with no obligations. What is my purpose now? Who am I now that I am not employed, not the pastor of a congregation. Since my daughter has moved to support living… a fabulous thing for her… after 32 years I am no longer a 24/7 mother. What potentiality is the question that is often on my lips!
But as my son would say, "first world problems Mom!" I have bought in, more than I ever imagined, to our first world view that worth comes from being productive, getting atta girl's, living happily ever after according to my plans! Sarah and our other ancestors knew that was not the essence of the promise.
As the song says "I am learnin' to hear God's voice… I am a promise to be anything God wants me to be!" Being in listening mode is about the hardest thing I have ever done! How did Sarah wait on God for all those years? I am a promise and a great big bundle of potentiality if I only have the patience and the faith to allow God to show me my next adventure. "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1)
God grant us the wisdom in all of our transition times and our disappointing times when life is not going according to our plan to listen for your word. Assure us that the real promise is that you are with us always. Amen