I was going to preach on Abraham’s compassion and hospitality that he showed to the three visitors from God. But as I read this passage over and over again, I couldn’t help but come back to the miraculous ways in which God works in our world and in our lives. For the past couple of years, I couldn’t help but identify with Sarah in this very passage. I waited until I was little bit older to start a family and when we did we lost one baby and were told that we may never be able to have a child on our own.
So, through IVF Madeleine joined our family and then quite by surprise Isaac popped up out of nowhere, a pregnancy that wasn’t supposed to happen. God had answered 3 years’ worth of prayers and tears, frustrations and heartache. In all that we went through we weren’t alone. But rather I have come to know that God was there right with me, mourning when I mourned, crying when I cried, and walking the difficult road that I walked. God had compassion on me and brought two beautiful children into my life. I know that what happened to me does not happen for everyone but God always answers our pleas for help, and empathizes with our sorrows in one way or another.
So what does this story tell us? It tells us that even when we doubt. Even when all seems impossible God’s compassion, God’s love, will always win out to offer comfort and to reveal to us just what he has in store for our lives. The story that God is creating in our lives far surpasses anything that we could dream of or any plans that we have in our minds. So like Abraham and Sarah, we need to trust in the promises of God no matter how farfetched they may seem. And in the meantime, we need to keep walking in the love of Christ, the compassion of God, allowing him to work through us because only then will we one day see the unexpected yet miraculous work and life that God has set out for each of us.
So go forth and live into the care and compassion you have received from God and show that same love to others who are in need because our God is a God that requires us to pay it forward when it comes to comfort, compassion, and love. In the time of the temple, we would have thanked God for his miraculous compassion and work in our lives through the offering up of a thanksgiving sacrifice and the pouring of libations on the altar. Today we no longer offer burnt sacrifices and libations, God has no need of food and drink. We can offer up our thanksgiving in actions of gratitude lived out in our care for one another though. Henri J. M. Nouwen observed, “Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless”.
Just as God has promised to enter into our pain and to offer us hope and light as he did with Abraham and Sarah, so too are we called to enter into the world. To enter into the lives of others, to go where there is need, and to offer support, love, care, and compassion. This is what Jesus taught and how he lived. This was the point of the coming of the Holy Spirit and this is how God has acted in the lives of his chosen people throughout time. This is what being Christian is all about. It isn’t just about ourselves. It is about honoring what we have come to know as the truth of God in the world.
Let us join with the Psalmist this morning in thanking God for all that he does, thanking God for how he walks with us in our pain and offers blessings that enact healing and compassion. Remember to thank God with more than just words, let us thank God through our actions. In the ancient world, whether Gentile or Jew, they understood that to give thanks was to give something of one’s self. For them it came in the form of burnt offerings that were costly to them. Offering the god or Yahweh that which required a personal sacrifice. In our world, we have lost site of this.
However, this does not mean that we shouldn’t be marking thanksgiving, recognizing God at work in the events of our lives. So let us discern through prayer and reflection this week just what we can offer up to God, how we can reflect our gratitude for God’s presence in our lives in the good time and the hard, through the actions of our hands. And let us join with the Psalmist, truly feeling the sheer power of his words, “I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live … I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people”. When we came to faith it was to find the inspiration of God, to seek comfort for today and tomorrow, and to seek direction. When we came to faith we made a vow to God. Now let us give up our thanks offering and be the people of holy compassion that God has called us to be, giving of ourselves so others will feel the compassion of God in their lives as we have felt in ours. Let us make the compassion God showed to Abraham and Sarah the goal for how we strive to care for one another.
 Henri J.M. Nouwen, Dutch Catholic Priest and Theologian, 20th century.
 Psalm 116:1-2, 18, NIV.
(Psalm 116: 1-2, 12-19 and Genesis 18:1-15; 21:1-7)