And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. 2 He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth 3 and said, “O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. 4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, 5 while I bring a morsel of 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.” 6 And Abraham went quickly into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quick! Three seahs of fine flour! Knead it, and make cakes.” 7 And Abraham ran to the herd and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to a young man, who prepared it quickly. 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.
9 They said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “She is in the tent.” 10 The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.”
She stood by her husband’s grave. But it wasn’t just her husband’s grave. There, on the same stone, was carved another name, a daughter who had lived only a few weeks. The congregation her husband served at the time had given them a plot to bury this infant daughter in the church’s cemetery. They included a plot for the three of them. Now, after many years, serving other places and raising a family, she had laid her husband to rest beside her daughter. She was a widow now.
The woman I describe is my mother. After eight more years she died as well. Now she rests beside her husband and her daughter, interred in that cemetery, under that same stone, in the hope-filled and sure expectation that Jesus keeps his promise that no one who belongs to him shall be lost. At His command a trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall rise. She and my father and my sister shall rise. Then an ache in my mom’s heart shall be filled as she is given back that daughter whom she lost nearly a decade before I was born.
God filled my mom’s life with many joys. Her marriage was loving and long. Her family was large, and she was devoted to them, delighting in her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. But I think that there was always a longing for this daughter who had been taken from her by a congenital heart condition when she was a young mother. Many years later, I remember her grieving on that birthday which had never been celebrated.
In this reading the Lord receives the hospitality of an ancient nomad, ancient both because it was long ago but also because he was an old man. “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” the Lord asked Abraham that question when he and Sarah were improbably promised a son long ago. In cynicism Sarah had laughed, thinking it could not be so, not for someone so old. But it happened. The next year she held that child and, at God’s command named him Isaac which means laughter, both to signify her joy and to remind her of that cynical laugh which had once expressed her lack of faith.
God has made similarly astounding promises to you. The dead shall rise. The tears shall all be wiped away. The creation shall be restored. Evil shall be no more. He means them all and makes none of those promises lightly. Trust them.