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What did it sound like when Sarah laughed?

Sarah was standing there inside the tent listening to the conversation her husband was having with these three strangers. She had finished doing all of the work to put together their meal. She wasn’t going to intrude but she must have wondered about these three men who wandered in from the desert in the middle of the day seemingly unprepared for the Heat and the miles of travel yet before them.

I imagine her standing there hearing them ask where she was surprised that they even thought to think of her. And then they said she’d have a child. She laughed.

And I’m not sure I can blame her. First here she is 90 years into her life, and things are not working like they used to work to make it possible to have a child.

This is the fourth time that God has shown up to Abraham or Abraham and Sarah and told them that they are going to have children and be the parents of a Nation. The fourth time they were already in their 70s the first time they showed up. And over the last handful of decades, there was no child. And I have to imagine they tried. I imagine the disappointment the grief the shame the sense of failure that maybe they that maybe she was the reason the promise wasn’t fulfilled.

But over time something had broken. Decades, decades, decades ago, Abraham and Sarah were a team. They were nomadic and when they traveled and met Kings Sarah was at Abraham’s side; sometimes he lied and said he was a Sarah was his sister instead of his life wife, which caused a lot of other issues, but she was there. They together care for their nephew Lot. Together, they pondered the promises of God and their future.

Feel like sometimes happens when things don’t work out the way we plan, things got hard things got difficult things kind of fell apart. Her response makes it sound like they hardly touch each other anymore let alone find themselves in a situation where they might have a child. when these three men or angels or God showed up at their tent, there was a time when Sarah and Abraham would have shown up as a team, instead, the Divine visitors had to ask where is she because she was on the other side of the tent door.

Everything fell apart and Sarah laughed inside the tent to herself because she was alone, and because it seemed funny, and it seemed absurd, and it seemed impossible for the world to change in a way that Sarah would have this child, that  God would still fulfill the promises made to Abraham and Sarah so many years ago, at this time in their lives.

I don’t think God is judging her for laughing but rather “No really it’s going to happen. why are you laughing?”

God called Sarah back into this promise and into this relationship. God called Sarah from out inside of the tent, from away from the conversation, from being on her own; God called her back into the relationship and back into being fully involved and engaged and present to the promises of God.

Last week we talked about creation and how at the very core of our beings, at the center of who we are, we are built for relationships. We did not carry through in the story on how quickly things can fall apart. But I imagine that is something you might know from experience and don’t need a story in the Bible to tell you all about it.

Relationships can sometimes be difficult, complicated, and challenging, with struggles right alongside the joys and celebrations. It might be a marriage where the future that you had planned out is not working out the way you thought it would. Like Abraham and Sarah, it might be children, or it might be careers that change your plans or aren’t working out, or it might be where you live, or it might be hundred other things that get in their way, that cause a divide.

But it can happen in all relationships. There can be breakdowns between parents and children where one or both don’t feel seen, respected, or honored for who they are in the world and to each other. A breakdown can happen between friends when there’s miscommunication or a difference of needs and desires, time and values.

It might be the relationship between us and God, feeling that we have been abandoned, or shame-filled, or disappointed.

And sometimes a relationship we have held as sacred fall into brokenness gradually, slowly, over time, until the distance is miles from where we want it to be.

There are relationships that we know are separated from us, and there are those we try to pretend we aren’t in relationship with at all, that we try to pretend don’t really matter to us. This is the classic icon of the three guests who visited Abraham and Sarah and they sit at this table, and they wondered about Sarah, about the person who was missing.

And so I wonder about who is missing from our tables, from our spaces, from the relationship

We live on this Earth and yet sometimes we have no relationship with it the Earth with the plants and the creatures around us

What is our relationship to our neighbors, to the stranger, to the person we understand as completely different than us? Who is being kept away from the table?

How can we, like the divine visitors did for Sarah, invite them back into the relationship, to live in fellowship, to make space for them, to know their name, their stories, their struggles and fears, what seems impossible, and what makes them laugh?

Sarah is invited back into the narrative, back into the promise, back into relationship with Abraham and the divine visitors,

Sarah is remembered, seen, and cared for, and has Isaac, whose name is laughter, a reminder of her snide laughter in the tent and the joy-fill laughter when reconciliation brought a promised fulfilled, restoration of her relationship with God and her community.

May that serve as our reminder that when we work toward reconciliation with each other, with God, with the earth; when we live in right and just relationship: honoring the fullness of each person, the sacredness of all of creation, the presence of love of God; when we seek justice and compassion for each other, for our neighbors, for the stranger who is our neighbor, when we live in the world what we need and no more so that the world might thrive; when we love God by loving what God loves–every bird and blade of grass, every flower and field, every mountain and each drop of water, every creature of feet or paws, fins of feathers, we are living in reconciliation, living in relationship, living in community with the world, making space at the table of God, because it was never ours to keep someone away from it in the first place.

and then our life with God and with each other might become so intimate, so comfortable, so filled with joy that we become like the 14th-century, Persian poet Hafiz

and I have become
like two giant fat people living
in a tiny
boat. We
keep bumping into
each other
and laughing
(Shams-ud-din Muhammad Hafiz)

May you bump into God, into God’s people, into God’s creation, may being in that relationship bring you laughter.