Written by: Rachael Keefe

With a Little Help from My Friends

The older I get, the more I appreciate Sarah. Early in her relationship with Abraham, God had promised Abraham descendants more numerous than the stars. They waited patiently for quite …

With a Little Help from My Friends

Online home of the Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe.
Image of man painting the word “change” in large white letters on an old, crumbling brick wall.

The older I get, the more I appreciate Sarah. Early in her relationship with Abraham, God had promised Abraham descendants more numerous than the stars. They waited patiently for quite some time and did what heterosexual couples do when wanting a child. As the years added up and they still had no child, Sarah sent Hagar to Abraham in an effort to fulfill God’s promise. Of course, Hagar gave birth to Ishmael and that was satisfactory for a while. Then, later still, messengers came and told Abraham that Sarah would have a son; God’s promise would be fulfilled. Sarah laughed because she believed she was post menopause. The impossible happened anyway. Sarah gave birth to Isaac and the descendants of Abraham are indeed uncountable just like the stars.

Neither Sarah’s laughter nor Isaac’s birth draw my attention in this moment. Right now the U.S. is on the cusp of change (or not). Pandemic continues to highlight racial disparities in ways that no one should be able to ignore or deny. George Floyd’s murder demonstrated, yet again, that our policing system is broken beyond repair which keeps Black folx and other People of Color at constant risk for death, violence, and/or unnecessary encounters with our criminal legal system (which is also very broken). Whether or not the nation changes is up to us. God has made it abundantly clear what it is we are called to do as people of faith – Christians together with those of other faith traditions. We are to care for the vulnerable among us and love our neighbors as ourselves. This is precisely what we are not doing as a nation right now. (I am not in any way suggesting that the U.S. or should be a Christian nation or a theocracy of any kind.)

Sarah may have laughed when the angel told her that she would have a son in her old age. I don’t blame her. I think many of us are laughing at the seeming impossibility (absurdity?) of abolishing the police system in the U.S. Like Sarah, we can name reasons why it would be impossible. We white folx jump to the question of who will keep us safe or if calling 911 would still work. We cannot imagine the change not having police at our beck and call. We have benefited from the white supremacist narrative that tells us the police system is good and safe and has our best interest in mind. Sometimes this is true for white folx and sometimes it isn’t. It is never true for People of Color. Just because something is good for some doesn’t mean it is good for all. Just because we can’t imagine something new and different and it seems impossible, it doesn’t mean it is “too wonderful” for God.

Here’s the thing. God doesn’t have a magic wand to zap us into creating a loving system of safety for all people. Here’s where we can take our cue from Sarah and Abraham. Let’s try some new ways of ensuring safety in our communities. There are smart folx out there with great, well-thoughtout ideas worth trying. If the first concept doesn’t work, we try others. Eventually, we will find something that works. We can laugh at the seemingly impossible, yes. And we can attempt to bring about radical, systemic change. Why not give God a hand? It’s not like we have better things to do. (Besides, you get to imagine God singing along with John Lennon and Paul McCartney.)

Sure, Sarah’s efforts to help bring about God’s promise didn’t go as she had hoped and neither she nor Abraham always behaved well (just ask Hagar and Ishmael). The important thing to remember is that they tried. They didn’t sit back and wait for miracles to happen unaided. It wasn’t always comfortable or easy. They did get to the place where the impossible and wonderful thing happened, though, didn’t they. We should take our cue from them. God needs us to get busy, laugh a little at the seemingly impossible work before us, and then make change happen.

I can’t help but think of the poem often (mis)attributed to Teresa of Avila:

Christ has no body now but yours. 
No hands, no feet on earth but yours. 
Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. 
Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. 
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. 
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Are we doing everything we can to be the Body of Christ needed in this time and place? If we aren’t working for real, systemic change, then the answer is no. My friends, there is much work to be done and our hands, feet, eyes, and bodies, as well as our voices, are needed if we are going to create a world in which all people are safe and free. Yes, I know that sounds impossible and it’s okay to laugh. Then remember Sarah and know that nothing is too wonderful or impossible for God, particularly when we seek to do God’s work.

RCL – Year A – Second Sunday after Pentecost – June 14, 2020
Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7) with Psalm 116:1-2,12-19 or
Exodus 19:2-8a with Psalm 100
Romans 5:1-8
Matthew 9:35-10:8, (9-23)

Photo: CC0image by Gerd Altmann

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About Rachael Keefe

Rachael is an author, a pastor, a teacher, and a poet. Her latest book (The Lifesaving Church - Chalice Press) is on faith and suicide prevention. She is currently the pastor of Living Table UCC in Minneapolis, and has launched a spiritual direction practice.

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