A Faith Like Abraham’s (All Of It!)

Hi Friends!

Ignore the fact that I kind of sound like a baritone in the audio this week.  I’m pretty sure one of us has been sick at some point throughout the entire month of February.  I’m SO ready for spring!

I decided to preach through the Epistle selections in the lectionary throughout the Lenten season this year.  Obviously, I preached the Gospel last week (Lent 1 = Jesus in the wilderness), but I am going to try to stay in the letters from here on out.  I preached out of Romans this week, which was paired with the Abraham narrative in Genesis, because Paul talks about having a faith like Abraham’s.  We sang and danced to Father Abraham during the children’s sermon and then I talked about looking at the entire Abraham narrative when we think about having faith like his.



Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
February 25, 2018

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Romans 4:13-25

A Faith Like Abraham’s (All Of It!)

Bruce and I met when we were both on staff at a youth leadership program at Lancaster Seminary called Leadership Now. The mission of the program – the tagline that was on all of our brochures and shirts and other SWAG – was, “Cultivating a faith that celebrates questions.”

This program was built on the opposite foundation of blindly following religious doctrine. Students were encouraged to ask questions; about their faith, about their parents’ faith, about the church, about the bible, about worship and about the world we live in (everything, really). This program wanted to resist spoon-fed Christianity; rather, they wanted each student to foster their own beliefs.

This idea was new to me. I did not grow up in a heavily indoctrinated church, but I think I always kind of took thinks at face value. I do remember sitting in Sunday School one week and our teacher was explaining the meaning of the word, “Amen,” which essentially means, “So it be.” When you say, “Amen,” at the end of a prayer, in a way, you are affirming whatever was just said in the prayer. My Sunday School teacher said she was going to read several statements and we were to respond affirmatively with the phrase, “So it be,” to each statement as our way of saying, “Amen,” and agreeing with what she said. I piped up, “Well, what if I don’t agree with what you said?” (Sorry – even the most well behaved preacher’s kids have their moments.) I distinctly remember her taking a deep breath, raising her eyebrows at me and exasperatedly saying, “Trust me, you’ll agree with these statements.”

And I did; she certainly was not saying anything controversial. The point of the exercise was not to stir up an intense theological debate; it was to teach us the meaning of the word, “Amen.”

But that moment always kind of stuck with me. Because I never really thought I was allowed to ask questions about what I was being taught in church or – gasp! – have doubts.

I was heavily influenced by Leadership Now; now, I take the same approach of “celebrating questions” when I teach confirmation and lead bible study. Even here in worship, I think it is okay (albeit frustrating for you at times) for me to look at a scripture and say, “I am just not sure I believe this” or, “I struggle with this story,” or, “I cannot reconcile what this means.”

Which is why, at first glance, our two scriptures for this morning – read in conjunction with one another – are a little bit troublesome for me.

Let’s start with the second passage we heard from the New Testament; Paul was writing to the church in Rome in response to growing tension between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. He was addressing the differences between adherence to the law (which Jewish Christians were accustomed to) and righteousness of faith (the path understood by many of the Gentile Christians, who just did not grow up following the law). Paul’s point was that it was not the law that mattered most in how they lived their lives and built their church, but their faith.

In other words, Gentile Christians – even without strict adherence to the law – had the same access to God through the grace of Jesus Christ that Jewish Christians did.

For the record, I completely agree with the point Paul was trying to make.

But there is another layer to the grace we receive through faith that I want to explore this morning. In this particular passage, Paul points to Abraham, which, of course, leads us back to this morning’s Old Testament reading from the book of Genesis.

I want to take a slight detour for a moment and talk about how I choose our readings every week. For the most part, I follow the Revised Common Lectionary, which is a three-year cycle of weekly readings from the bible used by many Protestant and Catholic churches in the United States and Canada. Every week there is a passage from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the letters of the New Testament and the Gospels. The reading from the Gospel follows the rhythm of the church year and the other passages are often thematically related to it. Preachers can choose one or any combination of the four passages for their weekly worship.

I was recently asked about the lectionary and why I follow it and I thought my responses were worth repeating here, in case anyone was curious. Do I have to follow the lectionary? No. There are advantages and disadvantages to it. The advantage is that is brings me around the bible and encourages me to preach on books and passages I might otherwise overlook. It is nice that the passages are often thematically linked, which creates a more cohesive understanding of the bible. It is also nice that a lot of my colleagues are also following the lectionary, so we are all essentially preaching on the same thing and can brainstorm together. The disadvantage, though, is that sometimes, because it jumps around so much, we only get pieces of the story.

Which is kind of the problem this morning.

Okay, let’s get off of our detour and jump back into this morning’s text. In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul points to Abraham when he talks about the righteousness of faith.

“The promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed … to those who share the faith of Abraham.”[1]
“Hoping against hope, [Abraham] believed.”[2]
“[Abraham] did not weaken in faith.”[3]
“No distrust made [Abraham] waver.”[4]

Paul paints Abraham as the picture of obedience and then, in the passages from Genesis that have been paired with the lectionary readings, this picture is kind of set up for us.

In this morning’s reading from the book of Genesis, we hear part of the story of Abraham. Abraham was 99 years old when God appeared to him and told him he was going to make a covenant with Abraham that he was going to be the father of all nations; and this covenant was not just between God and Abraham, but also between God and all of Abraham’s offspring, generation upon generation. This, God explained, would be an, “everlasting covenant.”[5]

I was reading a commentary this week that pointed out that, okay, this is all well and good and everything, but Abraham still had doubts along the way and did not fully submit to trusting God. Perhaps not in these particular passages, but when you look at the entire Abraham narrative, he stumbles once or twice. On not one, but two occasions when they were traveling as aliens outside of their own land, Abraham did not trust that God would protect them on their journey; Abraham took matters into his own hands and told people that his wife, Sarah, who was beautiful and desirable, was his sister so they would take her as a wife and his life would be spared.[6] And when Sarah was not able to bear him children, Abraham did not trust that God would reverse her fertility struggles; Abraham took Hagar, the Egyptian slave-girl, as a wife so that she could conceive his child.[7] And, in Genesis 17:17, which the lectionary conveniently cuts off one chapter before (this morning’s reading stops at chapter 16), Abraham literally fell on his face laughing after God told him that God was going make this covenant with him and he was going to have all these children.

Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, ‘Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’[8]

This is not the picture of perfect obedience. This is the picture of a man who had doubts along the way; who sometimes took things into his own hands because he was unsure of where God was taking him. This is a man who sometimes had a hard time believing in the promises of God’s covenant.

I have to laugh because, in Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, he said that, “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.”[9] No offense, Paul, but I beg to differ.

That being said, I do not think his distrust made Abraham an unfaithful man; I think it made him human.

I think we can do one of two things here. We can look at the picture of Abraham that we see solely from this morning’s lectionary and then read Roman’s reflections in his letter to the church in Rome and seek to have that kind of faith; the kind that does not waver, the kind that is strong and obedient, the kind that lives up to God’s covenant.

Or, we can remember the other parts of Abraham’s story and give ourselves permission to have that kind of faith. We can give ourselves permission have doubts along the way, to struggle to fully submit to God. We can be gentle with ourselves if we get impatient while we wait for God’s promises to come to fruition. We can laugh at God when those promises seem impossible and know that God is not going to take those promises away.

Because faith is believing in God’s promises, but it is also working through those moments when you do not.

Paul was trying to settle a dispute between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians, saying that it is not strict adherence to the law that gives us access to God’s grace, but faith like Abraham. And I agree with him – but not necessarily for the reasons he gave. Paul kind of put on rose-colored glasses when it came to what Abraham’s faith looked like; but I love the whole story. Abraham’s story is a beautiful one, full of struggles, full of doubts and full of moments – just like the ones I experience in my own life – where he did not feel as though his faith was strong.

And absolutely, a faith like that will give us access to God’s grace.

Friends, I do think we should share the faith of Abraham – all of it. I think we should share his struggles. I think we should share the moments where he hesitantly takes things into his own hands. I think we should share the times when he believes that God is not listening. I think we should laugh when the promises seems out of reach or too good to be true.

But, then; then, we should remember that the everlasting covenant God made with Abraham is a covenant made with us as well. We should hold onto the hope of that bold truth that God is faithful; that the promises made to Abraham are still made to us today and that God is always with us.

Paul is right. The grace that comes from this kind of faith is not something we can get from the law.

So may our faith give you the strength to believe in the promises made to Abraham. May you allow yourself to have doubts, to be frustrated in God’s timing and even to laugh at the possibility of what those promises might look like. May you celebrate your questions and those child-like moments when you think, “But want if I don’t agree with that?”

This Lenten season, may you also hope against hope that God is with you on your journey; that Easter is coming, that redemption is always possible and that resurrection is real and true and powerful.

Thanks be to God!

[1] Romans 4:16, NRSV
[2] Romans 4:18, NRSV
[3] Romans 4:19, NRSV
[4] Romans 4:20, NRSV
[5] Genesis 17:7, NRSV
[6] Genesis 12:10-20, 2:1-18
[7] Genesis 16:1-16
[8] Genesis 17:17, NRSV
[9] Romans 4:20, NRSV

Preaching in Pumps Podcast Artwork


Week two of our sermon series, Boot Camp for the Soul and today’s topic is, Reset.  I’m not preaching next Sunday, so there won’t be a post or podcast.  If you want to know what I’m up to, check out the Facebook page for my dad’s musical this week and next. 😉



Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
March 12, 2017

Genesis 12:1-4a
John 3:1-17

Reset (Lenten Sermon Series: Boot Camp for the Soul)

Do you ever wish that you could just start over?

Yesterday morning, I was out running errands when I noticed my gaslight was on. I pulled into the gas station and popped the cover to the gas tank, all the while grumbling about the fact that it was 18° and, who wants to pump gas when it is that cold? It was not until I got out of my car and went to run my debit card that I noticed the cover to my gas tank was frozen shut. It did not matter how many times I pulled the little lever, the cover would not open. So I tried to use my debit card to jimmy it open and promptly cracked the card.

At that point, I just kind of sighed and wished I could have started the day over.

Jesus said that yes, in fact, we can start over. In our Gospel reading for this morning Jesus was talking with a Pharisee named Nicodemus. Jesus told Nicodemus that, through God, it was possible to start over; that though we are all born of the flesh, we can be born of the spirit. And this spirit gives us a chance to seek redemption, to uncover grace and to start over in those moments in our lives when we need it most.

What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.[1]

Though I am not sure Jesus was talking about different better choices when it comes to what one might use to defrost a gas tank cover, I do believe that one of the foundational pieces of who we are a Christian is the beautiful and overwhelmingly remarkable truth that we can always start over.

This exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus is overflowing with what clergy nerds would refer to as eschatology. Eschatology is a doctrine that talks about the end of the world, the Second Coming and what happens to humans when their earthly lives come to a close. Jesus talks about what it means to be “born again” and is fairly straightforward in his dialogue with Nicodemus about what this means for people.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but may have eternal life.[2]

Christians often use this scripture to answer questions such as, “What does it mean to be a Christian?” and, “How do you get into heaven?” And yet, I do not think Jesus was just talking about what happens after we die here. I do not think, as Christians, we are called to be changed by the Gospel only in our death; I believe we are called to be changed by the Gospel in our lives, as well.

Our reading from the Old Testament comes from the book of Genesis; it is the call of Abram. In this story, God told Abram to leave his home – his house, his people and the life he was accustomed to – and go to a place God would show him; it would be there where Abram would begin a new life.

I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.[3]

Abram lived out the call to start over quite literally. His story reminds us that, good or bad, no matter how established, comfortable or settled we are into our own lives and routines, it is possible to do something different.

God makes the big changes in our lives possible; this was true for Abram and this is true for all of us. But in order for God to do this great work within us, we have to believe that we are worthy of starting over.

And we also have to believe that it is never too late or too soon for a new beginning in our lives.

It is the second Sunday of Lent and we are in the middle of the Lenten sermon series, Boot Camp for the Soul. Last week we talked about the need for change and this week’s topic is, reset. I love this topic because I believe, as Christians, one of the most radical and redeeming truths of our faith is that we have the ability to reset ourselves when we feel like we are starting to drift, when we lose our way and when our faith starts to weaken. And this is not a once and done thing, this is something that can happen over and over and over again.

Someone once shared with me that the reason they love coming to church is because they feel like they get to hit the reset button every week, whether it be in worship, at bible study or through some sort of community activity. Coming to church not only holds us all accountable in our faith, but it also opens our eyes to the possibilities within our faith, as well. Just like God asked Abram to reset the course of his life and journey, God asks this of us, in our lives as well. God not only creates this space for us to hit the reset button, but God also asks us to hit it, as well. God wants us to be changed by our faith; God wants our lives to be transformed by the new beginnings that are always possible.

I do have to caution you, though, not to get caught up in the enormity of what we often read in scripture or the stories that have a tendency to make headlines. While I do believe the Gospel calls for radical change in our lives, this does not mean that we have to make massive changes, week after week. Jesus’ call to be born of the spirit does not mean we need to give ourselves spiritual whiplash, but instead seek spiritual wholeness.

I believe God makes the big changes in our lives possible, but I also believe God makes the small changes possible, as well and the small changes are just as important as the big ones. The important thing to remember is that the Gospel creates a sort of malleability within all of us and God is always at work within our lives and our faith; through the big changes, through the small changes and through all the weekly (and perhaps even daily) resets we need.

Last week, in our conversation about Boot Camp for the Soul, we talked about why people take part in various types of boot camps, one of those reasons being that they see a need for change in their lives and they are ready make that change. I encouraged you all to think about the need for change in your own lives and now this week, together, we hit that reset button, allow God to draw us back in and reorient ourselves with our faith. We think about who we are, who we want to be and who God is calling us to be. We look at the week ahead, full of possibilities and grace yet to be uncovered.

We use this Lenten season as an opportunity to think about what it will mean to experience resurrection on Easter morning and reset ourselves so we can make that happen.

So hit that reset button in your life; let yourself be born of the spirit – over and over and over again. As we journey towards the cross this Lenten season, let us remember that God loves us so much that God sent Jesus to this earth to live in our midst, to share in our suffering and to prove that resurrection is not only possible, but that it is all around us. We are all worthy, not just of God’s love and grace, but also of God’s second chances, as well.

Thanks be to God!

[1] John 3:6, NRSV
[2] John 3:16, NRSV
[3] Genesis 12:2, NRSV

Faith Before Belief

We sang “Hymn of Promise” this morning in church and I think everyone smiled when they sang the line, “In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.”  Even though it is snowing AGAIN, I believe that we are all learning things about ourselves throughout this winter season and God is working through us in ways that will be revealed in time.  As much as I am looking forward to a spring thaw, the time to rest has been nice as well.

Here is my sermon from this morning!


Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
March 1, 2015

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Romans 4:13-25

Faith Before Belief

Have you ever felt like you were out wandering in the desert?

In the church year, we are currently experiencing the season of Lent, a 40-day penitential season before Easter where we reflect on Jesus’ 40 days spent out in the desert and wilderness. We read this passage last week (unfortunately many of you were home stranded due to snow and ice!) and talked about the ways that God was with Jesus during that time – and how it eventually that time came to an end and Jesus was ready to begin his ministry.

The summer before my senior year of college I fund myself literally wandering through the desert. I was driving cross-country with a friend of mine and we had spent the day driving across Arizona on interstate 40. We were just east of Flagstaff when we heard a loud “BANG!” and the car started to veer off in different directions. My friend Kari – who was driving at the time – managed to cross four lanes of traffic and pull off to the shoulder and when we got out of the car we realized that not only did we have a flat tire, but we had just experienced what is known as a tire blowout.

Since neither one of us knew how to change a tire, we did the sensible thing and called AAA. Great, right? The only problem was the fact that – other than “on I-40 somewhere east of Flagstaff” we really had no clue where we actually were. And when I told that to the woman from AAA on the phone she asked, “Are their any landmarks around? We need to know where to send the truck.”

Which is how I found myself wandering down I-40 at dusk as the traffic whizzed by so I could find the most recent mile marker.

Somehow I do not think my experience wandering in the dessert was quite like Jesus’.

I do not think that it takes a blown out tire in the middle of Arizona for any of us to feel as though we are wandering in the desert or wilderness. We all have times when we feel lost, when we feel alone and when we are not really sure which path we are supposed to take on our journey. Tragedies have struck our lives, illnesses have devastated us and awful things have happened that we just were not expecting. We have had moments in our lives where we have cried out, wondering if God was actually listening. We have doubted the existence of God and the goodness in the world. We have had moments where we doubted our beliefs, asked questions that were never answered and literally did not know what we were supposed to do next.

Some of us may even be experiencing some of these things right now.

And that is okay. The Christian faith never promised us an easy life. But it does promise us an everlasting covenant with a God who loves us, who is on our side, who wants us to thrive and succeed and who desperately wants us to have an intimate relationship with him.

I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenants, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

God spoke these words to Abraham, an old man with a barren wife. God spoke these words to Abraham, a man who would be blessed with a son and who would be known throughout the generations as the father of all nations. God spoke these words to Abraham, a man whose life and legacy was proof of the fact that through God nothing is impossible. God spoke these words and 2,000 years later, the Easter story gave us further proof of this everlasting covenant.

So this is a great story, right? A nice anecdote that we learn as children that describes a miracle that happened 4,000 years ago? But how is this relevant in our lives today? What happens when we are waiting for that miracle and it does not come? What happens when our faith is challenged in real and scary ways? How do we believe in this God who loves us, who is on our side, who wants us to thrive and succeed and who desperately wants us to have an intimate relationship with him in those moments when we have no tangible proof to stand on?

This is when we are called to have faith.

In this morning’s reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans, Paul writes:

For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.

The biggest thing that Paul was addressing here was the importance of faith over law – and of submitting to God’s grace through the resurrection of Christ rather than through Jewish laws and customs. But let’s take law out of the equation for a second and just focus on faith: Paul reminded the Roman people – a community of people who experienced their own troubles, just like we all do – that God’s promises came to Abraham through faith.

And in doing so, Paul was assuring the Roman people that God’s promises would come to them through faith.

And in reading this text today, we are assured that God’s promises will come to us through faith.

There will be moments in our lives where we are out wandering in the wilderness; where we are scared, where we are confused, where we are angry and where are not actually sure that we believe in God’s promises.

But I believe in these moments that we still have faith.

I do not think that faith something that you necessarily have or experience. I think faith is something that you do; something that you actively choose to participate in every day. I think that faith is a way of life – the way that we should live our lives, so that we can believe in God’s promises. I believe that faith comes before belief; that we need to live out our faith, that we need to live with faith in order to truly see – and believe in – God’s promises.

Okay, this is all well and good in theory, but how do we actually live in out?

Paul told the Roman people that, “[Abraham] grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.”

So that must be where we start.

I think that if we are struggling in our lives and in our faith – if we are lost and wandering in the wilderness – then this is where we need to start. We need to – like Abraham – give glory to God.

It may feel weird at first, but when we are facing life’s greatest challenges and feel completely lost in the world that we are living in, I think we need to give glory to God, so that – even in the midst of chaos and heartache – we are practicing faith, we are living our lives grounded in faith. When we are wandering in the wilderness, we need to rise up our heads, stand tall and proclaim to the world the immeasurable and unmovable love of God in our lives so that we can feel that love. When we do not necessarily believe in the promises of God’s grace, then we need to start by living them out. Our tear-stained faces need to proclaim to the world God’s goodness just as much as our joy-filled ones.

How we live our lives can transform how we believe in God, I truly believe that.

I think we start by giving glory to God – then we strengthen our faith – and then we feel ourselves starting to believe.

It is okay if we do not always believe this stuff; it is okay if we doubt, if we feel lost and if we are unsure of where God fits into the chaos of our lives. It is okay to be out wandering in the wilderness (heck, Jesus did it!). It is okay because this is where we defy the odds of our earthly lives and practice our faith anyway.

Having faith does not always mean believing in God when everything around us is falling apart. Sometimes having faith means living our lives as a tangible expression of God’s love that we can believe in God when everything around us is falling apart.

Like Abraham, God’s promises will come to us through faith.

So whether you are running down the interstate looking for a mile marker or you are simply experiencing one of life’s challenges, I implore you to keep living out your faith.

I promise that your life will be changed.

So, my friends, go out and live your lives with faith. Proclaim God’s love to the people around you. Show the world what it means to be a child of God, created in his image and saved by the living waters of baptism. Live out your faith so that, hoping against hope, you, too, can believe that you are capable of living the life and ministry that God is calling you into.

Thanks be to God!