Today the church remembers Sarah, the wife of Abraham. The following is taken from the Treasury of Daily Prayer:
Sarah was the wife (and half sister) of the Hebrew patriarch Abraham (Genesis 11:29; 20:12). In obedience to divine command (Genesis 12:1), she made the long and arduous journey west, along with her husband and his relatives, from Ur of the Chaldees to Haran and then finally to the land of Canaan. She remained childless until old age. Then, in keeping with God's long-standing promise, she gave birth to a son and heir of the covenant (Genesis 21:1-3). She is remembered and honored as the wife of Abraham and the mother of Isaac, the second of the three patriarchs. She is also favorably noted for her hospitality to strangers (Genesis 18:1-8). Following her
death at the age of 127, she was laid to rest in the Cave of Machpelah (Genesis 23:19), where her husband was later buried.
St. Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 1:27 that "God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong." Sarah is but one example. Out of her barrenness, God would produce the heir of the covenant that would become in himself a foreshadowing of the promised heir by which salvation would come.
Sarah, by all outward signs, was past the point of pregnancy--and so she laughed when the messenger delivered the word that she would bring forth a son. But God's Word was true nonetheless. In her old age she would become pregnant and give birth to Isaac.
We must not trust in appearances, but put our faith in the promises of God. Churches may appear to be strong and alive, on the one hand, or weak and dying on the other hand. But appearances are not faithful indication of where or when the Spirit is at work. For that, we must look to the promises of God, and trust His word.
When appearances tell us that a congregation's best years are behind it, like Sarah, Christians want to laugh at the proposal that the congregation is strong and the Spirit is alive and well. But we must not take our assurance from appearances. Rather, we must trust what God's Word promises.
Where the Gospel (the Word of God) is preached in truth and purity, there the Holy Spirit is alive and well, there the church is strong and faithful -- no matter what the outward signs seem to indicate.
And so we pray:
Lord and Father of all, You looked with favor upon Sarai in her advanced years, putting on her a new name, Sarah, and with it the promise of multitudinous blessings from her aged womb. Give us a youthful hope in the joy of our own new name, being baptized into the promised Messiah, that we, too, might be fruitful in Your kingdom, abounding in the works of Your Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.