Second Sunday in Lent – Sunday, February 25, 2018

February 25, 2018  

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

God promised Abram he would be a father. God told Abram “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them. So shall your descendants be” (Genesis 15:5).

Abram believed God.

Then God made a covenant with Abram, saying “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river…” (Genesis 15:18).

Abram received the land, and he and his wife waited for their children to be born. After ten years of waiting, Abram’s wife, Sarai gave her slave-girl (Hagar) to Abram as a wife. Hagar became pregnant, then looked with contempt at Sarai. Obviously, Hagar was able to do what Sarai was not. Sarai was upset by Hagar, and “dealt harshly” with her. Hagar ran away. An angel visited Hagar in the wilderness and told her to return to Abram and Sarai. Hagar bore Abram a son, whom they named Ishmael (Genesis 16).

Ishmael did not “do” as Abram’s son. The angel who visited Hagar in the wilderness warned Hagar her son would be wild, living at odds with his family (Genesis 16:12). The angel’s prophecy was correct.

Years later God spoke to Abram again. He and Sarai still had not conceived a child. God was still promising them both they would. This time, God was promising them they would be the ancestors of a multitude of nations. Our reading for the day doesn’t include it but, after God spoke to Abram, Abram “fell on his face and laughed” (Genesis 17:17). He and Sarai were old. Abram didn’t believe they were capable of bearing a child.


While I was on retreat (early this past week) I stumbled across an old book written by a 20th century “woodsman” who worked and studies the land and environment of northern Minnesota, specifically around Lake Superior. The writer is Sigurd Olson. The book I began to read is The Singing Wilderness.

He wrote in his introduction about a time when he was a seven-year-old child living in Wisconsin, inland from Lake Michigan. He wrote

The moan of the foghorns and the deep-throated whistles of lake boats were part of my childhood dreams. We lived inland, and I used to lie awake at night and listen to them far out in the dark and wonder at the mystery…

The time came when I felt I must go to the lake through the forest that lay between, see for myself the open reaches of the water, the ships whose voices I heard, the waves and cliffs of the coast. One day, all alone, I started out through the woods… At that time there were lynx and wildcats there and I had heard gruesome stories of how they lay in wait to pounce on wanderers… I ran most of the…trail, and when I burst at last out of the gloom I was frightened and breathless. Before me were space and sparkling blue horizon, with no land as far as I could see.

I was alone in a wild and lovely place, part of the wind and water… There I believe I heard the singing wilderness for the first time” (The Singing Wilderness, pp. 7-8).


I think of all the years Abram and Sarai waited for a child to be born to them. I think of Sarai’s desperation, giving her slave to her husband in order for him (at least), to have the satisfaction of having a child, a child that would inherit the land God had given them. I think of their disappointment, when the son born to Abram and Hagar was wild, living at odds with everyone.

I think of those years as wilderness years for Abram and Sarai. They so wanted children.

Sigurd Olson wrote “I have discovered I am not alone in my listening; that almost everyone is listening for something, that the search for places where the singing may be heard goes on everywhere” (The Singing Wilderness, p. 6).

The second time God spoke with Abram and Sarai, renewing God’s covenant with them—remember—Abram laughed.

Years later, Abram and Sarai, now re-named by God Abraham and Sarah, had a son. God told them to name the son Isaac. The name Isaac means “he laughed.” They heard the singing, it was the song of their own laughter, the song of their own love, the song of their own child.

Their wilderness years ended.

What I learn from this:

When God gave Jesus to the world God promised the world a world of promise: love, forgiveness, grace upon grace, peace, eternal life. Those promises are the world’s. Those promises are ours.

We all have our own wilderness experiences. How ever we define wilderness, we sometimes find ourselves there “listening for something,” listening for “where the singing may be heard,” as Olson wrote.

Never doubt; there is singing. God sings to us, a song of love. God sings to us, a song of grace. God sings to us, as song of peace. God sings to us.

There is singing.

There is singing.

There is singing.