Abraham and Sarah weren’t the only couple in the scriptures who struggled with infertility. Zechariah and Elizabeth did as well. Infertility, like other misunderstood health issues, was viewed back in the day as a judgment from God.
Honorable folks, Zechariah and Elizabeth didn’t end up responding to their suffering with the same crazy antics that Abraham and Sarah had; they seemed to accept their lot in life.
But then an angel showed up and that was a game changer.
His message was a simple one – God was going to give them a son who would ultimately have a specific and crucial role in the grand epic narrative of Israel’s history. We know him as John the Baptist. He heard the stories of signs and wonders, after all, his very existence was one of those tales.
John was a good kind of crazy; a contemplative by practice, a minimalist by today’s standards. These decisions were made to prepare himself for his call. Eventually he left his solitary lifestyle and began to preach and baptize converts. He was a compelling messenger although a confusing one and the religious leaders wanted to know: who is this dude? The priests didn’t recognize what seems so obvious in hindsight – OF COURSE God would work like this.
It’s so easy to wonder what’s wrong with those forgetful priests, men whose jobs included telling the story of God and his people so as to constantly remind the tribe of their calling to bless others. But wait. Don’t we forget too?
I do. I forget all the time that it isn’t my job to succeed, even if I am defining success in a way that I am absolutely convinced would make God smile. I desperately want to succeed at things I think we would all support – effective interventions, restoration of families, spiritual awakenings and transformation of individuals, communities, and the world. But all that, as good as it sounds, is forgetfulness. What is my/our work to remember? That we are to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. I can participate in all of that as a failure. I can preach incoherently and still do justice, love mercy and easily walk in humility/humiliation! I can utterly fail at helping a family get help and still do justice, love mercy and walk humbly. Me, my marriage, my kids and my extended family can go to hell in a handbasket and still do justice, love mercy and walk humbly. And the cool thing is this is true for all of us! Tomorrow we will talk about how we might improve our memory.