Lenten Devotional 2021: Day 17

Friday, March 5 – Written by Jan Wood Daly

And Now, These Three Remain Romans 4:13-25

Photo credit: Jan Wood Daly

In this passage, Paul reflects on Abraham and Sarah, and their relationship with God. That relationship can be summed up in three words – faith, hope and love. Sarah and Abraham received God’s promise because of their faith, not because of doing the ‘right things’ by following the law. A relationship with God isn’t something we achieve, but something we receive. Faith based on our own efforts would simply mean we were worshipping our humanity, rather than the one who became human for our sake. Jesus’ life and death were one singular act of faith – faith in, and trust in, God. At Easter, we celebrate Christ’s resurrection. We say, “Christ is risen!” But Jesus didn’t raise himself from the dead; he was raised by God. God does what we cannot. “God gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.”

Paul goes on to say that, “Against all hope, Abraham and Sarah believed. They faced the fact that they were as good as dead, and yet they didn’t waver.” Some say, “Seeing is believing.” But that’s not true. Seeing is knowing; not seeing is believing. When we can’t see a way forward, when we are as good as dead, that is when hope means everything. When I was 25, I went through a serious illness. I didn’t think I would survive; I couldn’t see a way through. I gave up hoping. It was then that my husband Mike said, “When you can’t hope, I will hope for you.” Hope is not the act of an individual – it is the act of a community. Together, we will hope, and trust in God to raise us from the dead.

Our relationship with God is an expression of faith and hope, but also of love. We love because God first loved us enough to enter into life, and death. In Jesus’ death, God was as good as dead. But by embracing death, God offers us life. God loves us to the point of death; God loves us into life.

Faith and hope are the life-blood of our relationship with God, but love is the heartbeat. When we are as good as dead, when we hope against all hope, love carries us through. The theologian Henry Wheeler Robinson wrote, “On the cross, God does not provide an answer. He provides a relationship with the Answerer.” In this season of Lent, may we be strengthened by Sarah and Abraham’s story, and by their willingness to trust and hope in God. As we approach the cross, may we search less for answers and more for a relationship with the Answerer. As we hold on to God’s promise, may we be held by the Promised One.

And now, these three remain – faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

God of the Ages, we lift up the stories of people like Abraham and Sarah, who, even though they were as good as dead, hoped against hope and did not waver. We confess there are times when we are not as steadfast – we falter and stumble, and are easily discouraged. We know that we don’t have a strong faith; we have a weak faith in a strong God. Hold onto us, God, when we cannot hold onto you. Carry us in your Loving Arms and keep us close to your heart. Amen.