Hollow-grey skin drooped on his frame, flapping imperceptivity in the wind. The hairs on his arms, legs and brow had been finer in his youth but now they were coarse, bleached blonde by the hot sun. The pit around his eyes was deeply sunk, filled with conjunctivitis – sometimes the left, sometimes the right, sometimes both. Washing only removed the gunk until the next morning. His balls were itchy, shedding flaky skin like that which fell from his head, dandruff without hair. His knees were bent – crippled to anyone else – so that hobbling around the home and yard was all he could manage.
While his world was limited by hazy eyes and achy joints, his life was much greater; as his outer nature wasted away, his inner nature grew day by day. This life radiated from him in all sorts of ways. Humour he had, and that humour confidently put everything else into perspective. Sarah, his wife, shared amusement over his shrivelled, leaky manhood and her equally wrinkled lot. The world had showed them its limits, indeed they felt its limits daily – in every bruise, cough and itch. Still, Abraham and Sarah were happy through their confident hope in life. And so it was an interesting day, worthy of note, when God told Abraham that his wife Sarah was to have a child. Abraham fell over he laughed so hard. What a joke!
But it wasn’t God’s promise of a son that was a joke. It was the absurdity of physical impossibility. Abraham laughed because he trusted in God fully despite the appearance of things: looking at his decrepit body he saw only death but he would have a son. He knew that, in all the greatness and abundance of the world around us, dry dust does not beget life – let alone a conscious, loving, laughing child. Isaac was born and given his name, meaning laughter.
This story resonates with the Christian story at Easter: with faith in the God who is with us we move toward new possibilities of life – life that looks beyond the usual course of events and expectations. This life in the living God proves to be, here-and-now, even greater than the grand limits of physical decay and death. We can laugh with hope as God-with-us provides life of new possibility, even where this seems impossible.
This story begins in the book of Genesis, chapter 17 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+17%3A15-22&version=NIV
Samuel Curkpatrick, 2013