Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Mark 8:31-38

I have been asked by so many people what my Lenten practice is. This process of denying something to ourselves is big in Lent. When we were talking about Lent at the clergy retreat Deb Goldfeder said they don't give up anything for Lent in Luis because it is the time of the year when they have the least amount of food. It makes you stop and think a little deeper about denying ourselves. Jesus talks about this today, but we aren't given instructions on how this might look or the real world struggle we might have with this. This is why we have our Old Testament story today though.

Abraham, Abram has to be the symbol of denying yourself. He leaves his home and kin to go to another land that God will send him to, but all he does is wander around never settling in one place. He is promise in his and Sarai's old age descendants, which means he will have a son. When he and Sarai tire of waiting she takes matters into her own hands and gives Abram her slave Hagar and she has a son Ishmael. This is where we come to the story today of the renewal of covenant with Abram and a change of name.

In other words denying ourselves is not an easy task and not always do we get it right. Abraham for years didn't fully trust only on God. We see it when he goes to Egypt to feed those he cares for as he makes up the story that beautiful Sarah is not his wife, but his sister. This is not the only time he uses that story even though God protects Sarah from becoming the wife of one of the kings. Then it is with his descendants that he and Sarah help God out, but eventually Sarah does get pregnant and does have a son Isaac.

See all along the way of Abraham and Sarah's doubt God follows with reminders of his promise. They are right there all around them, no scolding for the doubt, no dropping of covenant because of the doubt and yet somehow we forget this full story. See denying ourselves and following Christ by taking up the cross is not an easy proposition. It means that sometimes we fail, it means we sometimes have doubts and fears, and it means that God is always there waiting for us to come round again to God's promises. In this we find God's steadfast love and this is what we should be sharing with a hurting world.