But God will have none of this, and booms the promise one more time. "No! Sarah your wife will bear a son for you, and you will call him Isaac." And with that name God joins in the ironic fun. When Abraham "fell on his face and laughed" in verse 17, he in fact "Isaaced," because that name means "laughter." Laugh at my promise, huh, says God? Well, we will just see about that. I will show you laughter, my man, in the person of a bouncing baby boy, born to the two of you in your vast old age. As Genesis 18:14 has it: "Is anything too amazing for YHWH?" The answer is plainly, "No!"
But what to do with this grand story in Lent? Must we bow to the wonder of it, fall on our own faces in reverent awe, and swallow the miraculous birth of a boy to the geriatric pair? Is this a test of our faith in the power of God? Well, perhaps yes and no. The answer is yes if the point is that our own attempts to direct our own course, like Sarai's ill-conceived plan to get a baby from Hagar, too often end up in various kinds of disaster. But the answer is no, if the point is to believe six unbelievable things before breakfast. A United Methodist response to a baptism says it well: "With God's help, we will so order our lives after the example of Christ, that this child, surrounded by steadfast love, may be established in the faith and confirmed and strengthened in the way that leads to life eternal." Without God's help, a child can be pushed out into the wilderness. Without God's help, people can end up hating and despising one another. Without God's help, Lent can be only an exercise in religious gimmickry. But finally, the tale says, nothing is too amazing for God.