June 25, 2017

Pentecost 3   June 25, 2017   Matthew 10:16,26-33; Romans 4:13-18, Genesis 21:1-21 **************************************************************** When I moved back to Vermont to serve my first churches there, I couldn’t help but notice – how people would often remind me – “Be careful what you say about anyone here… We’re all related.” Sometimes adding “Or we used to be… Or…we’re going to be.” And… The story of the banishing of Hagar and Ishmael is a reminder – we, too, should be careful what we say about any of the characters in our biblical story. Because all of us who follow Jesus are children of Abraham. All part of one large, messy and complicated family… And perhaps quick review may be helpful…. As we rejoin our story in progress… Abraham and Sarah are introduced without much ado (in Genesis 11), but next thing we know, here’s God, saying to Abraham – “Get up and go to a place to be named later. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you, and in you all the families of earth will be blessed.” Abe and his wife Sarah leave home, ages 75 and 65, traveling into the land of Canaan. There God promises Abraham – all this land will belong to your descendants. But then famine strikes – and Abe, Sarah and their entourage of extended family and servants go down to Egypt to survive. Sarah, we’re told, is a beautiful woman. (No details are given as to how she manages to stay beautiful into what sounds like well into her ’90’s, but…) Abraham fears he’ll be killed by someone who is after Sarah. So be puts the word out that she’s his sister. Her beauty then comes to the attention of Pharoah, king of Egypt, who takes her into his harem – giving flocks, herds, male and female slaves to Abraham in return. Pharoah learns the truth about this couple when plagues break out in his household. He sends them back to Canaan, where they continue childless, in spite of God’s promise of offspring. After many years have gone by, Abraham starts thinking the wait is taking too long. He complains to God “I still have no offspring, and my servant will inherit all I’ve got.” God takes Abe aside, tells him to look up into the heavens. “Count the stars, if you can count that high. That’s how numerous your descendants shall be.” Abraham believes. God reckons him righteous. Right with God. But then in the very next episode of As the World of Genesis Turns Sarah also decides… all this waiting has gone on for long enough. ‘God helps those who helps themselves,’ she apparently thinks. (Everyone’s most popular bible verse that’s not in the bible.) “Here’s my Egyptian slave-girl Hagar.” (Given, most likely, by Pharoah as part of the deal for Sarah.) “You can have her as a second wife. We’ll adopt if you have a son.” (Surrogate mothering like this was not uncommon among those with in those times.) We don’t know all the back-story. Perhaps Sarah is getting tired of her husband’s or her community’s disappointment (either expressed or implied) over her… not being able to have children… Perhaps she guesses – Abe, now in-his-mid-eighties, may not be able to father a child. (And…) If no...

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