“When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept.” Genesis 21: 15-16
These verses, from Genesis 21, our reading from the Hebrew Bible this morning, are terrifying and heartbreaking. They tell the story of a mother at wit’s end, facing the death of her beloved child, and her own death. She is hopeless and in despair. And in her situation, she is like so many others in our world, victims of violence and oppression abandoned by their families, their society, their fellow humans. Hagar is like all of the refugees in the world, looking for a safe place to live. She is like all the mothers in the world, searching for food and water for herself and her children. She is like the millions in our nation who are staring at a future with no safety net, no healthcare, no hope. Continue reading
This week’s readings are here.
I’m surprised this year by the abrupt changes in the lectionary in this season after Pentecost. As we move into Ordinary Time, there are almost no sign posts or markers to help us orient ourselves to the Sunday readings. The Gospel plops us back into the middle of Matthew, which apart from its appearance on Trinity Sunday (28:16-20), we’ve not encountered since Holy Week and Easter. And even that was something of an intrusion into our long sojourn with the Gospel of John (from the Second Sunday of Lent through all of the Sundays of Easter). The gospel reading includes sayings about discipleship that are quite challenging but consistent with Matthew’ overall depiction of Jesus.
Almost as disorienting is the reading from Genesis (we’ll be following Track I or the “semi-continuous” readings from Hebrew scripture). But again, we’re plopped into the middle of a much longer narrative arc. We hear the difficult and distressing story of Abraham casting Hagar and Ishmael out into the wilderness. This comes long after God’s call of Abraham in Genesis 12; long after the promise that Abraham and Sarah would give birth to a mighty nation; after Abraham’s two attempts to take matters into his own hand (first by naming Eliezer as his heir, then by impregnating his slave Hagar). The story of Abraham is a story of call and response, of the covenant God made with Abraham, a story of Abraham’s faith and God’s faithfulness, and a story of promises deferred. Abraham’s story ends with the only land he possesses the burial plot he purchased for Sarah, and his only offspring a son Isaac.
Even the lesson from Romans comes as a surprise with no back story. I’ll be writing about that separately in the next couple of days as part of my summer’s exploration of Paul’s letter to the Romans