God Hears & God Acts
Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA, 22 June 2014, Proper 7
Year A RCL:Genesis 21:8-21; Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17; Romans 6:1b-11; Matthew 10:24-39
My Brothers & Sisters, St. Paul asks us: “How can we who died to sin go on living in it?” I don't know how! All I know is that I do.
Fortunately, in today's lesson Paul also tells us:
“So you...must consider yourselves dead to sin & alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
Jesus frees us from slavery to sin so that we can consider ourselves “dead to sin & alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
In our first lesson, the banished slave Hagar considers herself dead as she sits dying of thirst &
looking away so she won't see her son die.
Why does Hagar carry Ishmael, who is a good bit older than Isaac, & Isaac is at least 31. One idea is that Ishmael suffered something that has left him lame.2
Here are some details about lesson. . . . .
Where are those details?
I had them right here! . . . . .
right here in front of me where I put them.
How many of you do this, too?
You search & search for something
& later you see it right where you already
I wonder if this is what happens to Hagar
in the wilderness when she gives up hope.
I wonder if the well of water has been in
plain sight & she has been so traumatized
by being thrown out of the family,
so filled with fear,
that she can't see the resource she needs is
- God tells Abraham to do what he hears Sarah tell him to do.3
- The name Ishmael means “May God hear.”4
- Notice the contrast: Abraham hears “the voice of Sarah in her lack of compassion”5 & in God's profound compassion, God hears Ishmael.6
Another detail: Why would Abraham send Hagar & his son away with so little provision? According to the Jewish Study Bible, Sarah would have decided on the provisions;
God tells Abraham to do what she tells him:
to give extra rations would be to disobey God.7
This is not the first time this family has experienced discord. It starts in Chapter 16 when Sarai has yet to bear a child. (Her name changes to Sarah later, as does Abraham's name. In Ch. 16 he is Abram when Sarai gives her Egyptian slave-girl to him to be a surrogate mother.
Hagar conceives Ishmael & looks down on Sarai, who gets miffed & complains to Abram, who says:
Do what you want with her.
She deals harshly with Hagar
& the slave runs away.
Today's lesson is not the first time Hagar has wandered in the wilderness
& encountered God!
After she wanders this time, carrying her son & their scant provisions, she gives up when the provisions give out.
How can Hagar not remember encountering God in the wilderness when she ran away?
That time the angel of the Lord finds her by a
spring of water in the wilderness
& tells her to return to her mistress & submit to her, that God will bless Hagar.
She's been in the wilderness before & had a spring of water.
Perhaps this time despair wipes out hope.
She lifts up her voice & weeps.
Ishmael has lifted up his voice – perhaps weeping, perhaps calling to God for help.
God hears & responds.
God's angel calls to Hagar from heaven, to banish her fear & to reassure her that God hears the voice of her son & God acts.
God opens Hagar's eyes &
she sees the well of water.
She & Ishmael move on away from the family of Abraham, Sarah & Isaac.....
Sarah's banishing Hagar shows us family discord, rather than the peace Jesus proclaims.
It shows not all people appreciate family as
“a school of perfection because of the endless opportunities it (gives us to) exercise...(brotherly love).”8
This story of Sarah & Hagar is one of many the Bible tells with the “recurring theme of family discord.”9
What does it say to us who follow Jesus, the Prince of Peace, the one who willingly dies for us?
It reminds us that family discord is not new. In today's Gospel, it may sound as if Jesus encourages family discord! Jesus is telling us the cost of discipleship.10 Jesus tells us not to have divided loyalties.
We can love our families; we just have to love Jesus above all others.
We see what it costs Abraham to obey Sarah because God tells him to do as she says.
He loses his son.
As disciples of Jesus, we owe God our first loyalty.
Jesus says “have no fear.”
We must not let fear deter
us from proclaiming the Good News.11
The Good News is God loves you.
God's love lives in you.
living in us, we can proclaim the
God loves us so much that Jesus
willingly dies for us, rises again,
& sends the Holy Spirit to be with
Empowered by love, we – you – can even
proclaim this Good News to our families.
family IS a school of perfection
that gives us endless opportunities
to unlearn hate & to learn love.12
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. General Ed.: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1971.
Holy Bible. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Hughes, Robert Davis III. Beloved Dust: Tides of the Spirit in the Christian Life. New York: Continuum. 2008.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Lectionary Page. http://www.lectionarypage.net/. Accessed: 6 June 2014.
Long, Thomas G. What Shall We Say? Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2011.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Eds.: Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger. New York: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 1977.
1 Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. P. 44
2 Ibid. Jewish Study Bible. P. 45.
3 Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. P. 99.
7 Ibid. Jewish Study Bible. P. 44.
8 Hughes, Robert Davis III. Beloved Dust: Tides of the Spirit in the Christian Life. P. 128, quoting Francis de Sales' “Counsels to Married People” in Introduction to the Devout Life. Ch. 38. Pp. 270-81.
9 Ibid. Harper’s Bible Commentary.
10 Ibid. Harper’s Bible Commentary. P. 93.
11 The New American Bible for Catholics. P. 1024.
12 Paraphrase: Hughes. Beloved Dust. P. 128.