Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Dark Story of Crooked Lines

This week's scriptures (a whole bunch of them): Genesis 16: 1-16, 21: 8-21;
Psalm 69: 1-3 and 16-18, 86: 1-10; Matthew 10: 26-39.

Whew! I don't think I've ever posted this many scriptures for a Sunday before. And to be prefectly honest with you, as I read them I'm not totally sure where we're going to wind up on Sunday when it comes time to preach.

What I do know is that the story of Sara and Hagar is a dark story of jealousy and rage; of using people to get our goals met; of God's hearing the cry of the mistreated and the throw-away; and of God (to use the words of an old Portugese proverb) "drawing straight with crooked lines."

It is faith in this....in God's action in the face of our pain and despair....that gives the Psalmist the strength to call out. To say, 'I'm drowning here,' and to give voice to the anguish of the moment.

And it is this understanding of His Father's concern for us-not just as a piece of history or part of some ongoing Will-but as individuals, as persons, that causes Jesus to remind us that not even a sparrow (often used by the poor for their sacrifice or as food) falls without God's knowledge.

The idea that the same God who is the God of history-who has a hope, a dream for what creation will be....cares about you and me in all our tiny, small, petty, cruel, heroic, humanness....it is truly an Awe-ful thing.

That God heard the cries of Hagar and Ishmael does not diminish or excuse Sara's cruelty or Abram's cowardliness in sending them into the wilderness. But if I have to live in a world where cowardliness and cruelty are often in the driver's seat, I'm grateful that God hears the cry of those who are driven out.

A final word. One of the things that I love about scripture...even when it makes me squirm...is that it does not blink in the face of the truth about the people whom God called to be God's friends. It does not soft-soap their shortcomings or their sins. The Hebrew Scriptures are especially noted for their brutal honesty about the human condition and its potential for being less that what we are called to be. It gives me hope that if these persons, with their issues, found a place in God's friendship, perhaps there is room for me as well with all of my sins.

See you Sunday.
Shalom,
Stephen

3 comments:

Jeremy said...

I'll be interested to hear what you think this tells us about rage and anger, mainly due to my own struggles with those feelings. Or how easily our perception of justice is colored by anger, turning it into revenge or some sort of sacrifice to social order.

Not that I expect a definitive answer of course, even with that many scriptures!

Kara said...

I'm curious how Sunday's sermon turned out with so much material. I like stories like this that challenge us with the idiosyncrasies of characters like Abraham and Sarah who usually are revered but are also flawed.

Jeremy said...

Hi Kara,

I'm working on the backlog of sermons, and should have all available sermons uploaded here soon. Then, you can hear them for yourself.

Peace,