Greetings and welcome to Corona Sabbath. This is one of the ways the church is endeavoring to offer spiritual support during these challenging days of COVID-19. We appreciate your feedback and suggestions.
In this summer series on the theme “Grounded” we turn to one of the foundations of our faith – hope.
We listen to Genesis 21:8-21 read by Kay Rencken???. This is a portion of the story of Hagar. In the narrative, God has promised a child to Abraham and Sarah. They will have many ancestors. But years went by and no child arrived. So Sarah sent her handmaid, Hagar, to Abraham, and a child was born, Ishmael. Subsequently, Sarah herself had a child, Isaac. Family relations deteriorate and Sarah instructs Abraham to exile Hagar and Ishmael. We listen to a portion of that wrenching story. Hagar and Ishmael do survive and become the progenitors of a great people who eventually become associated with Islam.
We begin by hearing about Isaac, the child of Abraham and Sarah.
The child grew, and on the day of weaning, Sarah and Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah noticed the child that Hagar the Egyptian had borne for Abraham, playing with her child Isaac. She demanded of Abraham, “Send Hagar and her child away! I will not have this child of my attendant share in Isaac’s inheritance.”
Abraham was greatly distressed by this because of his son Ishmael. But God said to Abraham, “Don’t be distressed about the child or about Hagar. Heed Sarah’s demands, for it is through Isaac that descendants will bear your name. As for the child of Hagar the Egyptian, I will make a great nation of him as well, since he is also your offspring.”
Early the next morning Abraham brought bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar. Then, placing the child on her back, he sent her away. She wandered off into the desert of Beersheba. When the skin of water was empty, she set the child under a bush, and sat down opposite him, about a bow-shot away. She said to herself, “Don’t let me see the child die!” and she began to wail and weep.
God heard the child crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven. “What is wrong, Hagar?” the angel asked. “Do not be afraid, for God has heard the child’s cry. Get up, lift up the child and hold his hand; for I will make of him a great nation.”
Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. She went to it and filled the skin with water, and she gave the child a drink.
God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became a fine archer. He made his home in the desert of Paran, and his mother found a wife for him in Egypt.
Reflection from Kim
When I hear the word ‘hope’ it brings to mind the line from poet Emily Dickinson – “Hope is the thing with feathers.” Featherweight – light. Not heavy hitting. Seemingly insignificant. Carrying small creatures through the sky on currents of air. Just feathers.
But hope, just a whisper of it, just a seemingly weightless pinion adrift, is what can help us to hold on. Take another breath. Make it another moment. Get through.
The story of Hagar and Ishmael is wrought with the desperation of survival. I would even say that they have abandoned all hope. In this story, it is God that has the hope. The hope for Hagar and Ishmael. The hope for their future. The hope that they will survive. And not only survive, but eventually flourish. And they do.
When life is going along fairly smoothly, we might not think much about hope. Life is good. We don’t have to have aspirations for something else, something different, something more. We aren’t focussed on how to make it through when the song we are hearing is a happy tune.
Hope is important when things have derailed. When the bottom has dropped out. When things are crashing down around us. Like during a pandemic.
President Obama is known for his book, The Audacity of Hope. How was he feeling about hope after the 2016 election? An article in the November 28, 2016 issue of The New Yorker examines Obama’s response to the election. Apparently Obama told staffers in the Oval Office, “‘A lot of you are young and this is your first rodeo. For some of you, all you’ve ever known is winning. But the older people here, we have known loss. And this stings. This hurts.’ He went on, it’s easy to be hopeful when things are going well, but when you need to be hopeful is when things are at their worst.” [“It Happened Here,” David Remnick, The New Yorker, 11/28/2016]
The worst. That’s when we really need hope. Just a feather’s worth. And if we can’t muster it, then it will come to us – from a loved one, a friend, a stranger, an article, a book, an inner insight, a message from nature, a scripture passage. Somehow, when we truly need it most, hope will find us. In the desolate desert. In the garden of Gethsemane. Separated from a loved one dying of COVID 19. Hope is the thing with feathers and it will somehow find its way to us gliding and soaring. It will take us beyond. Giving us a fresh vista. Amen.
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