What we say and do can have huge consequences to other people. We may want to put the situation “in the desert” away from our eyes, but suffering is still there, along with the presence of God. Sarah who was known for her laugh when the angel said she would have a child in her old age, became enraged when Hagar laughed also, while playing with Isaac, Sarah’s son. Because of this, she insisted that Hagar and Ishmael be sent away, out of her sight. Yet Hagar was not out of sight of God’s mercy.
Come, let us worship as we encounter the mystery of our stories of Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, and Ishmael.
READINGS FOR SUNDAY: Genesis 21:8-21 † Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17 † Romans 6:1-11 † Matthew 10:24-39
...and Sara your wife will have a son!
Now Sara was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. And Avraham and Sara were old, advanced in days, the way of women had ceased for Sara.
Sara laughed within herself, saying: After I have become worn, is there to be pleasure for me? And my lord is old!
Sara laughs. Twice, actually. She laughs again a few chapters and, we presume, nine months later when Isaac, the Son of Laughter is born and an impossible promise is fulfilled.
What do we make of this laughter? How did it sound? What stories were carried in the amusement of this aged new mother? She has waited so long, endured so many tragedies and offenses, and even failed herself. And yet here she is confronted with such a remarkable hope for something more that has always been a part of her. And now, when her life should be over, it begins.
We can imagine all this in her laugh. Her laugh has everything to do with what it means to be human—limited by nature, yet drawn to a mystery, a goodness, a sense of possibility that always outshines our best and biggest hopes.
Enter into worship.
Readings: Genesis 18:1-15 (21:1-7) † Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19 † Romans 5:1-8 † Matthew 9:35-10:8 (9-23)
About the Art: Sarah and Abraham Offer Hospitality to the Visitors, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=56993 [retrieved June 13, 2023]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ravenna_Basilica_of_San_Vitale_mosaic2.jpg.
And Abram [and Sarai] journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.
Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.
We measure time in many ways. Journeys happen in stages, one choice compounded on another until we have a lifetime to look back on. Sometimes things happen, decisions are made suddenly, instantly—a moment in time, a pinpoint of decision and action shaped by a decade or more of memories.
What are those moments of your life that define you, that capture the essence of who you are? What are the stages of your own journey? Of our corporate journey? In a brief nine verse narrative, Abram and Sarai twice build altars to mark holy encounters on the stages of their journey. At the crux of a healing within a healing in Matthew a desperate woman grasps for hope and the moment is caught for eternity.
What do we make of these moments and our captured moments? Where and how is God in them, and not? God calls Abram and Sarai to a new land, but the Canaanites were already there. Our ears more recently tuned to the scourge of colonization cannot not hear unsettling echoes of manifest destiny in the promise that is presented here. And that this woman has been marginalized for much of her life. How do we undo the trauma she has literally and figuratively held in her body?
Yes, God calls, God blesses, God heals? But to reach our true home, to be made well—all of us, together—this invites a broad vision that takes all and each of us.
Enter into worship.
Readings: Genesis 12:1-9 † Psalm 33:1-12 † Romans 4:13-25 † Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26
About the Art: Healing of a Woman with an Issue of Blood, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57961 [retrieved June 7, 2023]. Original source: http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/2048/unknown-brother-philipp-the-healing-of-a-woman-with-an-issue-of-blood-german-about-1400-1410/.
Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
~2 Corinthians 13:11
If you rush to the end of this blessing, you can too easily find you’ve arrived at an empty promise: live in peace and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Peace is not an accident, nor is it an absence of conflict. It comes by way of justice. And as long as justice is denied, as long as our most vulnerable siblings are threatened, peace will be delayed. “Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another…” The apostle charts the way to peace here. It is filled with active verbs, with activity. It does not stand still. So let us together, in agreement, listening to this Word, move forward through worship and through thoughtful, intentional action.
“The moving walkway of discrimination, prejudice and bigotry favors the racist and standing still places one in this jurisdiction of hatred.” So says Jason Campbell. Faith is not passive. It moves. It acts. It amends. It recreates.
Enter into worship.
Readings: Genesis 1:1-2:4a † Psalm 8 † 2 Corinthians 13:11-12 † Matthew 28:16-20
About the Art: Sun and Moon, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57384 [retrieved May 16, 2023]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sun_and_Moon,_Nagy_Imre_Community_Centre,_2016_Csepel-Csillagtelep.jpg.
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