PRELUDE: Listen and sing along to "Know that God is Good" GtG 659 and praise God for the Creator's goodness.
OPENING SENTENCES (Based on Psalm 86: 1-10)
Lord, you are good and forgiving, abundant in mercy for those who call your name! You, O God, listen to our prayers and pay attention to our concerns. There is nothing that is greater than you. There are no acts that compare with yours. All the nations that you have created will come and will praise you, Lord. They will glorify your name. Because you are great and do wonderful things; you alone are God.
HYMN: Listen and sing along to "O Lord My God (How Great Thou Art)" GtG 625.
CONFESSION (Based on Genesis 21 and Matthew 10. MGV)
Listen, Lord, to your people… imperfect, rebellious, sinners…
We are your creation, and you created masterfully and good… with all colors, in your image. Same bones, same blood.
And yet… even though you created us to be siblings, family, kingdom…
we refuse your gift of love and grace…
we live blinded by prejudice…
we search for our own benefit…
or we do nothing… while others suffer in the wilderness… longing for providence.
Forgive us, God of Sarah and Hagar…
Forgive us, God of teachers and disciples…
Forgive us, God of slaves and masters…
and make us siblings…
Make us your kingdom…
Make us family. Amen.
PARDON AND PEACE (Based on Romans 6: 1b-2, 10-11)
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? For the death that Christ died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise, you also reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” These are the good news of the gospel: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.
PASSING THE PEACE
Take time to think about one thing during the week that has given you peace. It can be the sound of birds chirping, flowers coming out, or hearing from someone dear. Share it in some way... tell someone, post it on social media, etc.
PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION (MGV)
God, we listen to your word knowing that it is powerful and that is life-changing. Open our hearts and minds. Transform our hearts and minds. And fill us with words, so that we can give comfort so that we can be prophetic, and so that we can live building up your kin-dom on this earth. This we pray in the name of our Teacher, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
GROWING IN GOD'S LOVE: You can read the story "A Family Changes its Shape." If you want to buy this Bible you can go to www.pcusastore.com.
SCRIPTURE: Genesis 21: 8-10 (NRSV)
8 The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. 9 But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”
REFLECTION: Our Call to Sisterhood (Rev. Marissa Galván-Valle)
The story of Sarah and Hagar has been sometimes discarded as a story of a simple fight between two jealous women. As Pastor Debbie mentioned last week, Abraham and Sarah received a promise from God: they would have a child. This was a promise that was a reaffirmation of a promise that God had made before. Sarah had gotten a little bit impatient with God and decided to do something about it: she gave her Egyptian servant, Hagar, to Abraham so that she would give him a child, Ishmael. This was, I think, sort of a Plan B… just in case the other thing didn’t pan out.
Sarah and Hagar were both women during a time where both of them were in “gender peril”. That means that a woman was in a more fragile position than a man. Sarah knew this firsthand. She was a woman who was barren, therefore she was of no value to Abraham, because one of the most important things a woman could do was to preserve the family’s heritage and legacy through having sons. She was also a bargaining chip, used by Abraham several times to get on the good graces of chiefs and even the Pharaoh where she was given to him to gain protection and riches for her family.
It is ironic then, that a woman that has known pain, fragility, and uncertainty, chooses to use the little power that she has to oppress another woman who has less power than she has.
Hagar, the Egyptian slave, comes into the story of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 16. Her presence tries to explain why the people of Israel and the Ishmaelites have such a contemptuous family relationship. But while Sarah is the matriarch of the family, Hagar is a slave. While Sarah belongs to the family, Hagar is a stranger. While Sarah enjoys the prosperity of her house, Hagar depends totally on Sarah to live. While Sarah has some power over her body, Hagar can be offered up to her mistress’ husband to have a child. Even her name “HaGar” shows us how invisible and powerless she is. It is a man’s name that means “foreign” or “outsider.” And when she dares to look at her mistress with disdain… she is looked at as a brat.
In Genesis 21: 8-10, we see that God has fulfilled God’s promise. Isaac is born, and while celebrating, Sarah sees Ishmael. And it is interesting how translation works here: The NRSV says that Ishmael was playing with Isaac. Other versions say that he was mocking. Others say that he was laughing. The only one I found that said that Ishmael was making fun of Isaac was the Reina Valera 1960. But even if Ishmael, a child, was doing childish things… Sarah took the opportunity to exert her power to choose to do the wrong thing: "Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac."
Wilda C. Gafney, in her Womanist Midrash notes that Sarah had another option. She says that “Sarah serves as a cautionary tale, bearing witness to the temptation to exercise whatever privilege we may have over someone else, rather than stand with them in shared peril”. Yet, Sarah chooses to use her privilege, to put Hagar and Ishmael in perish. Thanks be to God, that as a plan and has a promise, not just for Abraham… but for Hagar as well.
Gafney shares this, reflecting on the words of Renita Weems about the story of Sarah and Hagar in her book Just a Sister Away. In it, she challenges all of us saying that we are all Hagar’s daughters… we all need a woman who will sister us, not exploit us.
She says, much better than I could ever do “ In those times we are frequently just a sister away from our healing. We need a woman, a sister, who will see in our destitution a jagged image of what one day could be her own story. We need a sister who will respond with mercy. We need a sister whose genuine mercy—not pity, which is episodic, random, and moody—is steadfast, consistent, and free.”
I believe that as a people, we have a choice. As a community, we have a choice. As a nation, we have a choice. Those of us that have an education, a home, that know more than one language, that have a little bit of more money, that have stability, that have access to WIFI, to computers, that have food three times a day… we have a choice. We need to be sisters, brothers, siblings… we need to choose siblinghood, kin-dom… to be the family that God wants us to be. We need to keep away from the temptation of pettiness, from the human nature of oppressing because we feel we have been oppressed or because we feel like people deserve oppression, or basically because we dislike or disagree with somebody and we fear them. We need to stop this craziness of thinking that we are all Sarahs (or Karens)… tone-deaf people who don’t realize that we are all part of these systems of oppression and racism and that we are all affected by them… because as 1 Corinthians says… “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”
We all need sisters… and we all need to be sisters. So my prayer to God is this... God… makes us family, so that we can exhibit genuine mercy and demand genuine mercy from all of those that are cruel, vengeful, prejudiced… mercy that is steadfast, consistent, and free. May God help us to do so. Amen.
HYMN: Listen and sing along to "Amor de Dios / O Love of God", written by Bob Hurd, Pia Moriarty, Ana Victoria Demezas and Jaime Cortez. (Text and music © 1994, 2000, Bob Hurd and Pia Moriarty. Published by OCP. All rights reserved)
PRAYER OF INTERCESSION: Take time to think about prayer requests, and pray for them. Pray for the situations in your home, your community, your city, your country of origin, other countries in the world that face difficult situations, and the country where you live.
HYMN: Listen to and sing along to "Somebody's Hurting My Brother", composed by Yara Allen. ( (c) Yara Allen. All Rights reserved).
May the road God has laid
Rise up to meet you.
May God keep you and bless you,
Shine God’s light upon you,
and give you peace.