If we pivot our focus in this passage from the history of Israel—the formation of the covenant family—to read it as a story about spiritual formation, the symbols and textures emerge in a slightly different way. Words of the senses emerge as significant and interrelated. Seeing and hearing are essential to survival. Hagar places her son under a bush so she does not have to see him die. She weeps, the child weeps, and God hears. God speaks to Hagar and opens her eyes. Once she knows she has been heard, she sees a well of water. Water, a symbol of life, often prompts a reflection on our spiritual journey and how the seeing of God’s providential action opens up a reservoir of hope. The scene might move us to ask how being heard in our grief or pain can help us to recognize God nearby. It may also help us remember how grace has provided a means for us to not only survive, but thrive, as God promises Hagar her son will also father a nation.
As you read this passage again, ask yourself how you feel when you are not heard, when you cannot bear to see what is happening before you. Could it be that exclusion or being ignored closes us down, as it did Hagar? Does isolation or discrimination create a kind of tunnel vision where we don’t see the wells that are there for our refreshment? What kind of waiting and calling on the Lord feels faithful and healthy in the place where you sojourn? What will you see when you know that your prayers have been heard?
God of the deep, living water, hear the cries of the Hagars, those cast out and struggling to survive. Send us your capacity to hear and to respond so that all your children can flourish. Amen.
The story of Isaac and Ishmael resounds through human history down to today. According to Genesis, tensions between the descendants of Isaac and the descendants of Ishmael go back to the lifetime of Abraham himself. These are complex issues, and we are wise to understand them theologically, not just politically. The psalmist calls out to God from a place of desperation, yet even in desperation there is confident hope in God. Paul attacks a theology of “cheap grace” in Romans. Yes, God forgives us; but this does not give us license to do whatever we want. When we are joined to Christ, we die to ourselves. Jesus tells his disciples that following him is a sort of death. We sacrifice a life under our own control yet find something much greater.
Read Genesis 21:8-21. Consider an action you regret or wish you’d handled differently. How might a daily examen practice help you correct or move on from your mistakes?
Read Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17. With whom do you need to reconcile? How might this psalm help you begin that process?
Read Romans 6:1b-11. Consider the author’s question, “What does freedom from sin look like?” Allow the author’s suggestions and questions to guide your searching for an answer.
Read Matthew 10:24-39. How do you see the tension Jesus identifies between inclusion and separation in your Christian life today?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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