Genesis 21:8-21 – Belonging nowhere – when greed corrupts
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the world. No, I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. I came to set sons against their fathers, daughters against their mothers, daughters-in-law against their mothers-in-law; your worst enemies will be the members of your own family.
“Those who love their father or mother more than me are not fit to be my disciples; those who love their son or daughter more than me are not fit to be my disciples. Those who do not take up their cross and follow in my steps are not fit to be my disciples. Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it.
Coming home to a safe house, warming love, food enough to share, fresh water, clothing bathroom, and luxuries, it is hard to fathom Hagar’s experience. Nor understand Sarah and Abraham’s greed. There was plenty to share, enough for a united family. Instead, the choice was to tear the family apart, send Hagar and young Ishmael away with little resources, no belongings except the barest minimum, and not even with love. This week, as our awareness of Refugee stories comes into sharper focus, I find this a very difficult reading to understand. Hagar and Ishmael’s story mirrors that of many refugees – living in community and family, with home and honour – then cast out like a tiresome pebble in the shoe of success, with a moment’s notice..
At God’s command? This is not the God I hear who includes, supports, sustains and enfolds. Or is it?
Jesus’ teaching speaks with a radical voice that breaks apart the ‘idealised family’. In ancient time, the place of identity, security, and belonging, in a society of boundaries and barriers, was imbedded in ‘belonging’ to an intergenerational family unit, who often lived in an enclosure. So often, in societal breakdowns and wars, it is a member of the family who makes a choice that arises out of their own fear and self-entitlement. Greed corrupts. Violence, in word or action, has devasting and long lasting consequences.
Sometimes, out of necessity or choice, or through being forced out like Hagar with her son, the choice can only be, as Jesus said, to ‘shake off the dust’ where we are not wanted, and where the peace that we offer is rejected. The grief is profound. The loss everlasting. Finding freedom, finding peace, is often a most painful journey. Yet, renewal and belonging can be found. God hears our cries and meets us where we are.
Prayer – A Psalm for Refugee Week indeed
Psalm 86: 1-10,16-17 A Prayer for Help
Listen to me, Lord, and answer me,
for I am helpless and weak.
Save me from death, because I am loyal to you;
save me, for I am your servant and I trust in you.
You are my God, so be merciful to me;
I pray to you all day long.
Make your servant glad, O Lord,
because my prayers go up to you.
You are good to us and forgiving,
full of constant love for all who pray to you.
Listen, Lord, to my prayer;
hear my cries for help.
I call to you in times of trouble,
because you answer my prayers.
There is no god like you, O Lord,
not one has done what you have done.
All the nations that you have created
will come and bow down to you;
they will praise your greatness.
You are mighty and do wonderful things;
you alone are God.
Turn to me and have mercy on me;
strengthen me and save me,
because I serve you just as my mother did.
Show me proof of your goodness, Lord;
those who hate me will be ashamed
when they see that you have given me comfort and help.
Amen, Amen, Amen
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