In a moment of pure desperation this week while trying to write today’s sermon, I came to the following, desperate conclusion: the laws of mathematics don’t want me to write a sermon. After all, at least 75% of the readings assigned for today contain bad news. I’m the sort of preacher who likes sharing messages of peace and love. I’m the sort of preacher who believes in a peace-loving, peace-making Jesus. I’m the sort of preacher who wants to proclaim the coming of a peace-able kingdom.
What in the world am I supposed to do on days like today? When at least 75% of the readings seem to proclaim anything but a peace-able kingdom? The laws of mathematics have conspired against the possibility of preaching a peaceful sermon.
In today’s first reading, we hear the terrible and terribly sad story of Hagar and Ishmael’s banishment from Abraham’s camp. For seemingly no other reason than to appease the jealous Sarah, Hagar is kicked out of her home and away from everything familiar. Off Hagar goes with her son, Ishmael, and they are forced to wander in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. Hagar seems to give up on God who seems to have withdrawn the divine favor promised to first-born sons.
Ishmael comes close to death in this story – so close that his mother says she cannot bear to look on his death so she leaves him under a bush. God DOES intervene, of course, and promises a life of favor for Abraham’s first-born son. We give thanks for God’s intervention, of course, but couldn’t God have intervened a little earlier? Maybe make Hagar and Ishmael suffer a little less?
This story, both before and after God’s intervention, remains part of our spiritual legacy and part of the Biblical record. A mother’s anguish. A near certainty of a child’s death. This is not exactly the coming peace-able kingdom that I like to preach about.…