Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Hagar's Story, cont'd...

My privilege of being white and educated and American and Christian in this nation make me a child of Sarah and Abraham, and not of Hagar. I have my Hagar moments of being oppressed by evil powers like sexism and homophobia, but I hope that I can authentically listen to Hagar’s story without being so anxious to share mine. I hope I can seek out the Hagar in those I oppress, whether intentionally or not, and have the courage, as Weems says, “to take the enormous risk of opening up the deep festering wounds between us and begin to explore our possibilities for divine healing.”

So there’s the lesson—the story may enable insight or inspire repentance …but does the lesson learned redeem this story? I mean, where is God in the midst of this horrible story? In struggling through this story there are two places I have found the God I know and can claim.

First, while both women are oppressed and are working out of a sense that there’s not enough of God’s blessing to go around, as their interwoven story continues, BOTH are recipients of God’s blessing. Hagar receives a promise of multiple offspring that sounds almost identical to the one God gives Abraham! God gives both what they need most to survive in their world—the promise of an abundance of ancestors. This reminds us that while we race the oppression Olympics, we must remember that there is a just and equitable way to distribute resources and privileges so that all people can enjoy the promise of God’s abundance. Both women become matriarchs of great nations—Sarah of Israel and Hagar of Islam.

And second, this story is redeemed for me when we look closer at Hagar’s experience in the wilderness. Hagar, after all, is the epitome of an outsider—she represents a person for whom so many of life’s oppressions intersect: racism, sexism, poverty, homelessness, patriarchy, slavery, classism…she is used, abused, and rejected. And yet Hagar is the only person in the entire Bible who is given the privilege and power to name God. Throughout the Bible, humans are allowed to name people and places, but never the Holy God. Yet here a woman, an outsider, the one oppressed in every way by her society, names God. She calls God “the God who sees”—the God who pays attention to the afflicted; the God of the nobodies…who hears the pain of the wounded ones, sees their oppression, and does not abandon them in their wilderness.

And so even though Hagar’s story is painful, and even if the morality in it appears wishy-washy to us, ultimately it is a story I can claim as a part of my scripture because I see glimpses of God and opportunities for healing in it. Maybe Hagar’s story is one we can all re-claim.

by Cindy Guertin, who is some kind of wonderful


At 7/8/05, 4:52 AM, Blogger hipchickmamma said...

thank you! fantastic sermon! i love reading phyllis trible. i haven't read text of terror, but i'm thinking that one of my profs helped with the book. i think he's (jim brandt) worked with trible on something anyway. amen and awesome message! i am so inspired!

isn't it funny how when we look closely, God is generally aligned with the outsider? how is that so easy to forget? it seems we often forget the jesus was an outsider, and often he's outside of our churches as well. i hope you preach again and post it. thanks!


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