Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Genesis 21:8-21

Pentecost +6 – Year A

Genesis 21:8-21

More with the divisions between us being stronger than what holds us together. The power of the blood tribe is "strong", just like the state of the nation. Embarrassment at not being first, when all the promises and work were mine, is also strong. It doesn't take much for us to feel that we are underappreciated and protection of our perception is certainly worth a life or two.

As we travel along we keep forgetting it is the second kid, the last kid, that seems to have a line of the future running through them. Second-born Isaac remains second born and a line for the Hebrew/Jewish tradition to follow.

It will be important to follow all of the Ishmael/Isaac encounters to catch a glimpse of reconciliation and working together at Abraham's death and to take their respective honored places when generational leadership came to them.

So who is the good and the bad here? Sarah protecting her own and giving up another? Abraham giving a skin of water, so little against a large desert? Hagar for lifting a voice in weeping even if departing without a confrontation? Unnamed Ishmael another nimrod who anticipates Jacob's teasing? Isaac so young, so symbolic?

Of these six archetypes, which most closely approximates your past? your present? your desire? Note that each is a mixed bag and so this question is not about ideals on one side, but the mixture of motives and actions that is you.


  1. Here's an excerpt from my blog, Sunday's Child--Abraham himself got up early and packed a lunch for Hagar and their son Ishmael. We are told that he sent them off, but we are not told what he said to them or what they said to him. We have no recorded conversation between Abraham and Ishmael.

    In the wilderness, after the water has run out, Hagar gives up hope. Once more, a messenger from God speaks to her. Before, God had told her to return to Sarah. Not this time. Hagar and Ishmael are no longer dependent on the good will of Sarah. God will take care of them and provide a future for them.

    Then God opens her eyes and she sees a well of water.

    We don't know if Abraham ever sees Ishmael again. We do know that the two brothers go to his funeral (Genesis 25:7-9).

    Bringing this text into our present means considering all the children who have been abandoned by the comfortable. What messenger is God sending to show their protectors where the well is? Consider other ways of being alone--loss of a job, illness, living with addictions. How does God appear in these situations? What is our part in rescue to be?

  2. Una –

    Thanks for you comment. I appreciated a brief look at your blog "Sunday's Child" (http://unamalachica.blogspot.com/).

    I really like your bringing the question of where wells are to be found in today's world. Scripturally a well was a place of great significance, a holy or thin place, connecting the depths with the surface in people's lives.

    One hesitation I have is about the issue of "rescue". Revelation of a well present but previously unnoted seems more an internal shift than an external rescue. If you would care to say more about this, I'd be glad to hear you.


  3. Wesley, I'm not ready to grant your distinction, but I am thinking about it. Can we shift internally if there's not something out there to shift toward?

    I'll continue to ponder this distinction when we get to the passage of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac. God says, "don't do it," and Abraham looks up and sees a ram caught in the shrubs.

  4. Una, I'm not ready to grant my distinction, either. Likewise, I'm not ready to abandon it. The issues of foreground and background and finding life with both and between both are always with us. In Myers-Briggs language this may be part of each of the preferences they use (extraversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, judging/perceiving).

    A bias I bring is an unknown and mysterious seed sprouting within that will push past any number of layers of concrete to finally lift its head. A related bias is that this sprouting takes place in the context of the incompatibilities of our current situation rather than oriented toward a particular outcome.

    Thank you for your further pondering. I'll join you in that even as I can already appreciate The New Interpreter's Study Bible note, "Nowhere in Genesis does a single event contain such a moral paradox for the interpreter." Even as Isaac is bound, as will Israel be in Egypt and Exile, Abraham is heard to say, "Here I am, my son" and wrestles with what it means to have G*D awakened within to not do a worshipful and obedient sacrifice. Visually it is one of the storm-troopers claiming responsibility for the Death Star and saying, "No."


Thank you for blessing us with your response.