Friday, July 11, 2014

Sarah and Hagar: Not Models

Sarah and Hagar in the Bible are not models for bridge builders, i.e. those who build bridges of love.  'Building Bridges of Love' is the theme of the conference.
Three different activities - travel, web of support and encountering the other - at our tables helped us understand and explore how not to be like Sarah and Hagar. How can we be bridge builders of love to the 'others' (those who are not like me) we encounter on our life journey? Building bridges not walls is a challenge.

1. Travel:  
Genesis 12: 1-20 and 20: 1-18
The story of Hagar and Sarah is told in Genesis 12:1-20 and 20:1-18. Sarah and Hagar lived in a cultural context when slavery and surrogate motherhood were accepted. The Sarah tradition is part of the Genesis matriarchs. Sarah, we think, was probably a wealthy upper-class woman. We are more familiar with her story. Hagar was Sarah's Egyptian slave and handmaiden. She was also the mother of a son, Ishmael, fathered by Sarah's husband Abraham. Hagar was the first person in the Bible who named God El Roi meaning God of Seeing (God Who Sees). Sarah and Abraham traveled from modern day Turkey to Israel and Palestine, to Egypt, and back to Israel and Palestine covering some 1000 miles. Consider all the places traveled, and the experiences had.

2. Web of Support:  
Genesis 16:1-6; 17:15-16
The angel of the Lord told Hagar, "I will so greatly multiply your offspring that they cannot be counted for multitude." God told Abraham that God would bless Sarah and that she would give rise to nations; kings of people would come from her. Consider our webs of support. Who are they and how have/do they function as a web of support? If we don't have a web articulate the qualities we would like our support to have.

3. Encountering the 'Other': 
Genesis 12: 10-16; 16:1-6
Hagar was from Egypt. She served in a foreign land as a slave and a surrogate mother on behalf of Sarah.  Sarah was from Haran. She traveled to Egypt to escape famine and was taken to live in Pharoah's house. Both women at some point were strangers or 'the other' in a foreign land. They were not kind to each other. Hagar became haughty when she conceived a son and Sarah could not. Sarah threw Hagar and her son out because she was jealous. Consider how we treat the 'others' we encounter.&nbsp.

How can we build walls and not bridges with those who are very different from us? We level the playing field by remembering that all humans are created in the image of God and are thus God's children.and then we lay the foundation. Experiences in the places traveled and in our web of support often provide the foundation for building bridges. Role models show us what to do; not models like Sarah and Hagar show us what not to do as we endeavor to become more like Jesus, who of course was the ultimate bridge builder, reconciling us, who had been alienated by sin, with God.

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