Sunday, June 22, 2008

People behaving Badly - and a God who never gives up on Them

This Sunday’s Old Testament reading is the story of Hagar and Ishmael. And it is a tragic, awful, embarrassing story to own as my faith history:
Sarah, the wife of Abraham, chases Abraham’s first-born son out of the house so that he does not inherit anything from his father.
This is more than just jealousy – it is an effective death penalty: They live in a desert, and without a family to protect them, they will die of exposure. And the worst of it all is that Abraham gives in to his wife’s jealousy. (Go read it in Genesis 21)

And it is quite possible that if this family had placed more trust in the promise of God, then both Abraham’s sons could have grown up together. And together become the leaders of the people of God.... and the rift between Jew and Muslim might never have happened.

But it was not to be.
Sarah’s jealousy of Hagar, and her desire for her son to be the only son of Abraham, caused her to drive the two into the desert.
And so Hagar and Ishmael became outcasts.

It shouldn’t have happened,
it didn’t need to happen,
but it did.
And we have it in the Bible, staring us in the face, bearing witness to the failure of our ancestors to treat each other with the most basic level of human decency.

But I wonder how many of you have ever heard a sermon on Hagar an Ishmael?
I wouldn’t expect many of us, because this is not just a dark story, it is not just a story of our Abraham and our Sarah behaving so badly, it is also the story of the beginnings of Islam. And we have evidence right here before us as Christians and as Jews that Ishmael and his descendants were under God’s care from the very beginning and part of God’s plan.

I think we haven’t really known what we should do with that information and so we’ve just not talked about it very much. Because so much of the prevailing wisdom of Western society makes Muslim people out to be evil. The way stories and Movies are told have shifted ground: The bad guys used to be the Germans; then they were the Russian Communists; now – they are Muslim fundamentalists. But the children of Ishmael are the people of God.

As are every other kind of people who have been chased out into the wilderness. The aliens, and the orphans, and the gays, and the street people, and the refugees from Zimbabwe/Congo/Somalia are all loved by God: The story of Hagar and Ishmael is a story that warns us against our jealous rejection of other people.

In fact, the more I read the Bible the more I think that the Bible should come with a longer title, something like, “The Holy Bible: the story of people behaving badly and the God who never gives up on them.”

I am indebted the Rev. Sara Buteux, First Congregational Church of Hadley, for her rendition of the story of Hagar. She got me going.

1 comment:

President Ahmedinajad said...

THE FOLLOWING ISSUE CAN DESTROY ISLAM, ZIONIST RACIST ISRAEL AND THE TEACHINGS OF THE CHURCH AND NOT THE WAY OF JESUS WHICH IS PERFECT. RESEARCH THE BELOW SMALL THESIS to see if there is any truth to it.READ THE FOLLOWING PASSAGES FROM THE BIBLE AS IT HAS IMPLICATIONS ON THE WAR AGAINST TERROR/ISLAM and the claim of Israel that god gave them the land. If the child is an infant than the Judeo-Christian version becomes null and void and we are wasting our time and resources i.e. we could save trillions of dollars and create a more peaceful world rather than fighting against Islam the religion of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them all).The COVENANT with Abraham and his DESCENDANTS is central to JUDAISM/CHRISTIANITY/ISLAM.Please note this is not a competition between faiths but an attempt to decipher fact from fiction.Genesis 21:14 Contemporary English version se below Link
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=GENESIS%202
Early the next morning Abraham gave Hagar an animal skin full of water and some bread. Then he put the boy on her shoulder and sent them away.
GENESIS 16:16 And Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ish’mael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ish’mael to Abram.
GENESIS 21:5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.At Genesis 22 Abraham had only 2 sons others came later.The Quran mentions that it was Ishmael that was sacrificed hence the reference in genesis 22:2 your only son can only mean someone has substituted Ishmael names for Isaac!!BY DOING SOME KINDERGARTEN ARITHMATIC USING ARABIC NUMBERS (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10)NOT ROMAN NUMERALS (I, II, III,IV,V,VI,VII,VIII,IX,X) NB no concept of zero in roman numerals.
100 years old – 86 years old = 14ADD 3 YEARS FOR ISSAC’S WEANINGTHAT WOULD MAKE ISHMAEL 17 YEARS OLD IN GENESIS 21:14-21 BUT IT IS A DESCRIPTION OF AN INFANT.Carefully read several times the above passage and then tell me the mental picture you get between the mother child interactions what is the age of the child. If the mental picture is that of a 17 year old child being carried on the shoulder of his mother, being physically placed in the bush, crying like a baby, mother having to give him water to drink, than the Islamic viewpoint is null and void. Why is there no verbal communications between mother and (17 YEAR OLD) child?
GENESIS: 21:14 – 21 So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the (17 YEAR OLD) child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beer-Sheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the (17 YEAR OLD) child under one of the bushes. Then she went, and sat down over against him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Let me not look upon the death of the (17 YEAR OLD) child.” And as she sat over against him, the (17 YEAR OLD) child lifted up his voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the (17 YEAR OLD) lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not; for God has heard the voice of the (17 YEAR OLD) lad where he is. Arise, lift up the (17 YEAR OLD) lad, and hold him fast with your hand; for I will make him a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the (17 YEAR OLD) lad a drink. And God was with the (17 YEAR OLD) lad, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.The age of Ishmael at this stage is crucial to the Abrahamic faiths. If he is 17 than the JUDEO/CHRISTIAN point of view about the Abrahamic covenant is correct. This has devastating theological consequences of unimaginable proportions.This makes the conflict between Ishmael and Isaac and there descendants a work of fiction. I would strongly suggest it is clear cut case of racial discrimination and nothing to do with god almighty. The scribes have deliberately tried to make Isaac the only son and legitimate heir to the throne of Abraham??Please can you rationally explain this anomaly?I have asked many persons including my nephews and nieces - unbiased minds with no religious backgrounds but with reasonable command of the English language about this passage and they all agree that the child in the passage is an infant.
AS THE DESCRIPTION OF ISHMAEL IN GENESIS 21:14-21 IS THAT OF AN INFANT IT CAN BE ASSUMED SOMEONE HAS MOVED THIS PASSAGE FROM AN EARLIER PART OF SCRIPTURE!!! AND HAVE GOT THERE KNICKERS IN A TWIST.For background info on the future religion of mankind see the following websites:
http://www.islamicity.com/Mosque/Muhammad_Bible.HTM (MUHAMMAD IN THE BIBLE)
http://bible.islamicweb.com/ http://www.islamicity.com/ http://www.islamonline.net/english/index.shtml http://www.islamalways.com/ http://ifamericansknew.com/
http://www.witness-pioneer.org/vil/Books/MB_BQS/default.htm (BIBLE, QURAN and SCIENCE) http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/ANTI-WAR
http://www.harunyahya.com/(EVOLUTION DECEIPT)
http://www.barnabas.net/
http:/www.answering-christianity.com/ac.htm
HOLY QURAN CHAPTER 37 verses 101 – 122
101. So We gave him the good news of a boy ready to suffer and forbear.102. Then, when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said: "O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: Now see what is thy view!" (The son) said: "O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, if Allah so wills one practising Patience and Constancy!"103. So when they had both submitted their wills (to Allah., and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice),104. We called out to him "O Abraham!105. "Thou hast already fulfilled the vision!" - thus indeed do We reward those who do right.106. For this was obviously a trial-107. And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice:108. And We left (this blessing) for him among generations (to come) in later times:109. "Peace and salutation to Abraham!"110. Thus indeed do We reward those who do right.111. For he was one of our believing Servants.112. And We gave him the good news of Isaac - a prophet,- one of the Righteous.113. We blessed him and Isaac: but of their progeny are (some) that do right, and (some) that obviously do wrong, to their own souls.114. Again (of old) We bestowed Our favour on Moses and Aaron,115. And We delivered them and their people from (their) Great Calamity;116. And We helped them, so they overcame (their troubles);117. And We gave them the Book which helps to make things clear;118. And We guided them to the Straight Way.119. And We left (this blessing) for them among generations (to come) in later times:120. "Peace and salutation to Moses and Aaron!"121. Thus indeed do We reward those who do right.122. For they were two of our believing Servants.
ISHMAEL IS THE FIRST BORN AND GOOD NEWS OF ISSAC DOES NOT APPEAR UNTIL AFTER THE SACRIFICE?????Therefore the claim that god gave the land to Israel is destroyed without the need of any WMD’s.
HADITH Volume 4, Book 55, Number 583:Narrated Ibn Abbas:
The first lady to use a girdle was the mother of Ishmael. She used a girdle so that she might hide her tracks from Sarah. Abraham brought her and her son Ishmael while she was suckling him, to a place near the Ka'ba under a tree on the spot of Zam-zam, at the highest place in the mosque. During those days there was nobody in Mecca, nor was there any water So he made them sit over there and placed near them a leather bag containing some dates, and a small water-skin containing some water, and set out homeward.Ishmael's mother followed him saying, "O Abraham! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy, nor is there anything (to enjoy)?" She repeated that to him many times, but he did not look back at her Then she asked him, "Has Allah ordered you to do so?" He said, "Yes." She said, "Then He will not neglect us," and returned while Abraham proceeded onwards, and on reaching the Thaniya where they could not see him, he faced the Ka'ba, and raising both hands, invoked Allah saying the following prayers:'O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Your Sacred House (Kaba at Mecca) in order, O our Lord, that they may offer prayer perfectly. So fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allah) provide them with fruits, so that they may give thanks.' (14.37) Ishmael's mother went on suckling Ishmael and drinking from the water (she had).When the water in the water-skin had all been used up, she became thirsty and her child also became thirsty. She started looking at him (i.e. Ishmael) tossing in agony; She left him, for she could not endure looking at him, and found that the mountain of Safa was the nearest mountain to her on that land. She stood on it and started looking at the valley keenly so that she might see somebody, but she could not see anybody. Then she descended from Safa and when she reached the valley, she tucked up her robe and ran in the valley like a person in distress and trouble, till she crossed the valley and reached the Marwa mountain where she stood and started looking, expecting to see somebody, but she could not see anybody. She repeated that (running between Safa and Marwa) seven times."The Prophet said, "This is the source of the tradition of the walking of people between them (i.e. Safa and Marwa). When she reached the Marwa (for the last time) she heard a voice and she asked herself to be quiet and listened attentively. She heard the voice again and said, 'O, (whoever you may be)! You have made me hear your voice; have you got something to help me?" And behold! She saw an angel at the place of Zam-zam, digging the earth with his heel (or his wing), till water flowed from that place. She started to make something like a basin around it, using her hand in this way, and started filling her water-skin with water with her hands, and the water was flowing out after she had scooped some of it."The Prophet added, "May Allah bestow Mercy on Ishmael's mother! Had she let the Zam-zam (flow without trying to control it) (or had she not scooped from that water) (to fill her water-skin), Zam-zam would have been a stream flowing on the surface of the earth." The Prophet further added, "Then she drank (water) and suckled her child. The angel said to her, 'Don't be afraid of being neglected, for this is the House of Allah which will be built by this boy and his father, and Allah never neglects His people.'The House (i.e. Kaba) at that time was on a high place resembling a hillock, and when torrents came, they flowed to its right and left. She lived in that way till some people from the tribe of Jurhum or a family from Jurhum passed by her and her child, as they (i.e. the Jurhum people) were coming through the way of Kada'.They landed in the lower part of Mecca where they saw a bird that had the habit of flying around water and not leaving it. They said, 'This bird must be flying around water, though we know that there is no water in this valley.'They sent one or two messengers who discovered the source of water, and returned to inform them of the water. So, they all came (towards the water)." The Prophet added, "Ishmael's mother was sitting near the water. They asked her, 'Do you allow us to stay with you?" She replied, 'Yes, but you will have no right to possess the water.' They agreed to that."The Prophet further said, "Ishmael's mother was pleased with the whole situation as she used to love to enjoy the company of the people. So, they settled there, and later on they sent for their families who came and settled with them so that some families became permanent residents there. The child (i.e. Ishmael) grew up and learnt Arabic from them and (his virtues) caused them to love and admire him as he grew up, and when he reached the age of puberty they made him marry a woman from amongst them.