Saturday, April 12, 2014

Gospel Medicine: Chapter 6 - Late Bloomer

This blog series is based on the book "Gospel Medicine" by Barbara Brown Taylor, an Episcopal minister who has written several books based on her own life and her sermons. "Gospel Medicine" is a book of sermons around the concept that the Gospel of Christ is medicine to the soul. I discovered this book while attending a morning book club at my local United Church and I was blown away by the depth and beauty of Taylor's writing. These posts will be looking at each of the chapters of this particular book. 

In this chapter Taylor tackles the story of Abraham and Sarah. Abram and Sarai are old and infertile. Sarai is well past the age of child bearing, Abram is even older. So when God promises that they will be the parents of more people than stars that can be counted in the sky there is some skepticism. As a promise and a reminder (much like the rainbow) God rechristens them. Abraham meaning "father of a multitude of nations" and Sarah "kings of people shall come from her".

The promise doesn't happen instantly. Years earlier Sarai had asked Abram to impregnate her hand maid Hagar. It must have taken an act of desperation to ask your husband to have sex with another woman. But in that time, a woman's worth was based on motherhood.

I feel more sorry for Hagar than I do for Sarah. It appears that hand maid is merely a nicer term than house slave. It does not appear that Hagar was asked for her opinion on this plan. She was ordered to have sex with an old man until she became pregnant and then give up her child to Sarai. The child was not completely given up. Hagar was still a part of Ishamael's life. But even though she bore him, nursed him and took care of him, she would always be viewed as the lesser mother. Ishmael belonged to Abram and Sarai. Furthermore, the child that Sarah eventually bore took presidence over Ishmael, the lesser son. Plus Hagar is not allowed to have a husband of her own as she is owned by Abraham and Sarah.

It's no wonder that Hagar is resentful.

The point of this chapter is that we must be patient for God's promises. He will fulfill them in His own time.

Who knows, maybe he would have fulfilled them faster if they had treated Hagar with dignity and respect. You know, not enslaved her and allowed her a family of her own.

Which really isn't the point of this story, but this story makes me so mad that I have trouble seeing anything else. I know Abraham and Sarah are considered to be righteous people, but I'm having trouble with the whole slavery, polygamy thing. Even when you consider it was the culture of the time.

I guess God blesses people even when they behave badly and he judges based on what knowledge we actually have. He won't condemn you if you have slaves and you don't know that slavery is horrible because that's the cultural construct of your time.

I like to think that Hagar was rewarded when she died. Rewarded big time.

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