Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Hope and Promises

Tuesday, February 2, 2010 -- Week of 3 Epiphany, Year Two
The Dorchester Chaplains: Lieutenant George Fox, Lt. Alexander D. Goode, Lt. Clark V. Poling and Lt. John P. Washington, 1943

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 947)
Psalms 61, 62 (morning) 68:1-20(21-23)24-36 (evening)
Genesis 21:1-21
Hebrews 11:13-22
John 6:41-51

First, a note about the new observation in our proposed calendar Holy Women, Holy Men
Dorchester Chaplains, The [Feb. 3, 1943] Four army chaplains, Lt. George Fox (Methodist), Lt. Alexander D. Goode (Jewish), Lt. Clark V. Poling (Dutch Reform), and Lt. John P. Washington (Roman Catholic) had shown remarkable ecumenical/interfaith cooperation among their shipmates on the troopship, Dorchester. When it was torpedoed, the four gave up their life jackets to men who had none and stayed with the ship as it sank to comfort those left behind. 668 of 902 men died. The four have an active cult. (Feb 3)

Today's reading from Hebrews tell us to be a hopeful and expectant people. Trust that God will bring goodness and blessing, even when we can see little evidence of the fulfillment of our hope. Hebrews remembers all of those who had hoped for the promised Messiah. Now those hopes are being fulfilled. The author lists other models of faith -- Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. Each in a different way trusted God to bless them.

Abraham is often called the father of faith, and rightfully so. The challenge that he experienced from God seems greater than I think I could bear. The passage in Hebrews mentions the test of Abraham, when God asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac. "He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom he had been told, 'It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you." For the author of Hebrews, Abraham's faith was like faith in Jesus, trusting God to raise up life in the face of death.

In our Genesis reading we see that Abraham gives up another son as well, Ishmael, son of his slave Hagar. In this version of the story (which differs from the version we read last Wednesday in chapter 16), Sarah's cruel jealousy is the cause of alienation. She doesn't want the son of the slave to play with her son, and especially she doesn't want him to inherit along with her son. And God goes along with Sarah's greedy envy. God tells Abraham to give up this son, which grieves him deeply.

Abraham sends Hagar and Ishmael into the desert wilderness with nothing but a bit of bread and water. In a pitiful scene, after the water is gone Hagar sits forlorn in the desert, far away enough from her child not to her his cries and see his death. Hagar's tears bring an angel who reassures her that the promises will be fulfilled, and her eyes are opened to see life saving water in the desert. The promise God gave Ishmael is the same promise God originally made with Abraham, to make him the father of many descendants and a great nation.

All of these promises are fulfilled, but against such odds. So often there is little evidence that the hopes will prevail. And such strange paths -- a father who must be willing to give up both sons, one which leaves never to return, one who he is told to kill and at the last moment told to stop.

I tend to expect God to work God's will through righteous ways. It is a bad thing when a woman's jealousy and greed victimizes someone who is vulnerable. Yet that is the means God uses to fulfill a great promise to Ishmael. It is a bad thing one brother cheats his other brother and his kinfolk. Yet that is the means God uses to fulfill a great promise to Jacob. It is a bad thing when brothers sell their own brother into slavery. Yet that is the means God uses to fulfill a great promise to Joseph.

I see so many bad things in our nation right now. There is a mean spirit of greed, self-centeredness and jealousy that seems to predominate. It is hard to hope in the midst of so much anger and selfishness.

In the gospel passage from John, Jesus says, "No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father..." God has such strange ways to draw us into the promises. Even when things look their worst, God is working mysteriously to bring blessing. Blessing to the chosen ones, the children of Isaac; blessing to those other offspring who appear


Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117

An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 10:48 AM, Anonymous janetlgraige said...


I wrote a long reflection and it isn't here. I'll try again.

Hope is in the eyes of the Ismael's - the marginalized - the victimized. Jesus argued in the temples telling the righteous that they had their priorities wrong and then ate with the sinners. Christ is in the gutter. I know I am called, and believe we are all asked to look deeply into the eyes of Ishmael. There is the wounded one, the suffering one. There we see the grace of Christ in all of it. And there is our hope.

Our hope is not so much in the board rooms, in Congress, even perhaps in the great congregations. Pres. Obama spent half of his address telling grown men and women how to share, play fair, things we learn in preschool.

If we are willing to look in the eyes of Ishmael, to see and to be seen, we will see the victimized, we will see the justification (right or most likely wrong) behind that, and we will see hope because there is where the risen Christ resides. And maybe we are the suffering one, the victim, and can another see Christ in us, can another experience the grace, the love, the compassion that is Christ with us.

Look deeply into Ishmael's eyes. Stand firmly in the tragic gap, leaning on grace, present to the suffering. There is our hope. There you will meet the risen Christ.

Peace and thanks for your thought filled and thought provoking reflections, Janet

At 8:31 AM, Blogger Lowell said...


Thank you for your meditation on Ishmael. I was struck today as I was looking at the opening of the Esau-Jacob saga, that in the previous chapter we have the list of the descendants of Ishmael. Ishmael has twelve sons, just like Israel will have. Ishmael was given the same promise that Abraham received, the promise that he would be the father of a great nation with descendants like the stars. When it came time to bury their ancestor Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael together took his body to the field near the oak of Mamre. When will we give to Ishmael's family the respect that God's intends?



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