Friday, 20 June 2014

Pentecost 2 
Year A - Proper 21
Genesis 21:8-21

Among the hymns of my childhood was the one where:

God sees the little sparrow fall,
It meets his tender view;
If God so loves the little birds,
I know he loves me too.

As a boy I filed this one in the envelope marked "God is very big and can do all sorts of things at the same time" because, while it seemed very good of God to take care of the sparrows of Winnipeg, it was certainly not the BIG STORY which God seemed most concerned about which was obviously the family of Abraham and his descendants - the whole biblical epic which culminated in the ministry of Jesus and then beyond to the evangelization of the world, foreign missions, etc, etc.  

Sparrows were, at best, a sideline.

You remember the story of Hagar, the Egyptian servant of Abraham's wife Sarah?  She was given to Abraham as a surrogate when Sarah was unable to conceive a child.  She was given to him so that the BIG STORY would continue in spite of Sarah's barrenness.  And then Sarah, miraculously, becomes pregnant herself and so Hagar and Ishmael, her son by Abraham, are cast out of the camp.  The scene in Sunday's reading is poignant: alone and without support, food or water, Hagar lays her boy beneath a tree and retires to a distance so that she will not need to witness the boys death.  She lifts up her voice and weeps.  And God hears her.  He points her to the immediate satisfaction of her needs - a well of water - and to a future which had not existed prior to his intervention.

You've been there.  So have I.  

Our particular desperate corners - our crises, our illnesses, our family problems - do not appear to be part of the BIG STORY.  God has more than one script, however and when things appear to be lost, the game to be over and our goose well and truly cooked, we may be heartened by the fact that the testimonies of countless thousands across the history of the Christian faith begin at precisely there - at that moment of imminent or certain loss.  We cry out to the only one who can save us.  Grace is shown to what is small and cast away.  The sparrow.  The marginalized servant woman.  You.  Me.