Identifying with the Outcasts   1 comment

Above: The Casting Out of Hagar, by Gustave Dore

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Genesis 21:5, 8-21 (An American Translation):

…Abraham himself being one  hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

So the child grew and was weaned; and on the day that Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast.  But Sarah noticed the son of Hagar, the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac; so she said to Abraham,

Get rid of this slave-girl and her son; for the slave-girl’s son must not share the inheritance with my son Isaac.

The proposal, however, was very displeasing to Abraham, for his son’s sake; but God said to Abraham,

Do not be distressed for the boy and your slave; follow Sarah’s bidding in all that she tells you; for it is through Isaac that you are to have descendants bearing your name.  As for the slave-girl’s son, I will make a nation of him, too, because he is your child.

So next morning Abraham rose early, and taking some bread and a skin of water, he gave them to Hagar, along with her son, and putting them on her shoulder, he sent her away.  So she departed, and wandered about in the desert of Beersheba.  Then the water in the skin became exhausted, and throwing the child under one of the bushes, she went and sat down about a bowshot away;

For,

said she,

I cannot bear to see the child die!

So she sat down some way off, and lifted up her voice in weeping.

God, however, heard the boy’s cry, and the angel of God called from the heavens to Hagar, and said to her,

What is the matter with you, Hagar?  Fear not; for God has heard the boy’s cry, even here where he is.  Come, pick up the boy, and hold fast to him; for I am going to make a great nation of him.

Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water, whereupon she went and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.  So God was with the boy, and he grew up.  He lived in the desert, and became expert with the bow.  He settled in the desert of Paran, and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

Psalm 34:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

I will bless the LORD at all times;

his praise shall ever be in my mouth.

I will glory in the LORD;

let the humble hear and rejoice.

3 Proclaim with me the greatness of the LORD;

let us exult his Name together.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me

and delivered me out of all my terror.

5 Look upon him and be radiant,

and let not your faces be ashamed.

I called in my affliction and the LORD heard me

and saved me from all my troubles.

The angel of the LORD encompasses those who fear him,

and he will deliver them.

Taste and see that the LORD is good;

happy are they who trust in him.

Matthew 8:28-34 (An American Translation):

When he [Jesus] reached the other side, in the region of Gadara, two men possessed by demons came out of the tombs and confronted him; they were so extremely violent that nobody could go along that road.  And they suddenly screamed out,

What so you want of us, you Son of God?  Have you come here before the appointed time to torture us?

Now at some distance from them there was a great drove of pigs feeding.  And the demons entreated him, saying,

If you are going to drive us out, send us into the drove of pigs.

And he said to them,

Begone!

And they came out and went into the pigs.  And suddenly the whole drove rushed over the steep bank into the sea, and perished in the water.  And the men who tended them ran away and went off to the town and told it all, and the news about the men possessed by demons.  And the whole town came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him they begged him to go away from their district.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Some people are inconvenient to us, so we think that they must be apart from us, for our own comfort.  This is a sin.

This day’s reading from Genesis comes from the Elohist, who was sympathetic to the lineage of Isaac.  So it is no surprise that this text depicts God as pro-Isaac.  Yet even the Elohist depicts Hagar and Ishmael kindly.  Recall that Hagar’s status as mother of Abraham’s firstborn son and the fact of Ishmael’s existence flowed from one of Sarah’s suggestions.  She was clearly in the wrong.

Tradition states that Ishmael became the father of the Arabs, for your information.  Jealousies continue, just for different reasons.  Human jealousies are like that too often.  But they ought to die more frequently than they do.

Genesis 21 says that God came to the aid of Hagar and Ishmael, saving their lives.  God was with the outcasts.

Speaking of outcasts, we have also the tale of the two demoniacs in Matthew 8.  Read Mark 5:1-20 and Luke 8:26-39 as well, for those texts have one demoniac.  These are clearly variants of the same story, down to the pigs.  Demon possession was a common diagnosis at the time of Jesus.  Today we would say epilepsy, schizophrenia, multiple personalities, or some other medical condition.  These men lived in tombs, at the edge of society.  Once healed, they could rejoin the social order.  Healing was often about more than correcting physical illnesses; there were also emotional, social, and psychological aspects.

The former demoniacs (or whatever they were) were grateful to Jesus.  Of course, those for whom the pigs provided income had a different opinion.

There was another reason to ask Jesus to leave, however.  The people knew who they were, or rather, who they were not, in relation to the demoniacs.  They were not those dangerous, sick people living in tombs.  So who were they now, that the men were well?  The social restoration of outcasts can disturb the self-defined insiders.  We humans tend to like the concept of outsiders, outcasts.  Their existence confirms that we are insiders.  But, with God, the number of insiders is far greater than according to human definitions.  And, if that disturbs us, we need to take this to God and repent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2010 COMMON ERA 

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE, HOLY ROMAN EMPRESS

THE FEAST OF MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/week-of-proper-8-wednesday-year-1/

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One response to “Identifying with the Outcasts

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  1. Pingback: Week of Proper 8: Wednesday, Year 1 « ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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