Under the Sweet Stars of Epiphany (5) Expanding Our Vision of God—Hagar
I am drawn to the story of Hagar as if it were a deep well. Hagar was an Egyptian. She was also an enslaved person who belonged to Sarah and Abraham. As a female slave, she had no agency over her body. So, when Sarah said to Abraham, “Take my slave and use her to bear me a child,” that is what happened to her. When Sarah became jealous of the baby inside Hagar and complained to Abraham, Abraham said, “Do whatever you want to her.” And so Sarah did.
Finally, Hagar ran away into the wild, hot desert. And there, while lying by a stream, an angel came to her. “Where have you come from, and where are you going?” She could only say where she had come from, for there was nowhere for her to go that held any hope. Knowing the truth of this, the angel told her to go back and submit to the unjust confines of her existence, yet with the promise that God had seen her misery and that her child would become the father of multitudes.
And then, it happened: Hagar gave God a new name, El Roi, “The God Who Sees Me”.
A God who sees what has been done to me. A God who sees who I am. A God who finds me—even when I am shut down and in hiding—and gives me hope for the future.
What a gorgeous revelation of God Hagar was given.
This Egyptian slave woman on the run is the only person in the Hebrew scriptures to give a name to God. It’s right there. In the very beginning of our sacred story, we are given a vision of a God who sees those on the margins and is not confined by tribal lines.
Later, Hagar and Ishmael, her son, are thrown out into the wilderness to die, by Sarah and Abraham. God once again meets her in the desert, tells her, “Don’t be afraid”, and shows her a spring of water.
Today, that spring is known as Zam Zam’s well. The place where Ishmael and Hagar settled by the well is none other than Mecca. Today, pilgrims go to Mecca to drink from this well. They trace the path of Hagar in her search for water.
In Genesis, the God of Abraham and the God of Hagar are one. The same God met them in the wilderness, made them each a promise of a people who would come from their womb and seed. So much religious energy has gone into defining who are God’s people and who aren’t, yet God keeps colouring outside our carefully curated lines.
Deep peace and blessing,
Rev. Anne Baxter Smith
Pastor, Church at Southpoint
If you missed it, here’s the meditation from Sunday.
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