Season 18th Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture Genesis 21: 9-20
Prayer May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing to you, our Love and our Life, our very breathe. AMEN
The story of Abraham and Sara and their perilous journey from Ur
to claim the land promised to them by God, reads more like a
soap opera than “Days of Our Lives.” God promises that
Abraham will be the father of many nations.
The story begins early in the book of Genesis, after the Creation,
Babel and Noah’s Ark. We know Abraham is descendent of Noah,
and first shows up in chapter 11 of Genesis. From this point, for
the next 39 chapters, we hear the story of Abraham and his
However, today I hope to draw us into the story of Abraham,
Sara, and Sara’s handmaiden, Hagar. It’s possible that you have
never heard this particular story since it never shows up in the
cycle of regularly prescribed and preached sermons we call the
According to Genesis, Sara and Abraham are growing frustrated
with their inability to conceive a child in their old age. Trusting
that God will make Abraham the father of many nations, Sara
decides to take matters into her own hands, and “gives” her
slavegirl, Hagar, to Abraham so they might obtain a child through
While this is not the portrait of the matriarch and patriarch of the 3
Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity, the behavior
of Abraham and Sara is already questionable, and becomes
worse as the story unfolds.
We need to come to grips with the fact that the chosen ones of
God were not paragons of virtue. They devised a scheme where
an innocent slave girl was forced into giving her body to her
master, who impregnated her. Then, Sara treated Hagar with
bitter, resentful cruelty.
Years later, when Sara has her own baby, Hagar and her child,
Ishmael, are banished to the desert and left to die. However, as
you heard in today’s reading, God reaches out to the mother and
her child, promising to make a great nation of his offspring.
That nation is Islam. Islam means surrender or submission to the
will of God. Despite some of his despicable behavior, Abraham’s
islam was exemplary. He followed God’s instructions in
everything: sending Hagar and Ishmael out to the desert, bringing
Isaac (his son with Sara) up to a mountaintop to sacrifice him.
In the sacred story of Islam, revealed to Muhammed by Allah, the
Creator and Sustainer of the World, the God of Abraham,
Abraham and Ishmael built the Kaaba, the House of God in
Mecca, which is center of Muslim Worship.
Islam has two divisions, Sunni and Shi’a, and several branches
and much variety within those branches. However, one of the
unifying characteristics of Islam is the Five Pillars, the
fundamental practices of Islam. These five practices include
a ritual profession of faith,
the zakat (charity),
the hajj (a pilgrimage to Mecca).
Many Muslims pray 5 times each day to Allah, facing Mecca.
Another defining characteristic of Islam is the primacy of sacred
places including Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem.
Locally, it is our great wish and hope that our new neighbors on
Swift Street will feel safe, teach us about their religion, which is
not so very different from our own. Perhaps such a relationship
will help us rise above rhetoric that fuels fear, to learn the truth of
our common roots, our common practices of prayer, fasting and
pilgrimage, our common love and care for neighbor, and our
common faith in the one true God.
Now, I would like to invite Tim Hess forward to introduce Imam