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Speaking to the Soul: Sister in the Wilderness

Speaking to the Soul: Sister in the Wilderness

Week of 3 Epiphany, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 119:49-72 (morning) // 49, [53] (evening)

Genesis 16:1-14

Hebrews 9:15-28

John 5:19-29

More than twenty years ago, Delores Williams wrote the foundational text for studying theology from the perspective of African-American women. In her book, “Sisters in the Wilderness,” Williams describes Hagar as “the first female in the Bible to liberate herself from oppressive power structures.”

Today’s second reading gives us only a portion of Hagar’s story, but we do recognize several of the structures bearing down on Hagar’s life: She has been coerced into motherhood by her owner, she is under the thumb of the mistress who has more power and prestige in the household, and the angel of the Lord himself instructs Hagar to return and submit to the slaveholders Abram and Sarai.

We meet Hagar in the wilderness by a spring after running away for the first time. Her freedom is only temporary; her escape is incomplete. However, she will eventually liberate herself. What a good reminder to us all that when it comes to the interlocking oppressions of gender, status, and religious power, liberation may take multiple attempts. We pray today for greater awareness of the factors that constrain and oppress human life, and for compassion that is patient enough to bear with our long roads to freedom.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and assists with education, young adult ministry, and campus ministry at St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.


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Leslie Marshall

[Of course women/men should not be slaves ever.]

But (then) it was God himself who told Hagar to go back and submit to Sarah. And she obeyed God. And that is why God blessed her & Ishmael with a way to survive and with the promise of building a nation (a parallel promise if you will). But with such a different purpose in mind –actually, cross-purposes.

Leslie Marshall

…as a conservative Episcopalian I’m ever the contrarian here…I don’t see Hagar as ‘liberating herself from oppressive power structures’. She didn’t want to leave Abraham’s protective wealthy patriarchal family.

Abraham sent Hagar away (because of her disdain for Sarah) & Ishmael away (because of his animosity toward Isaac) . Now she and her son had to fend for themselves in the extreme violence of the prevailing pagan culture.

If that wasn’t bad enough, The Lord deemed Ishmael…[ Gen 16.12 ]…’a wild donkey of a man, his hand will be against everyone and everyones hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.’

Not a great start for the Arab peoples, and a living hell for Hagar (or any mother).

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