We are thankful as we remember this morning as this is Memorial Day Weekend. As we celebrate this weekend we remember those who paid a high price, those who have given their lives so we can gather together today. We can worship. Most of us are gathering at home this morning. We are starting to hear about things reopening and returning to normal. Things haven’t been normal for quite awhile for us. I I want to remind you thought that this is the kind of weekend to remember and to think about such things as those who have given their lives for us. It’s time for us to do the things that we’d do on a normal Memorial Day weekend, to think about those who paid such a price because here’s what’s happening. As we begin to reopen and do some things that feel very good to us it can also bring some other thoughts to our minds as well. While remembering those who paid this price, they are not forgotten. Somewhere along the way you can also feel forgotten in all of this. Here’s what happens in many of our lives. If you think back to January and March, that whole time period, did you have problems back then? Did you have struggles that you were working through? We all had things we were dealing with in our lives. We all had challenges but suddenly we were all thrown into this pandemic. We were doing a lot of things to make adjustments in our lives. We needed to do that, but as we did that we put a lot of other things in our lives on the back burner. We just couldn’t deal with those things right now because we have a pandemic going on. As things begin to open back up and some parts of our lives begin to return to normal all of those things that were in our lives before all of this happened, they’re starting to come back again. What that can do is it can make us more anxious than we were before. Now we realize we have to deal with all the things we had before in our lives and deal with reopening and with the pressures of COVID 19 still with us. As we think about all of this and the challenges that come with this I want you to know that God has not forgotten you.
This morning we are in Genesis 16 :7-16 we encounter Hagar. Hagar isn’t mentioned a whole lot in scripture, but what we do see about her is phenomenal. Hagar was one of Abraham’s slaves. Hagar is with child, pregnant. Hagar is in a very difficult situation because she is being abused and because of the relational damage that has happened in that home, she is afraid and she’s ready to get away from it. She is so afraid and distraught that she runs away. She just wants freedom and on a weekend like this we can relate to that. We are a freedom loving people. Hagar just wanted freedom and was so desperate for freedom. She wanted to be free from this hostile environment that she was willing to leave everything and just go. That’s what she does and in the middle of her running what she discovers is that God pursues us.
God pursues us.
We are going to discover that God pursues and we will encounter Hagar in verse 7. Hagar is in the middle fo the wilderness and she’s headed for home. She’s on the road to Egypt; she was from Egypt and she’s on the way back there trying to get away from it all. In the middle of that she finds God pursuing her.
7The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur.
God teaches us.
What Hagar teaches us is that when God shows up God teaches us. When we first read these words, these are very harsh words. Keep in mind that Hagar was a slave and she’s trying to find freedom and she’s free, she’s finally broken away from it and in breaking away from it she also lost every means of support that she had in her life. She’s pregnant, all on her own and God shows up and will teach her in this verse and it will sound very harsh. It brings a question to our mind, “Why would God say these things to her?”
We see God.
God hears us.
Hagar finds this out in a very unique way. She knows she’s pregnant but she doesn’t know she will have a son. God tells her here that the child within her is a boy.
11And the angel of the Lord said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has listened to your affliction.
She is indeed not forgotten. She feels like she’s been forgotten but God, in coming to her in this unique way, and telling her that she will have a son and what to name him, is God’s way of telling her she is not forgotten. She’s not aware of all the things that have been happening. She’s trying to find freedom and to fix things on her own, not realizing that God is working in all of this. God is helping her to know that she is not alone in all this, not forgotten. The name Ishmael literally means ‘God hears.’ Every time she says her son’s name throughout her life she will be reminded that we have a God who hears us. This child will be a reminder to her of God’s presence. God hears us and is with us even when we don’t feel God. God is present even in those moments when we don’t understand what’s happening. God hears us and God sees us.
God sees us.
The next thing that she realizes as we move forward to verse 13 is that God sees us. We are known by God. The fact that God sees us also tells us that God knows us. Sometimes we can feel like God doesn’t understand us or maybe that nobody understands us. Nobody really knows us. We don’t know exactly what Hagar was feeling, but we can imagine. We imagine she was a marginalized woman who could not have been any lower on the socioeconomic ladder. She’s a slave. She’s a woman. She’s all alone, no career. She could not have felt like she was more dismissed than any other person on the face of the earth. In this moment God has shown up and said I hear you.
13So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,”
What she says here is, “I have seen the One who sees me.” That’s a lot to say. We have to slow down a moment to let that sink in. As God sees me and knows me I see God looking at me. I know His presence. It’s more than just being known, it’s that I understand who God is now in a way that I didn’t understand before. All of the hurt we’ve been through, all the challenges, and changes, I know you’re struggling. We are all struggling with this. Your struggle is real. Your pain is real. If we aren’t careful we’ll take out our frustration on others and on systems. This is just difficult. If we’re in a rush to get back to everything normal we can miss something God is doing in our life. We can miss something far greater that God wants to do and that is to make us more like His son. There’s a possibility that we’ll miss seeing God. Are you seeing God in all of this? Can you see the reason God might be doing some of the things He is doing in your life? As a church there’s reasons why God has taken us through this time. We don’t know all of those reasons but we do know one thing: God’s heart is for people all over this world. God loves people more than we can ever imagine. One of the things God is always passionate about is turning us from the inside out, getting us outside of the church walls. I’d say God’s accomplished that mission. We’ve been outside the church walls completely. We miss being inside the church walls but think about how many times we’ve talked about this, how God wants us to get outside the walls. God did it! What are we doing in these moments outside the walls? Can you see what God is doing in your life? This pandemic is real, but this pandemic is not the biggest thing happening right now in this world. It seems like it, it’s been consuming and all we talk about. The most important thing happening right now is that we have a God who loves us and pursues us. We need Jesus and we need to see God in these moments. More than any other time in history, people need Jesus. God is about the business of reconciling the world unto Himself. God wants to do that in this moment. Are you able to see God in your life? What’s God changing in your attitudes and your heart? God sees you and by His grace He is revealing Himself to us. He is here. I don’t’ know what you might be running form today, but I know it’s real. There are times you want to run and escape. You want that freedom and maybe God is speaking to you saying He wants you to face these difficult things you’re going through. I hear you. I see you. I am with you. We’ll get through this together. In this, can you see God? Can you be present with Him? I want you to be good to yourself. It’s not always going to be like this. Take good care of your soul in all of this. I’ve said it a number of times through this and I want to say it again, “Just because things are opening back up doesn’t mean our souls will immediately be ok. Go easy on yourself. This is a hard time. Take care of yourself and walk with God. Spend time with God. See God in all of this. Trust Him in what we’re going through.”
Sermon Notes and take, transcribed and posted by Jeni Martin Johnson.