Here is my sermon that I preached today. I was struck immediately by the reference to God’s Compassion when I began meditating on the Scripture readings for today’s Eucharist. The reference to Sarah’s behavior being like an angry bear protecting her cub came from mention of bears in Quebec in several of Louise Penny’s Mystery Novels about a fictional village in Quebec. The rest of the sermon just developed from there.
Gen. 21:5, 8-20
Today’s first reading is a story of Sarah, the wife of Abraham, acting something like an angry mother bear protecting her cub. We also see God, acting in contrast to that with great compassion.
The story began by telling us that Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born. This alone was something outside of ordinary norms. Sarah herself was not much younger. Having a son born at such an age is a miracle.
Abraham was aware of that. He gave thanks to God by having a great feast when the child was weaned.
A few years earlier Hagar had been Sarah’s maid. When Sarah had found that she was unable to give Abraham a son she gave Hagar to Abraham so that he might have a son by her.
At the time of today’s lesson Sarah saw Ishmael, the son of Hagar, playing with her son, Isaac. When she saw that, her instincts as a mother caused her to react badly. She demanded that Abraham send Hagar and her son away. But God responded with great compassion; providing for the child and his mother in the wilderness.
Someone might say of Sarah’s reaction, “That wasn’t a very Christian attitude!” But we should remember that was a very long time ago. Jesus would not yet become incarnate for hundreds of years. So long ago love and mercy would not necessarily have been seen as part of God’s commandments.
Even now in our time, sometimes we let our feelings get in the way of giving thanks to God for his mercy–for his compassion. When that happens to you, think of this story of Abraham and Sarah and Hagar; and of God’s compassion in the face of Sarah’s anger.
On the scales of eternity, Sarah’s transitory feelings, as a wife and mother, were far outweighed by the eternal greatness of the compassion of God!
Put your trust in the compassion and love of God, and give thanks.