Pastor’s Corner (11/4/2021)
“The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, ‘Hagar, slave-girl of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?’ She said, ‘I am running away from my mistress Sarai.’ The angel of the LORD said to her, ‘Return to your mistress, and submit to her.’ The angel of the LORD also said to her, ‘I will so greatly multiply your offspring that they cannot be counted for multitude.”
During our recent Pastoral Leadership Revitalization retreat, we had a presentation about “Spiritual Wounds.” As a part of that presentation, the above passage from Genesis was shared. This story of Hagar, Sarai, and Abram is one full of spiritually wounded people. Abram and Sarai yearned to have children, but they were unable to do so. With this reality in mind, Sarai made a proposition to her husband that he go to Hagar with the hopes of conceiving a child with her. Hagar became pregnant and was about to give Abram a child. Sadly, this hoped for reality was very painful to Sarai who had been unable to conceive. Hagar is able to do the very thing Sarai had yearned to do.
As one might imagine, these mixed feelings rose to the surface and Sarai did not treat Hagar well. In fairness, Hagar was not very gracious about her ability to do what Sarai was unable to do. Hagar began to treat Sarai with contempt. Feelings ran hot among all of them. Sarai told Abram to deal with her and he tossed the ball back in Sarai’s court. Abram said to Sarai “‘Your slave-girl is in your power; do to her as you please.’ Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she ran away from her.” As Hagar fled, she had the above encounter with the angel who asked her two important questions: “where have you come from and where are you going?”
During our retreat we were invited to ponder these two key questions. I shared this passage with the Ministry Cabinet at our October meeting and issued the invitation for the group to consider these two questions. These are important questions for us as individuals and as a congregation. We cannot discern our path forward if we do not spend some time looking back to where we have been. It can be tempting to think only the good things in our journey and avoid the painful components. The story of Hagar invites us to embrace the painful parts of our journey and celebrate the joyous ones. Our presenter reminded us that we do not choose our wounds, but we can make choices about what we do with them. In many ways our wounds shape us, but they do not need to define us. Hagar had to embrace her past in order to move forward into the future that God promised.
During the coming months, I invite us to ask ourselves these two questions, individually and for our faith community. “Where are we coming from?” There are elements of our past that have shaped us as individuals and as a congregation. Now that I have served FCC for five years as pastor, I have heard many stories that I believe have shaped us as a faith community. Many of these stories have circled around previous pastors. How has the past leadership of this congregation shaped us? In addition to the painful stories, what are some of the positive elements our legacy? Two years ago we celebrated our 150th anniversary and uplifted the distant past. How has our more recent history shaped us as well? Only when we ask “where are we coming from” can we responsibly think about “where are we going.” Whether we like it or not, we have to deal with the current reality of COVID-19. These past couple of years have shaped us individually and collectively. As we deal with this reality, we will need to start considering where we go next.
As we ponder these questions we are invited to hold on to three truths: 1) God is with us; 2) God desires health and wellness for us all; and 3) God will provide the resources and people we need.
May we have the courage of Hagar to hear the questions and wrestle with the answers.
In confidence and joy,