Abuse. We see it within our perspective communities and we typically speak up about it when it’s obvious and lives are in danger. Sometimes we fearfully and selfishly shrink away from the situation in hopes that we are misinterpreting what we are witnessing. Other times, we fake politeness and say to ourselves, “Well, it’s none of my business.” But in Genesis, there’s One who not only sees the situation, but speaks to it; and their name is, El-Roi.
Hagar appears in Genesis 16 as Sarai’s “Egyptian slave-girl” who Sarai gives to Abram to sleep with, in hopes that she would have a child by way of Hagar. Rabbinical tradition claims her to be the daughter of pharaoh. In Islamic tradition, Hagar (Hajar) is never mentioned by name in the Quran, but is alluded to. One stream of Islamic tradition believes her to be the daughter of King Maghreb who was killed by pharaoh Dhu l-'arsh, and thereby was captured, ending up in the household of pharaoh. Another stream within Islamic tradition believes Hagar to be the daughter of an Egyptian King who is given to Abram as compensation for approaching Sarai, as Abram's sister, instead of his wife.
Many folks feel all of the above during the holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Sadly, these are the terms many clergy persons use to describe themselves during the entire season of pandemic.
“Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light…”
Book of Common Prayer p. 211
It’s important for us to recognize the power of darkness and evil in our world. We see it in our own lives. We see it in young adults struggling to find their way. We see it in our politics and government. Darkness and evil are at work all around us, and we need to respect their power.
Our people taught me that if we can overcome our fears, if we can acquire understanding and wisdom, we can carry light through the darkness. This is the same as the teaching of Jesus, “Let your light shine…” The power of the Creator and the life-giving Spirit will be with us as we confront the darkness.
Through our liturgy, we express who we are and what we believe. This is most profoundly done in the Eucharistic rite, in which we come together as the Body of Christ, we receive the Body of Christ, and we become the Body of Christ, more and more. In this season of COVID, that expression and formation has been interrupted. We are finding ways to adjust, certainly. And we are grateful for the technologies that allow us to gather, to watch, to listen, to be formed in our faith. But as the season of COVID stretches out, we find ourselves to be a people of longing – longing to be together, longing to worship God in song and movement, longing for the Sacrament of the Body of Christ.
In many ways, the season of Advent couldn’t have been better timed this year. For while the season includes themes of preparation and anticipation, it also holds space for longing and waiting and weariness. As the Church of the Advocate gathers on Zoom this Advent, we include a Liturgy of Longing. The liturgy was adapted from a blog post by James Koester, of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE), The Sacrament of Our Longing. Through it, we acknowledge our longing and our thirst, and we realize our oneness with all the people of God who thirsted before us. Wherever we are, we drink a cup of water, and we are reminded of God’s promise to be with us and to give us something to drink.
“Save the church from extinction!” cry the books, consultants, webinars, and sermons. Like Old Testament prophets they plead with us to love unconditionally, befriend the poor, and acknowledge our corporate racism in order to bring about reconciliation. In short, we are to examine ourselves, acknowledge our sins, and change.
It’s difficult work, this guilt identifying and change. That’s why there are so many books, consultants, webinars, and sermons about it. As much as I pray for their success (full disclosure, I am a consultant), I have seen a brighter source of light for the future. It is the Holy Spirit’s calling of new people to ordained ministry as deacons and priests.
Apostolic hazing. I know. Sounds harsh, doesn’t it? Unfortunately in many cases the term is warranted. There are too many stories of aspirants and ordinands coming out of the discernment/ordination process feeling emotionally scarred, financially strained, depressed, angry, discarded, blackballed, humiliated, along with not being able to fully trust others. Some of the hurdles that are put before people seeking Holy Orders are downright cruel. Here are some of the things you’ve might have heard, experienced, witnessed, or actively participated in:
● Constantly moving targets for them to meet, only for the target to be changed up again
● Making people go to seminaries that the bishop is fond of, without considering the life circumstances of the aspirant (job, housing, passport, family, finances, distance, etc.).