Dr. Robin Ensom has been blessed with a full life and is now retired with his wife Mary; enjoying travel (when he can), children and grandchildren. Robin has worked as a University Professor (Pharmaceutical Sciences) at UBC and a Senior Healthcare Manager with Providence Health Care and Vancouver Coastal Health. In 2010 he retired early to enrol at the Vancouver School of Theology and completed his Master of Arts in Public and Pastoral Leadership in 2016.
Whether together in person or in spirit, all are welcomed in the name of Christ Jesus, who died for us; in the name of the Holy Spirit who lives in us; and in the name of our God in whose image we are made.
Call to Worship:
Let us enter this time of worship to encounter the living God and to seek His blessing and inspiration. May we have ears to hear!!!
We celebrate God’s presence in the midst of a troubled world…
Psalm 86:1-7 (NRSV)
Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am devoted to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; be gracious to me, O Lord,
for to you do I cry all day long.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you.
Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer;
listen to my cry of supplication.
In the day of my trouble I call on you,
for you will answer me. Amen
Opening Hymn “Open My Eyes, That I May See” VU 371
Click here to listen (with words in the description; click "show more"...)
The Lectionary reading from Genesis is particularly appropriate for us to reflect upon as the world questions how we treat the “other” in our midst.
The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham,
"Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac."
The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham,
"Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring."
So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said,
"Do not let me look on the death of the child."
And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her,
"What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.
Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him."
Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink. God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.
Within this reading, we see many of the characteristics that are played out each day in our world. Surprisingly, the roles are all played by supposed Biblical good guys, and yet there is so much to question in their words and actions. This might be a bit confusing but remember that Sarai becomes Sarah and Abram becomes Abraham. Earlier in Genesis Sarai was the one who “took Hagar the Egyptian, her slave-girl, and gave her to her husband Abram as a wife.” Later, Sarah has been blessed with a son (Isaac) in her old age, but resents the possibility that Ishmael, the son of Hagar by Abraham might share her own son’s inheritance.
Listen to Sarah’s words, "Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac." Hagar and Ishmael have lost their names and become “this slave woman” and “the son of this slave woman.” Hagar, who was essential to Sarai as Sarai was unable to conceive herself, becomes a threat to be cast aside once Sarah doesn’t think that Hagar is needed now that Sarah has her own son Isaac. Doesn’t that sound familiar?
Abraham, for his part is troubled, “the matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son.” But do we hear Abraham doing anything more than be troubled. Doesn’t he just silently fret, knowing that what Sarah was demanding was wrong, but not speaking up for his wife (Hagar) and son (Ishmael). Being troubled about injustice but doing nothing. Doesn’t that sound familiar?
Hagar, reported to have looked with contempt on her mistress when she saw that she (Hagar) had conceived, may not have been perfect either, but does that justify Sarai/Sarah chasing her out of the household and into the wilderness twice? Is it a surprise that she is at the point of giving up in the face of the injustice? Doesn’t that sound familiar?
I am troubled that God counsels Abraham to do as Sarah has demanded and cast out Hagar and Ishmael. I can only say that this is not an example for us to follow as only God can know His own purposes. God does pursue Hagar and saves her from her fate. We also must take it on faith that He fulfills His earlier promise to Hagar, that, "I will so greatly multiply your offspring that they cannot be counted for multitude."
Isn’t it amazing that we don’t really seem to have come as far as we would like to believe? The distance we have to travel to eliminate racism became very real to me on a February 2020 trip to the Holy Land. At a lunch break between the Church of the Nativity and the Baptismal Site on the Jordan River we were going back to our bus when a couple of young men in a pickup truck drove by yelling/chanting “China, corona, China corona,” at my wife of Chinese descent.
One has to wonder what Jesus would have thought about the progress the people of Galilee and of the whole world have made in the past 2000 years. We aren’t God and we cannot miraculously make things right in the face of injustice towards the “other” in our midst, but that doesn’t mean that we are unable to do something.
Perhaps we need a modified version of the Serenity Prayer:
God, give us more of the Courage to change things that we can;
give us less of the Serenity to accept things that we think that we cannot;
and give us more of the Wisdom to see how we can make a difference. Amen
Hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness” VU 288
Click here to listen (with words in the description; click "show more"...)
Prayers of the People:
God, this is a confusing time. Our world always seems somewhat chaotic and crazy, but now seems to be a particularly troubling time. It is hard to know what are the right things to do when everything seems to be turned upside down. We want to be Your people and to help Your will be done on Earth, but what is Your will for us today?
How shall we love You with all our hearts, and with all our souls, and with all our minds, when our community is fragmented?
How shall we love our neighbour as ourselves when we are asked to keep our distance?
We humbly ask for your guidance and inspiration as we pray the words that Jesus taught us,
Our God/Father/Mother . . . VU 921
Closing Hymn “I See a New Heaven” VU 713
Click here to listen to Trinity Choir sing (from 2012).
May we be an embodiment of the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that shows us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Let our faithful living be a magnet for others, so that they too may come to know You through our fruit. Amen
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