Second Sunday after Trinity – reflection
Today is Fathers’ Day and our reading from Genesis reminds us of what a messed-up bunch God’s people are. Here we have Abraham, the patriarch and father-figure, the founder of the people of Israel, who, you will remember, was told by God that he would father a nation – and just look at the messy, disastrous family situation he finds himself in. A child with his wife, another child with his wife’s servant – what kind of a situation is that? And even if we allow for the very different models of marriage and family households that we find in Scripture, even if we accept this strange family as not too dissimilar from our contemporary blended families, with children from previous relationships alongside children from a current marriage, even then, I think we might all agree that literally throwing the ex and the first child out into the wilderness is a pretty grim way to go about being a Dad.
And then in our Gospel reading we have something equally challenging for our expectations about what it means to be a Christian family – Jesus telling us he has come to split up families, and demanding that we love him more than we love our own flesh and blood.
What are we to make of all that?
Well first of all, it is helpful to remember that Jesus talks all the time in metaphors – when he says “I am the vine” he doesn’t mean he literally grows grapes, and similarly here he isn’t literally going to be showing up with a sword and separating us from our loved ones. It is up to us to find the truth he is speaking here and your truth may be different from mine, but one way in which this metaphor speaks to me is in reminding me that often we have a choice between following God and doing something else. And that the choice we should always make is to follow God.
Sometimes that does actually mean putting God before our families, even if it is only in little ways. Anyone who has ever forced a toddler into the car at 9.30 on a Sunday morning or made a teenager get up to go to church is making that choice –the children might not want to go to church but you insist on it anyway, because God comes first.
And when you do make that choice, God is faithful. As Jesus says, “those who lost their life for my sake will find it” – another metaphor for us, reminding us that God is faithful to those who are faithful to God. We are the children of a crucified, resurrected God and our sacrifices, however tiny, mean that in some small way we share in God’s self-sacrifice and then in God’s great glory. As Paul puts it in the second reading, “as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life”.
But what to make of Abraham and his messy home life? Here, too, God is faithful. Abraham and Sarah fight and argue and try to force God’s hand and in doing do cast out Hagar and send her into the desert with her son. But despite that, despite their shameful behaviour, God is faithful – to both them and Hagar. Hagar and her child are saved. Both of Abraham’s sons, both Isaac and Ishmael, go on to found nations. God is faithful.
And so my prayer today is that we might all make the choice to follow God – that we might be faithful to the God who is always faithful to us. Amen.