Wesley Bible: A Study Guide
Journey of Faith: Session 2
The story of Sarai & Hagar
Scripture Genesis 16:1-15
Within the migrant journey of Abram is the story of Hagar. Journeys of Sarai and Hagar intersect. Sarai's story of infertility and Hagar's story of fecundity intersect at the most elemental level of survival.
For Sarai, it is survival as a woman without a child for a long time, in a time-honored patriarchal society were women were held as property and chattel, and childless women fared worse. For Hagar, it is survival as a foreigner and a domestic maid under a woman of means, Sarai. Hagar is doubly disadvantaged as a foreigner and as a domestic worker. But she has womb power and slights Sarai.
Women's relationship with patriarchy can be complicated and complex. When they feel powerless to confront the system that oppresses them, they often turn against each other, and become rivals of each other, instead of addressing the root cause of the problem.
In the midst of jealousy and oppression, women's experiences of sexuality, birthing, and bodily need matter.
God sees. God hears, as we will see in the story of Sarai and Hagar.
Lectio Divina & a Personal Mapping Activity:
Use the method of divine reading or lectio divina:
- Read the Scripture passage slowly.
- Ponder the words or phrases that stay with you.
- Talk with God about what makes these words meaningful to you.
Personal Mapping Activity: (Use two different colored pencils)
Identify moments of dreams deferred and dreams that died in your life.
Identify moments of power and powerlessness in your life.
Identify places and situations where you encountered challenges.
Identify places in your life where intimate relationships failed.
Identify moments of grief and moments of joy.
Where did you see and hear God in your moments when you felt abandoned?
How have these experiences shaped you to become an encourager to others in need?
Using one of the pencils, connect all your moments of despair and grief.
Using the other pencil, connect all your moments which were filled with power and strength. This is a thematic drawing of your own life which may have a bearing on the story you are going to read as a group.
Now as a small group, continue to reflect on the story in Genesis 16: 1-15.
READING THROUGH THE EYES OF SARAI AND HAGAR:
Let Hagar not remain a faceless and voiceless woman.
- What do you see in this story?
- What do you think is happening?
- What is the problem?
- How does Sarai interpret her problem?
- What is her strategy to address the problem?
- What emotions do you think the characters in the story are expressing?
- What does this story make you feel?
(More questions can be framed that draw on the realities in the story which allow the readers to sharpen their observation and enter the story and the discussion easily)
- How do you think the persons in the story are feeling? Are there different feelings seen among different persons in the story?
- Have you ever felt like one of them or some of them?
(Questions that refer to personal experiences and the shared experiences from their own contexts)
- How would you describe Abram's family?
- What is the individual and family struggle in this story?
- How does the pregnancy of Hagar change relationships within the family?
(Questions that help the readers to move into the next level of ideas, values, and key thoughts in the story)
- Two women, Sarai and Hagar, become rivals. What are the forces that pit each against the other?
- In today's language, what is the status of Hagar? Domestic worker? Slave woman? Migrant?
- What happens to Hagar? Describe her encounter with God.
- What is the name given to God by Hagar?
- Who is God to you? Out of your experience, can you name God in a new way?
- Frame a one-sentence prayer. Use the name you have come up to address God. These prayers can be used at the close of this Bible study.
- Is there a space for survival for Hagar?
- In today's world, are there women such as Hagar who wander in the wilderness because they have no place to go to? Who are they?
- What do you know about migrant women?
- How is the United Methodist Church engaged in ministry with migrant women?
- How are United Methodist Women members engaged in ministry with immigrants and migrants?
- What are some of the ways in which you can stand in solidarity with the "least of these"?
Women, Mission, & Theology
It is imperative that Christian mission engage in economic, racial and gender realities of today. The worldwide face of poverty today is female; the face of migration is female; the face of victim of human trafficking is female; the face of caregiver in HIV/AIDS context is female. The face of Christianity today is, also, female.
In the midst of this ground reality, how best can we listen to the pains of the women at the margins crying in the wilderness of life, bring their perspectives into our consciousness, amplify their voices, and participate in God's transforming mission?
What is it to be in sisterhood here and abroad?
Delores S. Williams, an African American theologian, in her book, Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk, identifies Hagar's plight with that of many African American women who survive against odds in order to make a living for themselves and their children, with nobody by their side but God.
Women are still the primary caregivers of children. Women and children form a symbiotic whole in mission. The United Methodist Women's mission has recognized this and engages in mission with women and children.
Further, Hagar's journey is a journey of survival. Hagar's master and mistress drive her away. Hagar walks towards Egypt, her home country, and almost reaches the border. In the middle of a desert, Hagar is found by an angel of the Lord. The angel announces God's plan for Hagar. Strengthened and awed by the divine presence, Hagar names God El Roi, the God who sees her.
Hagar is a namer of God.
Phyllis Trible, an Old Testament, scholar, points out that Hagar is the only person in the Bible who names God. Trible says that Hagar does not call upon the name of the deity, and instead she calls the name, a power attributed to no one else in the Bible. ii
WESLEYAN LIFE APPLICATION FOR THE FAITH JOURNEY
Everything belongs to God, and humans are God's stewards and tenants. Justice requires that all people have access to the resources necessary to flourish. The test of God's justice is this: Do the powerless and the vulnerable have access to life's abundance? A distinguishing characteristic of Israel's God is this: The Lord protects the orphans, widows, and sojourners-the powerless. The early Methodists went to the people who were the least, last, and lost because they believed that the poor, those whom Charles Wesley called "Jesus' bosom friends," are special recipients of Gods' justice and means of divine grace. The Wesley Study Bible, page 200.
WESLEYAN CORE TERM FOR THE FAITH JOURNEY
Holiness is essentially social for very basic reasons. God is social, the personal tri-unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Humans are social, created in God's social image (Genesis 1:26-28). Holiness concerns the God-ordained relationships among people, God, and the land, our environment for serving God. John Wesley's emphasis on the social nature of holiness is one of his key insights. He famously writes in the Preface to Hymns and Sacred Poems (1739), "The gospel of Christ knows of no religion, but social; no holiness but social holiness. 'Faith working by love' is the length and breadth and depth and height of Christian perfection." The Wesley Study Bible, page 146.
Prayer: Use the one-sentence prayers you have come up with.
ii Phyllis Tribly, Texts of Terror, p.18.
This Bible study was also published by United Methodist Publishing house; a print-friendly PDF can be downloaded from their site.