Revd Clare Hayns, Chaplain at our patron church of Christ Church, Oxford, introduces her Lent blog and we repost her first post: Hagar – The Woman Who Is Seen (with apologies to Clare for losing some of her formatting!). Do visit Clare’s blog to follow throughout Lent https://clarehayns.wordpress.com/ Clare writes:
Each day of Lent I’m going to post about a different woman from the Old Testament and on Saturdays we have some wonderful guest posts written by some fabulous women…
They should take about 5 mins to read, and each will end with a short prayer. I’ll send them at 6.30am each day. You might find it helpful to find a regular time of day that suits you to read them, perhaps in the mornings and some people like to have a particular place, such as a favourite chair.
We’ll begin [on Ash Wednesday] but I thought I’d start with a little introduction.
I began this blog last summer as a challenge for myself to a) form a writing habit, b) find out for myself more about the women of the bible, and c) learn how to use WordPress (which took a while!).
A bit about me. I’m ordained as a C of E Priest and currently work as College Chaplain and Welfare Coordinator at Christ Church, an Oxford College. I came to faith in my early 20’s having grown up in rural Bucks and my childhood was more ‘pony club’ than ‘church youth club’. I’ve often felt that my knowledge of the Old Testament was a bit scrappy, and so when I began this blog most of the women were a mystery to me.
There is an assumption that women are largely ignored in the biblical narrative, and that when they are written about they are marginal characters to the main story, or are only allowed to be either mother, whore or seductress. This is certainly the case for some of the women we’ll look at over Lent, and there are some tragic stories that we won’t gloss over and ignore. But there are also many, many women who are central to the narrative, complex in character, and who use the power they have for good, and sometimes for evil.
When I began the blog I intended to use New Testament women as well, but I found there were so many fantastic women in the Hebrew scriptures and so I decided to stay there, with two exceptions from the Apocrypha.
I hope you enjoy reading about these wonderful women as much as I have enjoyed writing these blogs. Also, if you enjoy them, please do pass the link on to your friends!
A prayer for our journey
Let us make our way together, Lord; wherever you go I must go: and through whatever you pass, there too I will pass.
Teresa of Avila, 1515-1582
Hagar: The Woman Who Is Seen
Welcome to the first post of my Lent 2020 blog. Each day I will post about a different woman from the Hebrew Scriptures, and each post will end with a guide for personal prayer. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them!
We begin with Hagar.
Hagar was the very first person to dare to give God a name. She wasn’t a person of any authority or particular merit, she wasn’t a prophet or a priestess: she was an Egyptian slave girl owned by Abram’s wife, Sarai.
Sarai hadn’t been able to have children and so had hatched the kind of plan that we might recognise from the Handmaid’s Tale: she would have a child with Abram via the means of her slave, Hagar. Abram willingly went along with the plan and Hagar, clearly having no choice in the matter, became pregnant. The two women began to hate each other but Sarai of course, had the upper hand and Abram gave his wife authority to do as she pleased. Sarai’s anger deepened as time went on and she became violent and eventually the pregnant Hagar, fearful for the safety of her unborn child, fled to into the wilderness.
It was as she was hiding near a well that Hagar heard the voice of an angel:
Hagar, slave-girl of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?’Genesis 16.7
She was promised her son would be a ‘wild donkey of a man’, and told to return.
Hagar was so overwhelmed by having been seen and heard, perhaps for the first time in her life, that she gave the Lord a name,
You are El-roi”; (God who Sees), for she said, “Have I really seen God and remained alive after seeing him?”Genesis 16.13
She bravely returns to Sarai, gives birth to Ishmael, and brings him up in Sarai’s household until Sarah (given a new name) had herself produced a child of her own, Isaac. Now with a son of her own Sarah didn’t want them around anymore and they were once again banished.
Ishmael was an adult by this time (around 15 years old). The banished pair wandered in the desert until their food and water had dried up and all hope of survival had gone. In the first description of a death ritual in scripture, Hagar put her child under a bush, sat at a distance and waited for him to die.
Their tears were heard by the angel of God who, like the angel that appeared to Mary centuries later, said to them: ‘do not be afraid’, a well of water appeared and they survived.
Hagar became a Grandmother to many, and Ishmael’s descendants, the Ishmaelites, populated the land and grew powerful.
Hagar, enslaved, abused and mistreated, was seen and heard by God.
THE SITUATION TODAY
Sadly slavery isn’t in the past and although it’s hard to find accurate statistics it is estimated that over 40 million people are held against their will and that 71% of overall victims of modern day slavery are believed to be women – this is nearly 30million people! https://www.antislavery.org/slavery-today/modern-slavery/
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3.17
Loving God, who sees and hears all those who cry out in need, bring comfort and freedom to all your children, to those who are kept against their will, those who live in fear of violence, and those who are forced to run away to protect their family, in the name of El-Roi, The God Who Sees.