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. - Genesis 21:17
This week our Food Bank freezer started having issues so we called a guy. We thought a simple shot of freon might do the trick, but we were told it would be the same price to replace it as it was to repair it.
“Ma’am, this kind of freezer is basically disposable,” the repairman explained to me in great detail that I still don’t fully understand. He pointed to our commercial grade refrigerator and said, “That is commercial grade. I could fix that. But by the time I fix this one you might as well have bought a replacement.”
It wasn’t the news I hoped for, but I can accept it because we have owned the freezer for some time. Some things are disposable like inkjet printers, Tupperware and even freezers, I now know.
But people aren’t.
In the lectionary for Sunday found in Genesis we learn about the tense relationship between Sarah and Hagar. Sarah is so concerned with preserving her own power that she decides that Hagar and Ishmael are disposable. She goes to Abraham and tells him to cast them out. Abraham agrees. He banishes them to the desert. It was a death sentence. It was like he needed Hagar to give birth to his first son, but now he was through with her (with them) and so he threw them out like a piece of trash.
But, you see, Hagar and Ishmael were not things. Not inkjet printers or Tupperware or freezers. They were children of the living God.
When Hagar was at the end of her rope, so desperate that all she could do was turn away from her dying child and weep, God noticed. Because, you see, that is what God does. God hears the cries of those who some consider disposable and answers them.
We usually ask during B&B Bible study, “Which of the characters do you relate to?”
- Are you like Sarah having treated a person like she is disposable?
- Or are you like Hagar and Ishmael having ever felt disposable?
- Or are you like an angel of God, lifting up the ones that society disposes of or forgets?
It is often said that we are all the characters in the story, so maybe we should consider how we have been each of the characters.
We are living in a moment where so many are being made to feel disposable:
- The immunocompromised who hear we just need to “build immunity…”
- Black and brown bodies who have faced generations of abuse…
- The unemployed and underemployed struggling to make ends meet…
But let us remember, things are disposable. People aren’t.
And if we believe this to be true then let us work to make it so.