One of the readings in our list for today is Genesis 21:1-34. The story is about the birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah and the sending away of Hagar and Ishmael. The back ground to this story is the promise that God will bring about, through Abrham a great nation, but Sarah has been, until this time, unable to have children. In the end, she tries to make God’s promise happen by giving her handmaid, Hagar, to her husband to sleep with and have a child through her. The story continues, in the reading today, and reveals how Sarah’s attempt to make God’s promise a reality comes back to bite her. Ishmael goes on to become a great nation in his own right simply because he was also Abraham’s son, but even so, that nation was to be problematic to the developing nation through Isaac.
This story led me to ask questions about our work as church. If we affirm our understanding that it is God’s church and God promises to grow the church. Like Sarah, most of us have the tendency to try and make God’s promise become a reality – we invest our energy in trying to grow the church. That will come back to bite us. What then is our task? I am sure that, even though we speak of the nee to ‘be’ chruch, this does not mean that we sit back and wait for God to do his stuff. The evidence is that this has already come back to bite us. What then are we supposed to do?
The story is interesting. While all this working out how and through whom God is going to grow his nation, Abraham is making a covenant with Abimelech and the commander of his armies, Phicol. Abrham is not concerned with how and through whom God is going to do his growing, he is simply establishing relationships.
Our task, then, is not so much about growing the Church – tha’s God’s business. Our task is to be building connections with others so there are a network of relationships through which we can help others connect with God.