The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.
When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “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.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.
God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.
Jesus said to the twelve disciples, “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
You can imagine my trepidation when I began writing this sermon. Maybe Jesus was just having a bad day.
Jesus tells us: “I have not come to bring you peace on earth but a sword.” I like it when I can talk to all of you about peace and love and with God's help everything will be OK. Jesus tells us in this reading from Matthew that its not going to be OK. Son will go against father, brother against brother, daughter against mother. There will be conflict and it will get bad.
It reminds me of the last election.
Maybe conflict is part of our nature. When you watch TV, or movies, or plays one component that is always present is conflict. When I was a teacher, I would assign students to write stories and I would tell them to make sure to put in a problem that needed to be resolved. Conflict.
In today's reading from Genesis, Sarah wants the slave woman Hagar and her son Ishmael sent away because she does not want Ishmael to receive any of Abraham's inheritance. Abraham is conflicted because Ishmael is also his son. The Lord assures Abraham that Hagar and Ishmael will be alright so Abraham banishes them.
Conflict runs all through the bible, both old and new testament. Jesus was giving his disciples a heavy dose of reality. It is the same message for us. We will always have conflict. In my career as a teacher I have spent a lot of time in teacher's lounges. I have heard teachers say over and over, if Billy or Julie was not in my class it would be a perfect class. The reality is if Billy or Julie leave there will be someone to take his or her place. Conflict is ingrained in who we are. It may be part of God's plan. People can grow emotionally and spiritually from conflict. You are familiar with the saying, “What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.” Then, when people do die the saying follows, “rest in peace.”
So, welcome to the world, a world in perpetual conflict.
Jesus was preparing his disciples for conflict. He was not telling them to avoid it. He was telling them to confront it. He was telling them in a metaphoric sense to take up their swords and prepare to face the difficult times ahead.
May we do the same.