Sunday, September 8, 2013

"The Great Family" Continued: Sarah & Hagar

We went on a retreat with our church this weekend to a lovely spot beside a lake about an hour outside of Berlin in Brandenburg. The weather was perfect for swimming and playing ultimate frisbee. 

Since we started our school year off with "The Great Family", I wanted to continue and tell the kids some other parts of Abraham and Sarah's story. So, I prepared the story of "Sarah and Hagar". In the German version of this Godly Play enrichment story, we use the desert sack. Since our cars were heavily packed for carpooling to the retreat, I knew it was out of the question to try and bring the desert bag and planned to substitute a felt underlay. To my surprise and delight, there was a playground at the retreat center with a sand floor, so we just sat in the sand for our children's service and began the story!

In this picture, you can recognize features of "The Great Family". This is the scene where Abraham and Isaac go off to Mount Moriah and Sarah wonders what will happen.

Here Hagar and Ishmael drink from the well that the angel of the Lord has showed them  just as Hagar had given up all hope.

The story of Sarah and Hagar is a difficult and important one. Based on the account in Genesis 16, Sarah grows impatient with God's promise to make her and Abraham's family as many as the stars in heaven and the sand in the desert. (And honestly, would I have reacted any differently? She was already really old!) She then asks Abraham to take a second wife - her slave, Hagar - with whom he can bear a child that Sarah will presumably adopt. 

Seems like a good plan, but what she doesn't count on is her own jealous emotions and Hagar's new spiteful attitude towards her. After Hagar's son Ishmael is born and God's promise to Sarah is fulfilled in the birth of baby Isaac some time later, the competition doesn't stop. When Sarah sees Ishmael teasing Isaac, she persuades Abraham to send them away. (I know it was a different time and place, but why, Abraham does this, I cannot begin to comprehend.)

Hagar and Ishmael get lost in the desert. They have no more food or water, and she sets Ishmael under a bush and walks a bit further, because she can't bear to see him die. Just as she gives up all hope, God shows her a well of water that saves their lives.

I also added my favorite part of the story, which is where Hagar names God "the One who sees me". She, a slave, is the only woman in the Bible who gives God a name. Such a great example of God's upside-down kingdom.

What I love about this story is God's mercy and forgiveness in it. He blesses both women and makes each of their sons into a great nation, despite their wrongs toward one another. 

In our Wondering, the children thought the most important thing was that Hagar and Ishmael lived. They also spent time thinking about how the two children in the story felt about all of this. Don't all siblings fight and tease one another? Maybe Isaac really missed Ishmael after he was sent away? Maybe Isaac was lonely and didn't have anyone else to play with. 

Our Response Time was then spent digging tunnels and making mountains with all of that wonderful sand.: )



  1. The thing that is odd to me about the story is Ishmael is at the very least 10 years old, and maybe even 13, but the description makes it sound like he's a baby or something. It's very odd.

    Sounds like a fun response time.

    1. Yes, I know what you mean. I think it's the part about Hagar sitting him near a bush that makes him sound so young. I used to work with teenagers, though, and given the right circumstances, I have definitely seen teenage boys cry. Maybe if Hagar and Ishmael had gone several days without food or water, it is plausible that Ishmael was crying and perhaps reverted to a more childlike state.