When we think about being heirs, we first consider what we are going to get as an inheritance. This topics often carries self-serving connotations. This time, I suggest that we read the text and think about the legacy and responsibility that heirs carry on. When someone presents herself or himself as a child of God, an heir of God, there is certain legacy that the person claims with this name. What is a legacy of God? Your answer to this question in many ways depends on your theology, but let me suggest the most obvious options. Love. Peace. Forgiveness. Grace. Presence. Healing. Restoration. Freedom. You can take it from here. As heirs of God, officially adopted children, we carry on God’s legacy in the world where these concepts are often foreign and inconvenient. But that is the responsibility that comes with the name – a child of God.
I cannot ignore the larger context of the chapter and the problematic concepts that it evokes. First is the binary between a child of a slave woman and a child of a free woman. The text clearly assigns the supremacy to the free-born child validating the oppressive socio-economic system of its historical context. A child born of a slave is a consequence of a rape, again approved by the social order of the day. A woman who had no control over her own body and who became pregnant and then thrown out of her community is despicable. The supremacy of one over the other is also the product of the oppressive regime that no Christian today should accept. To tell you the truth, this chapter makes me extremely uncomfortable. Paul’s exegesis of Hagar and Sarah’s story is unacceptable in contemporary hermeneutics. So I suggest that we wrestle with this chapter, and not just pick a few verses, which without their context seem to be harmless. Confronting and exposing the ugly cultural and historical realities hidden in this verses could be what the heirs of God and God’s legacy are called for today.
What a great psalm of the whole creation! I love that all the creatures are called to praise God, the creator. If they are called to do it, that means they are capable of it. Angels, sun, moon, stars, heavens, waters, sea monsters, deeps, fire, hail, snow, frost, wind, mountains, hills, trees, animals, cattle, creeping things and birds are called to praise God. People are mentioned in the very end of a long list, because we are part of much larger creation. It is beyond our understanding how everything that surrounds us relates to God, but, guess what… we do not have abilities to understand God’s work to its fullest. We can barely figure out our little part in it. But ALL the creation gives glory to God, ALL creation’s praise is valuable to God. Let’s celebrate the richness of God’s creation and protect it, so that it is able to give God praise. This is definitely one of my favorite passages for environmental hermeneutics. We, humanity, are co-creatures and co-worshippers joining many voices in the universal praise.
Oh the irony! While Paul is building his dichotomy of law vs. freedom in Galatians 4, Luke makes point to demonstrate that baby Jesus was presented at the Temple according to the law of Moses.
There is one character that fascinates me in this passage – Anna. She is a prophet, she devotes her life to prayer, fasting and worship at the Temple. She is able to do all these things, because she is a widow. She has this certain kind of freedom that married women did not have. She has discernment to know the significance of baby Jesus presented at the Temple. Anna becomes the first who proclaims redemption through Jesus to the people of Jerusalem. We do not hear enough about this woman and her role in the gospel. She disappears from the text after only 3 verses. But we can revive her presence and her ministry in our faith tradition. We can bring Anna, an exceptional woman of faith, by telling her story and preaching about her.
Finally, I want to point out that the theme of praising God threads through all 4 passages this Sunday and it could be a great way to bring together the texts and other parts of your service into a wholistic worship experience.
God bless you and guide you as you prepare to proclaim the Word!
Cover Image: Presentation of Christ at the Temple, from Giotto source