Unraveled: Unexpected Joy and Surprise

 

“The Heir” by Hannah Garrity | A Sanctified Art LLC | sanctifiedart.org

Weekly Bible Devotional
“Unraveled: Unexpected Joy and Surprise”
June 28, 2020

The following materials are from the journal devotional from “A Sanctified Art” by Rev. Sarah Are and other artists. I hope that the art and the reflections will connect you deeply to God during these difficult times when life seems to be unraveling.

Scripture for Sunday: Genesis 18:1-15; 21:1-7

Theme Connections:
Sarah carries the pain of infertility and miscarriage into her old age. When an angel appears and says that she is going to have a child, the surprise, disbelief—and perhaps joy—that come with that statement are likely as deep as her hurt had been. Our prayers aren’t always answered in this way, but what we can trust is this—sometimes, even after life seems to fall apart, God can surprise us and unravel our plans with unexpected joy if we are willing to receive it.

What Has Unraveled and/or Is Unraveling?
• Sarah’s disbelief unravels into laughter.
• Sarah and Abraham’s perceptions of YHWH and what is possible.
• Sarah and Abraham’s resignation of their barrenness.

Guiding Questions
• Much happens prior to Sarah’s miraculous pregnancy. God promises to make Abram a great nation (Gen. 12, 15). Sarai abuses Hagar and forces her into surrogacy (Gen. 16). Abraham laughs in disbelief when God tells him he (100 yrs. old) and Sarah (90 yrs. old) will bear a child (Gen. 17). What does it mean for Sarah and Abraham to receive the gift of a child in spite of their prior actions?

• Consider Gen. 18:14: “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” Some translations include: marvelous, wonderful, astonishing, impossible. How do these translation variations expand God’s power in this passage?

• What might it look like for our disbelief to unravel into joy?

Quote for Inspiration:
“Once again, this story shows what a scandal and difficulty faith is. Faith is not a reasonable act which fits into the normal scheme of life and perception. The promise of the gospel is not a conventional piece of wisdom that is easily accommodated to everything else. Embrace of this radical gospel requires shattering and discontinuity. Abraham and Sarah have by this time become accustomed to their barrenness. They are resigned to their closed future. They have accepted that hopelessness as ‘normal.’ The gospel promise does not meet them in receptive hopefulness but in resistant hopelessness. . . Beyond the etymological explanations which link Isaac to ‘laugh,’ and beyond doubtful embarrassment, Sarah laughs because ‘God has made laughter for me.’ By his powerful word, God has broken the grip of death, hopelessness, and barrenness. The joyous laughter is the end of sorrow and weeping (Matt. 5:4; Luke 6:21; John 16:20-24). Laughter is a biblical way of receiving a newness which cannot be explained. The newness is sheer gift—underived, unwarranted. Barrenness has now become ludicrous. It can now be laughed at because there is ‘full joy’ (John 16:24).”

—Brueggemann, Walter. Interpretation: Genesis. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982. 158-9; 182.

From the artist // Hannah Garrity:
Sarah, mother of Isaac, joyfully nurses her newborn son, giving him the nutrients he needs to grow and thrive. Abounding liquid—as a mother, I know what that is like. The feeling of a pouring out; a pouring out of milk, of blood, of tears, of joy; a pouring out of depression, of fear, of baby blues, of awe. In this image, I have expressed the feeling of pouring out. The flow throughout the background relates directly to the pain and joy that Sarah and Hagar have struggled through in their discordant parallel lives…In this painting, I depict Sarah putting up a front of pure joy. It’s honest, but it’s only one small sliver of the real story…we stand at once in vulnerability and beauty, in strength and love, in pain and joy. The moments of our lives envision God’s grace in deep complexity.

Look:
Take a few moments to gaze upon the artwork. Breathe deeply in quiet meditation as you observe the visual qualities of what you see: color, line, texture, movement, shape, form. Now take a deeper look. What parts of the image are your eyes most drawn to? What parts of the image did you overlook? Now engage your imagination. What story do you imagine for each figure?

Reflect:
– What has unraveled and/or is unraveling in this story?
– How does God respond to Sarah’s and Abraham’s disbelief and doubt? How does God respond to us when we are closed off to newness?
– Theologian Walter Brueggemann writes of this passage, “Laughter is a biblical way of receiving a newness which cannot be explained. The newness is sheer gift—underived, unwarranted.”
-What might it look like for our disbelief to unravel into joy?

Write:
When have you been unraveled by unexpected joy and surprise? In the space below, reflect on this experience and what allowed you to receive that joy.

Pray:

When I need it most, unravel me with blessed newness and boundless joy. Amen.

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