25 September 2015

Genesis 23:1-19

“And Sarah died …” (v. 2)

Psalm: Psalm 97


This is a strange story indeed - a human story of grief after a long marriage. A story in which Sarah's age is reported (verse 1) - thus placing her as the only woman in the 'patriarchy', for no other woman's age is given in the Scriptures. It is a foundational story of ancestry and identity. It is also a story about land rights and ownership. Stories from pre-history hold huge significance in the modern world, and this one establishes land rites that still matter. The land for Sarah's burial is given and bought, asked for and offered, and witnessed by all. I'm not sure it is possible to say where that land is now, but it is possible to see that claims on land are made from the deepest and oldest memories. We still fight wars about Sarah's grave though we may not realise it. We embed ourselves in the ancient rights of our ancestors, as we inhabit the old tales of why things are the way they are. As a story of grief it has a strange resonance with the distracting activity that we can engage in as we avoid the pain of the moment. We can understand Abraham wanting to put energy into a grave because his pain would be immense. We can understand also why the writers of this story want to underline the importance of a land claim in later years. It is in this account an indisputable claim, though the land was in another country. We may also understand the shaping of a people who have a father Abraham who is faithful, but also a mother Sarah who laughed.

To Ponder

  • How do you distract yourself from sadness and loss, and how can you offer that to God in this moment?
  • What stories do we tell about ourselves that shape who we are, and give us identity and purpose?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Mark Wakelin

Born in Africa to missionary parents, Mark Wakelin is a Methodist minister, He was the President of the Methodist Conference 2012/2013, and before that worked for the Connexional Team, as the secretary for internal relationships. He is now the minster at Epsom Methodist Chuch.