Mark’s Monday Message

Mark’s Monday Message

Tarry Awhile – chapter 3: Movement – read Gen 11:31-Gen 12:4

Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan; but when they came to Haran, they settled there. The days of Terah were two hundred five years; and Terah died in Haran. Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

Movement is part of all of our lives in one way or the other. But movement is complicated.

Firstly, movement can be and is a privilege – either the ability to move physically or the freedom to move between places or countries. For example, there are those with disabilities for whom movement is limited and also in a very different way there are those for whom their status or passport means that their movement between places and countries is limited or controlled.

And we all experienced that to some extent during the 2020 and 2021 international lockdowns and many are still experiencing the effect of those restrictions to movement now through fear or because of medical conditions, and so travelling or even moving outside is limited.

For some of us movement is a privileged choice, but for others it is a forced necessity or even something that happens against their will. Every year there are millions of people globally who are forced to leave their home or country of origin either as refugees of war and even as will increasingly be the case due to climate change (32 million in 2022 alone) – just think of those affected by recent floods in Britian just as a local example. Predictions suggest that there will be over 1 billion climate refugees by 2050.

And yet movement can be a choice – there are many who choose to move to find answers, to search for a new life and even as a response to God’s call on their life as in the case of Abraham in our reading.

And so, movement or journeying often involves tarrying – the word we have been using for a few weeks now – actively waiting on God to speak and to guide us. And particularly in the case of journeying, tarrying is not passive – it clearly does not involve being still – we can wait on God as we move. And as in Abraham’s case we can move towards a promised future as we await its fulfilment. But first, it’s important to note that Abraham was comfortable when he received his call – and he had a choice. When God calls us, He always gives dignity to the individual and a choice – we have free will. (Interestingly, in Genesis 11:31 it is recorded that Abraham’s father was also on his way to Canaan but he changed his mind – and I wonder if he had a similar calling to Abraham, he had his chance to be the father of a nation but he settled for less.) God values human agency and most of the time he allows us to make our own choices.

And yet, as we have already seen it is important to acknowledge that for many, they have no choice – they need to move, or to flee for many reasons to escape war or death. In August 1995 thousands of people fled the island of Montserrat as a volcano was about to erupt and destroy the island. Between 1933 and 1939 hundreds of thousands of Jews fled Nazi Germany and what about the millions of Black Africans forced into slavery, forcefully transported to another continent and treated with no dignity.

And so, movement and journeying is a complex theme – and yet we can find God in the midst of movement whether we are in control of our destination or not. And tarrying is part of this.

But Abraham is not a particularly good example of someone who tarries well, certainly not at first. Initially, he does not heed God’s call and wait for God to act. God has called him and shown him that he and Sarah will become parents and that this will lead to an entire nation being born. But rather than trust and wait on God He and Sarah decide to take matters into their own hands – Ishmael is born to their slave Hagar and the mother and child are forced to leave. When we take matters into our own hands, there are often victims. If only Abraham and Sarah would have waited.

From Genesis 16:7-11,13

The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave-girl of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am running away from my mistress Sarai.” The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her.” The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will so greatly multiply your offspring that they cannot be counted for multitude.” And the angel of the Lord said to her, “Now you have conceived and shall bear a son; you shall call him Ishmael, for the Lord has given heed to your affliction. So she named the Lord who spoke to her, “You are El-roi”; for she said, “Have I really seen God and remained alive after seeing him?”

God is gracious and so Hagar in her forced movement and journeying finds God. She tarries and God speaks to her in the midst of enslavement and then exile she is given a future and a home. And this type of tarrying involves keeping our hearts and minds fixed on God especially in trying circumstances. If we do there is always hope. And Hagar calls God El Roi – the God who sees.

There’s a rather beautiful song you might like to listen to written with this name:

Hagar finds it possible to worship God in the midst of her suffering and rejection and it reminds me of the spiritual songs that came out of the slave trade – in the midst of enslavement there are incredible hope filled songs of a future home. An acknowledgement that God is found in the midst of exile.  And many were able to keep their hearts fixed on God and his eternal promises in order to drown out the words and actions of those who undermined their human rights and even their right to exist. Many of the songs referred back to Israel being led out of captivity in Egypt and talked about being prepared to move when the moment of deliverance came. Of course, for many the promised land was not reached in life but no one could take away the assurance of it in death.

In many ways the spiritual songs are like modern day Lament Psalms which are also a combination of hope and despair. Richard Foster once describes the Psalms of Lament in the bible as giving us “permission to shake our fists at God one moment and then break into doxology (praise) the next”.

And Jesus himself uses exactly this kind of paradoxical combination of frustration and praise on the cross – he begins by saying My God why have you forsaken me and ends with the words it is finished or “He has done it”. And there is a suggestion by a number of writers that he was possibly reciting the words of Psalm 22 in its entirety. The desperate cry of where are you at the beginning turns into triumphant cry of ‘He has done it’ at the end.

Why not read the following verses to see the two sides to the Psalm: V1-5, V11, 16-18, V27-8, 30-31

Psalm 22 is a psalm of lament blending together anguish of the state we are in and praise and thanksgiving that God will deliver us – just like the spiritual songs.

Scripture gives language to Jesus’ own despair and hope. He is not just venting at God – and it’s a reminder for us to use scripture when we cannot find words.

So here’s a spiritual song to end with. I pray that you find God in your journeying this week:

PS Don’t forget to check our calendar for a reminder of the Connect Groups that are taking place over the coming weeks. Contact Sarah on: for more details.