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Sample Sermon

Cast Out

(Select the opening story most unique to your faith perspective)

(Story 1) The story of Hagar is sad but significant for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Hagar, a slave, an unmarried teenage mother, and homeless, was the "other woman" who became a domestic violence victim.

Hagar's story unfolds as Sarah, her owner, unable to conceive, decides to provide her husband, Abraham, with an heir by ordering Hagar to have sex with him and give him a child by proxy. Hagar obeys and gives birth to Ishmael. Later, Sarah becomes able to conceive and gives birth to Isaac. Suddenly, Hagar and Ishmael are embarrassing to Sarah, so she has Abraham send them out into the desert to die.

Hagar loses all hope, but God eventually sends an angel to offer her child the same promise that had been given to Sarah's child, Isaac: "I will make a great nation of him." Still today, Jews and Christians trace their ancestry back through Isaac to Abraham, while Muslims trace their history back through Ishmael to Abraham. All three faiths received a "divine promise" as children of Abraham.

(Story 2) The story of Patacara is sad but significant for Buddhists. Patacara was horrified at her parents' selection of a husband for her and, rather than marry him, she ran away with her lover. While pregnant with their second child, Patacara decided to visit her parents again and introduce them to her child. On the journey, a poisonous snake bit her husband, inflicting a fatal wound. The shock of his sudden death brought on Patacara's labor and she delivered her second baby in the forest during a raging storm. Continuing the journey, both babies drowned and died. She was so distraught that she "lost her mind."

Wandering aimlessly, Patacara came upon the Buddha, who looked at her and said, "Sister, recover your presence of mind," which she did. Patacara took up study of the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path of Buddhist practice and eventually requested ordination as a nun, a member of the first Buddhist community of women. Patacara became one of the most powerful personalities in the early Buddhist community, a skilled, revered, and charismatic teacher.

(Story 3) The story of Lalleshwari (Lalla) is sad but significant for Hindus. At the age of 12, Lalla was forced into a bitterly unhappy marriage in which she was controlled by her husband's mother and treated harshly. Lalla eventually ran away and, in the midst of her wandering, met Siddhanath, a teacher of Kashmir Saivism, who initiated her into the faith. In time, it is said, she soon surpassed him in learning, philosophical argument, and wisdom. Legend relates that she attained the supreme state of transcending ego centeredness.


A woman treated harshly and unjustly. So what else is new? The story begins when a person with power uses it to dominate or control a young woman. The desires of the powerless are crushed by the decisions of the powerful. We shouldn't be surprised; this is the way of nature. The strong devour the choices of the weak. It's only natural.

But the story speaks of something unnatural taking place. Compassion enters the story. Someone hears the cry of the victim. A new future is created which the victim could not have imagined. Her life is no longer decided for her by outward circumstances, but she is given the possibility of new life, her own promise for the future.

How do we hear this ancient story today? Do we still use people to meet our own ends, or do we listen to their cry? Do we calculate the advantage, or do we create the possibility of new life? Do we cast out or do we take in?

Most victims who survive their ordeals do so because someone else helps them create a new possibility for themselves. It doesn't just happen.

The recent book, The Pact, has inspired us. It is the story of three disadvantaged African-American youths from Newark who, while in high school, pledged to one another that they would become doctors. Their strength of will is astonishing, but they are clear about the persons who opened the doors for them.

In the third grade, George was intrigued by the dental instruments when taken to the dentist for the first time. The dentist took the time to explain what they were, how he planned to use them, and even told George the names and numbers of his teeth. A few minutes later he quizzed the boy. George left, determined to become a dentist.

In high school, George and his friends, Sam and Rameck, heard a representative from Seton Hall describe a program that would pay for the college expenses of minority students who wanted to become doctors. A counselor from Seton Hall urged them to apply and they did. This counselor stayed in close touch with the boys through their four years of pre-med. Grandmothers and social workers along the way also encouraged them. When George failed one of his board exams, his professor did not say "you failed," but "we failed," and continued to work with him until he passed it.

The boys were never cut any slack on what they had to accomplish. They took the same board exams as the graduates of Harvard. They became doctors because they had native intelligence, will power — and a host of people who made possible the path they chose to take.

Not all crime victims have a vision of making themselves even more than they were before facing their tragedies. Both the ancient and contemporary stories shared today offer us a clear mandate, however. Where there is a resource that can lead to new life, it is our responsibility to show it to them.

The next time you meet a (Hagar/Patacara/Lalla), recognize that her plight was not likely of her own choosing. Do not cast her out, but hear her cry and give her what she needs to fulfill her own promise.

(This "sample sermon" was developed by Dr. Richard Lord and Janice Harris Lord.
Story of Hagar from The Old Testament.

Stories of Patacara and Lalla from Ford-Grabowsky, Mary. Sacred Voices: Essential Women's
Wisdom Through the Ages, New York: Harper Collins, 2002.)

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National Crime Victims' Rights Week: Fulfill the Promise April 6–12, 2003
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