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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings- 6/24 Was Abraham Crazy? edition

Genesis 22:1-14

Psalm 13:1-6

Romans 6:12-23

Matthew 10:40-42

Okay. For today’s texts there are a couple of clear options.

1) Ignore the text from Genesis. Shove it under the rug. Forget it exists. Talk about Matthew and hospitality. Love that Gospel and forget everything else.

2) Deal with Genesis head on. Talk about this Horrible. Horrible. Horrible text in which Abraham almost kills Isaac. When I preach on this passage I can literally see parents who have had to deal with the death of a child shrinking and shivering in their seats.

I don’t have any textual basis for it, but when I preach on this passage from Genesis, I tell people that the only way I can live with it is to think that Abraham didn’t really hear the voice of God. He was hearing other voices, and it wasn’t God until the very end when Isaac is saved.

Or maybe it was a test- God kept hoping Abraham would stand up and refuse to kill, and when Abraham blindly followed, God had no choice but to step in and save him from himself.

No textual basis. I know I'm on less-than-thin ice, it’s just the only way I can wrap my mind around what happens.

So. Those are the two options I see.

What about you?


  1. I'm remembering how glad I was to take this Sunday OFF three years ago! But when I was a new seminary graduate and filling a pulpit during a maternity leave, I took it on, with all the enthusiasm of knowing nothing.
    And as I read over that sermon, I like the general theme which had to do with finding God at the edges (Abraham at the absolute limit) and the margins (the little ones looking for a drink of water), beginning with a story about finding my grandmother's notes in the margins of a Bible she passed down to me. I did not always understand or agree with the things that seemed to touch and inspire her, but because she made the notes, I paid attention to those passages, too. I think it was the Sunday a search committee from Small Church came to hear me! Ack!! What a text!!
    One of my mentors used to advise triangulating with the congregation against the text when it's something we just can't explain or stand, and this is probably one of those.

  2. Songbird, thankyou! I was about to bodyswerve the Genesis text, but that theme of finding God in the extremities would fit really well. Its the last time I wiil preach here, so you've given me something to really mull over. Lots of ideas surfacing- about not assuming that God is to be found always where we expect God to be. Maybe not even in prayer meetings and bible studies - but out there - in the real world. And, besides, if it gets uncomfortable, what can they do, fire me? I've already resigned. I just need to be careful that I stick to what the text raises and not my own frustrations. HS will prod me into line I hope.
    Now looking forward to a sermon I was dreading. Thank the Lord for RGBP!

  3. I'm going with Matthew, which I think is just as challenging. None of the texts are particularly easy this week. On the Genesis text, one explanation I have heard is that it is a polemic against child sacrifice which was prevelant at the time. (In Carthage, I visited a site where child sacrifice had taken place; somewhere in the last four years or so, I read about the discovery in Egypt of a place where child sacrifice had occurred in Roman times.)

    I am struggling with the fact that in Memphis, the homeless shelters charge $6-7 a night. As one homeless man told me this week, if I had that much money, I'd have an apartment. When a homeless man told me that (it was a cold night in Memphis), I thought he had come up with a great scam. Unfortunately it wasn't a scam; it was true. This in a city where almost everyone is a Christian and churches abound and are filled on Sunday mornings. "Whoever gives a drink of water to these little ones." What does hospitality mean? What risks are we called to take?

  4. we're doing matthew here, SP is preaching, probably about hospitality. We are having the summer of hospitality here, it seems! I have no idea what direction he's going. I've already decided that for the children's sermon this week I am going to read the Quiltmaker's Gift (minus the middle section where the king is mean to the old lady--it's sort of a long story). That's all I know about Sunday, alas. I'm also behind in blogging about the Bible in 90 days for my congregation. oy. But I'm off to have my wisdom teeth out...when I wake up and feel coherent perhaps I'll know more. The Holy Spirit does work while we're sleeping, after all! Even artificial sleep. :-) Happy reflecting/leaning, friends!

  5. This text is very memorable for me. It is the first one we read all the way through in Hebrew, instead of slogging through one verse at a time, or the teacher picking out particular verses for their special grammatical features.

    I remember being bent over the task, and on the first swipe over it, being so preoccupied with the complexities of language that we all missed the terrible beauty of it.

    Then I remember the look on the teacher's face as he talked about how the text starts out with a wide angle lens, then slowly focuses in until you can practically see the reflection of the lamb's eyes in the knife blade.

    He was so excited and animated as he talked about this (I remember him pacing across the front of the room)-- but by the time he got to the end he practically had misty eyes. It's one of my favorite stories about discovering God in a text.

    Sadly, I'm pretty sure I told that story three years ago, so I'm kinda screwed.

  6. It seems that three years ago I went with the Genesis story and preached about sacrifices. But since I don't write sermons, and at the time I was not yet recording them....

    However I did find the prayer of confession I wrote for that week. You can find it her

    We aren't readign the story this week because I refuse to read such a thing when not preaching on it. I am using last week's Gospel reading with a sermon called "Be not afraid"

  7. ummmm that link shoud read here, not her. I don't think blogs have gender....

    But atleast the link part works!

  8. Thanks Listing Straight, for your comments. Your thought process mirrored mine this morning as I read through the texts...Do I tackle Genesis? Lovin' the gospel lesson, but now am challenged by everyone's comments to ponder some more before I go anywhere with any of these texts...

  9. A friend of mine preached on this Genesis text last November when my family and I worshiped in his church. It was actually on the occasion of my son's baptism. (Long story, but basically I was between churches.)

    I was more than thoroughly blessed in this preaching moment and lifted up (not to mention impressed as a fellow "homiletician"!). He talks a little toward the end about Madelyn, his daughter who was carried to full term with no hint of any problems. When she was born it was obvious immediately that there were severe problems, and she died 14 hours after her birth. This sermon was preached about 15 months later.

    I understand that tendency to cringe knowing there are families who have lost children present. This is how one pastor was able to preach the text without really making it all about him and his experience, but without ignoring that experience. I love it.

  10. I was thinking about this text yesterday, and I found that I too couldn't really think that Abraham heard God's voice. In fact, given the readings for the last 2 weeks, I tend to think that Abraham was not the kind of person I'd want to be around much. He's a bit of a jerk - and he heards voices telling him to kill Isaac, telling him it's ok to send Hagar & Ishmael out into the wilderness... ugh. But we must welcome the little ones - even people I don't like, people I consider crazy, can and do have experiences of God that I can learn from.

    That's what I was pondering yesterday; but I must say I'm very glad I'm off this week!

  11. Listing Straight - I'd recommend that you find a copy of Leonard Sweet's book "Out of the Questions - Into the Mystery of the GodLife Relationship" it reframes the Abraham/Isaac story (for me at least) in a way that makes sense...

  12. "Or maybe it was a test- God kept hoping Abraham would stand up and refuse to kill, and when Abraham blindly followed, God had no choice but to step in and save him from himself." That's pretty much what my pastor says about this text.

  13. Anybody doing Romans? Slaves of righteousness?
    Joan Calvin, thanks for the horror story about having to pay for shelter. I'll have to check to see if that is also the case here at the other end of the state.

  14. She rev, that sermon hit home for me. Thanks so much for the link.

  15. I am preaching for a congregation who will be voting to call (or not call) me following worship. I have concentrated on the Matthew text and have a draft (emphasis on draft) here

    This cup of water that Jesus asks us to give can be a dangerous thing. It might just lead to us opening our hearts and being changed---forever.

  16. I'm going with the Genesis passage too. I've looked at a sermon from nine years ago--where does the time go? It needs some recycling, and thanks to Listing Straight, i think I will incorporate the idea that God was wanting Abe NOT to sacrifice Isaac. The gist of the old sermon, as it is right now, is the preservation of the promise to Abraham, despite this moment when it seemed so at risk. Eh. I'll be regretting the recycling later in the week and be wishing I had started from scratch.

  17. sherev, we have a mutual friend. as i read your post i thought, "this sounds like my friend" and then the link took me to his church blog, he preached on this same story again a couple of weeks ago, in response to a question about whether it's the same god in the ot and nt. it should be up on that same site.

    my wisdom teeth are gone and i am very slowly eating a jamba juice and typing one-handed...sorry for no caps and any typos...

  18. What if Abe had not "looked up" - how often we get focussed on what we think God wants and don't see the truth. I think we can't really pretend tho that the text does not say God commanded the "binding of Isaac" as it is called in the Jewish tradition - however terrible it sounds to our modern ears. There is an archetypal truth tho that children must be "killed" to their parents to become adults.

  19. I don't know. I might be reaching. I didn't think I was yesterday, but now that I'm reading all the Matthew posts, I'm worried that I'm going in a different direction that is too different.

    I'm working with Matthew, too, but not really focusing on hospitality. I'm thinking more about how when the disciples are welcomed it is really (or also) God who is welcomed. When the prophet is received, the one who sent the prophet is received. So, going with the idea that this chapter (and my sermon series) has been about instructions for disciples, I hear the instruction being, carry MY message, not your own.

    This could be, on one hand a warning, like much of the rest of the commissioning sounds like it is. On the other hand, for some of us, this is GREAT news! It's not up to me to create the message of God's kingdom. It's not up to me to create the kingdom or work out salvation or figure out how to do healing. God does all that. My job is to open myself up to be God's hands, feet, mouth, etc.

    I think I can do this without saying "You don't have to do anything" because that is certainly NOT what I mean.

    I hope I'm not way off base or going in a completely invented direction!

  20. Have you all read "Abraham" by Bruce Feiler. Give it a shot. It's a good way to tackle the Genesis passage.

    Essentially, it's a story that tells about obedience. It's not about killing children, it is about obedience...supreme obedience akin to Christ's obedience to go to the cross.

  21. I'm not picking a fight, truly just wondering in community - -

    I'm wondering about this idea that God didn't really want Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, but was just testing him to see if he would stand up against God. I don't think I can run with the idea that this is the way God operates. If that's the way it works how am I supposed to tell when God really wants me to obey and when God wants me to argue about it. That idea raises questions for me about God's faithfulness.

    And then what do we do with reading Scripture? Can I say anytime I don't like a passage that says "God says" that it wasn't really what God wanted, but God said it anyway, or maybe it wasn't even God.

    That sounds more confrontational than I am meaning for it to. I truly am just trying to continue a discussion about interpretation.


  22. Well, She Rev, I guess it depends on your approach to scriptural interpretation. There's a spectrum, isn't there? The question here for me is not whether God told Abraham to do this, because the recording of the story has human handprints all over it, but is rather how we find a way for the story to speak to the faithful people of God in a particular time and place. What is the encouragement needed, or what is the provocation needed? Sometimes that might be preaching the text one way and sometimes another. What would concern me is having an attitude of knowing it can only be preached one way for all time.

  23. Hmm...still thinking about the Genesis text. Thanks for the reflections everyone, keep them coming. The more I think about it, it seems just as problematic to have a God who would be this manipulative with Abraham. On the other hand, it is appealing to me to have a God who would be willing to rescue me from my own worst impulses...still thinking, but getting more in a muddle as I go. Ah well, it's only Tuesday.

    Sherev, I think your Matthew idea sounds fine.

  24. in my roundtable discussion with congregation members today, we talked about the Matthew passage, but no one really felt like anything jumped out at them. But when we went to the Romans passage, we kept getting hung up on the idea of being slaves of righteousness and slaves of God.

    I think that it ties in with the Genesis passage perfectly, because I have always understood Genesis to be about obedience. About loving God so much that you become a slave to God's will. And I also always hear the "Binding of Isaac" story with Kierkegaard's ethic.

    There is a better summary here(, but this piece is important: "Abraham knows that killing Isaac is unethical. However, Abraham decides to suspend the ethical—in other words, to put ethical concerns on the back burner—because he has faith in the righteousness of the end (or telos) that God will bring about. Abraham’s faith that God will not allow an unethical telos allows him to make what seems to be an unethical decision. Abraham puts religious concerns over ethical concerns, thus proving his faith in God."

  25. Most likely preaching Genesis or MT. Working on Genesis for a lectionary group I had a few ideas.

    1. Does God test us? What tests our faith?

    (an additional question - what is the nature of being tested by God, it feels like game-playing to me and I don't like the idea of a game-playing puppet-master God. Go sacrifice your son... and right when I've screwed up my courage and broken heart to do it and raise the knife, God's angel says, "psych!" God didn't really mean it.)

    2. When God calls our name do we say "Here I am"? Role of messengers and listening.

    3. Preach honestly about the difficulties this text raises for us, how horrible we find it. Maybe don't explain it but talk about the interpretation of scripture. How do we approach a difficult text?

    4. God provided (a lamb) for Abraham & Isaac, how does/might God provide for us?

    5. Are there things or areas of our life that we withold from God (Abraham must have been tempted to withold Isaac)? What would happen if we let go and gave them to God?

    6. Talk about the importance of children, their gift, their nurture and God's will they not be harmed.

    A new thought from the discussions here - Maybe if the text has human handprints all over it then we could say whatever might have happened, clearly it was important to the writers of scripture to emphasize the need for God's people to be obedient. What is obedience? How do you know when you're following God? At they mention the problem Abraham's obedience raises in an age threatened by religious extremism.

    Re: Matthew
    From some reading around Matthew it seems that while many want to say the reading means we are to be hospitable, and if we receive disciples and give water that could be the interpretation.

    Others say that it's about the disciples receiving hospitality - if we are disciples what does that mean for us? Hospitality as reciprocal. Are we more comfortable being hosts than guests? Also wondering about what it means to receive - to receive Jesus, a prophet, a little one.

    I don't know if any of this makes sense. :)

  26. reminds me of a funny story --it must be now from three years back! or six! possibly nine! when one of our diocesan webmasters posted the Kierkegaard treatments of the Genesis story on his "preacher's helps" page ... in a diocese where there are a lot of lay liturgical ministers who often get called to go to remote places on very short notice. They lean hard on the "preacher's helps," for obvious reasons. The webmaster was shaking his head, wondering who on earth would appreciate the Kierkegaard or find it useful -- and then got a message -- "They ate it up, in Moose Flats, MORE KIERKEGAARD was their cry." So who can tell.
    I'm wondering, can I bounce this one off last Sunday's reading -- in some way...the two sons...who is God instructing here? Abraham? or sarah?
    too far-fatched? what do you think?

  27. I forgot. I liked Sherev's ideas about it being God's message, not ours. We don't have to create it all from scratch, we just have to be open to being used and not impose our own message.

    During our discussion of Genesis in my group another person observed the role of humility. "No, Abraham, don't do that. The *Lord* will provide, not you." So this means letting God provide how God will, not necessarily in the way that I assumed God would provide.

  28. Crimson:
    I'd toyed with using last week's text as kind of a jump off point tell some of the context, the larger story. I'd also thought, "You think last week's story was bad, now what do we do with this one?"

  29. Can you tell I'm trying to figure out my sermon early? I'm leaving Sunday for Europe and have a ton of things to do!

    Thinking of acknowledging how hard these texts are, and reviewing the story to put it in context I had a new spin occur to me:

    Role of scripture is not to provide easy answers, it's not all neat and tidy. Scripture can disturb us, challenge us, get us to ask questions about our faith and about God.

    Talk about the role of interpretation, and the role of study (an example would be what you see here as we all wrestle with the text - as we ask what does it mean to us and how is it relevant?). It's good to be reading in addition to what we hear on Sunday, otherwise we get only bits and pieces of the story.

    A difficult text like this one has me asking among other things: Did God intervene because Abraham listened, or because Abraham got something wrong? How do I know I'm being obedient, could I be more obedient? What does it mean that I don't believe in a puppet-master God or that I get uncomfortable with the idea of God "testing" us? Do I idolize my family putting them in God's place? Would I hear a messenger?

    The questions this text draws out of me, and how I choose to wrestle with and attempt to answer them is likely to be different from how others encounter it.

    But I think that the important thing is that we engage it. We don't run and hide, we don't shrug our shoulders and passively accept what someone else says about it.

    Okay... I think I'm done posting now. *grin* Now I'm going home to have dinner and figure out the intricate workings of the Eurail pass!

  30. I am (I think....) going to put the Genesis and Matthew texts side by side somehow. I am interested in the difference between sacrifice and offering, and how we perceive God's call in our lives. It seems to me that there are some people who see it all as sacrifice, which I understand to be an involuntary giving up of something precious -- much like Abraham's "sacrifice" of Isaac -- or they see it as offering -- an almost optional thing that can be presented as a kind of bargaining chip (or maybe something like a stock "offering"). Where I come out, personally and (I hope) also in the sermon, is that what God desires is neither sacrifice not offering but rather gift. That is how God is in relationship to us, and how we are to be in relationship to God. Of course, "gift" means that we give everything, freely, fully, and expecting nothing in return. Maybe, just maybe, that is where Abraham was. But then, maybe I am just grasping at straws to try to come to terms with this awful and hard, hard text.

  31. So i am still a seminary student and i just don't feel as though i have the training ans tact to deal with the genesis story.. so i will be preaching radical hospitality....

  32. I'm not preaching this weekend, and the Lutheran lectionary has another primary OT text, but I'm remembering that I wrote a paper about this in seminary. I need to check it out: all I remember is that I noticed several references to seeing in the text. And I talked about Rembrandt's painting, The Binding of Isaac, and a critique of this story by a famous woman psychiatrist (Alice? -- can't remember). My closing sentence I still remember: "God grant that we are worthy of the trust of our children."

  33. I haven't decided if i'm going to tackle genesis either. I felt like I really put myself out there last week sharing a personal story about a past political conviction and I might back up a bit... but then again, maybe I just need to go for it.

    I'm suddenly struck by the matthew text from last week (I've come not to bring peace but a sword) and "whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." One of my fellow pastors said honestly that if he were put into such a situation (heaven forbid) where someone threatened to kill his child if he didn't deny Christ, he would tell that person to go ahead and kill his child - because he knows whose hands both of their lives are truly in.

    To me, that sounds an awful lot like Abraham and Isaac.

    last week I preached about priorities and putting Christ above the nation (or being Christian first and a patriot second... and only if the second doesn't conflict with the first). Maybe this week, stick with the Matthew scripture, and turn it toward families?

  34. Thanks, Songbird, for taking up the conversation. (And others, too.) I totally agree about the multiplicity of interpretations. I hope I never (that's a big word, isn't it) get so stuck on one interpretation that I think there are no others. I think what the Spirit reveals to us in a text can change from person to person, and even within a person when they come to a text from a different context throughout their life (or day!). I'm not a literalist by any stretch of the imagination, but I tend to work with narratives as if they are "true" because they came to us in this form for a reason. I agree there are human handprints on Scripture, but since it is what it is, and it is what we have I tend to say I've got to work with what I've got.

    Interpretation is fun, isn't it? I love it!

  35. The Methoblogger gives a great summation of Leonard Sweet's questions about the Abraham and Isaac story. I was particularly struck by the fact that this was the last time Abraham ever heard from God, and that he saw his son only briefly and then never again. I'm not a pastor, but I've had to listen to all sorts of unpalatable interpretations. I particularly dislike the focus on obedience, as if it's noble to follow a god who asks you to murder your own kid. Never understood that approach at all. If God was testing Abraham, He was probably hoping Abe wouldn't go the way of the cultures that believed in human sacrifice, that he would realize that his relationship with Yahweh was completely different.

  36. I am late posting. I am still unpacking boxes, finding stuff, and learning what goes where.
    So, anyhow, have been pondering the texts and not wanting to touch the Genesis. Just not up to that now.
    So, I am left with Psalm 13, which i can still hear a classmate recitign over and over again...she was not feeling that way, but had to memorize a text and was practicing. To this day I still hear her voice when I read that text.
    Now we get to the Epistle which is all about horrid sins, and the Gospel talks about welcoming the one who sent me...
    Uh, folks this is my first Sudnay in a new church...I am really screwed.
    Actually, I thoguth of using the "alternative text" for Hebrew lesson...don't know who thunk up this altrnative texts, but I am so all over it.
    So i am doing the Jeremiah text about the prophet in combo with the Matthew text that speaks of welcoming the prophet. I am going to speak on the way we welcome those prophets which come into our lives....oh, and causally mention that I have been made to feel welcome with hugs, handshakes, luncheons and a meal brought to us.
    Any thoguths on this?
    Oh, cute children's sermon on textweek using a welcome mat!

  37. Thanks to all for helpful posts!
    imingrace, blessings to you. I hope all goes well and remember that God is in the process.
    Teri, how about a milkshake made the "old fashioned way" and loaded with ice cream, fat grams, and your favorite flavor?
    Oh, the slushes at Sonic are good too. That got me through last sinus infection when I could not eat and felt miserable with my head stopped up.

  38. Bt the sea said, "So this means letting God provide how God will, not necessarily in the way that I assumed God would provide." I'm thinking that direction as well, and wondering where to go with it...

  39. 1-4 grace - that sounds like a very good way to start your first sunday! go for it!

  40. 1-4 Grace, so funny you mentioned our friend and her reciting/crying out that psalm...that's exactly where I went as well. :)
    Thanks a ton everyone for your faithful wrestling with this passage. Thanks SheRev for the link to the sermon...I just might need to refer to that since I truly can't speak to anything parenting related. But I think I can point to it when I see it.

    It occurred to me that there's also a modern-day psychiatric reading/interpretation of this story: Abraham was dealing with senility and dementia. Passing off your wife as your sister...twice...pleading for an evil town to be spared and not pleading for your own son, casting one son and his mother into the wilderness, and then raising a knife over his own flesh and blood promise does not sound like the picture of emotional health to me. But I'm pretty sure that doesn't preach.

    I'm chewing on all the wisdom I've read here today. Thanks for bringing it.

  41. Anyone else preaching the Feast of Sts Peter & Paul? The gospel is the John text, Feed my sheep. Though after reading the struggles here, I wonder if I'm cheating by observing the red feast day!

  42. I think we are all taking this story too literally. I think that this story is rabbinic hyperbole at its best. We are not to hear the story and think "God wants to kill Isaac." We are supposed to hear "Obedience to God is all-encompassing. You may even have to offer up what God had promised you. All belong to God." The exaggeration in the story is to drive home the point...Abraham and Sarah, the first of all of us, are asked this impossible thing. We too may be asked the impossible...perhaps even a cross.

  43. Hi again all -- Tripp, maybe that is one point, that we have nothing at all TO offer God except what he has given us...
    Yes, thanks be to God, I have SS Peter and Paul, am talking about the "faith delivered to the apostles" and the "development of doctrine" and it is going to end in a strong altar call of the Anglican i.e. eucharistic kind...because what was delivered to the apostles was the body and blood of Christ...

  44. There is a midrash that Sarah died of fright seeing Abraham raise the knife over Isaac - she is never heard of alive again in the text. Chagall painted this scene - you can see Sarah behind the tree - and paralleled it with a picture of the cross and Jews in the holocaust. here.

  45. This is how I see it in the larger context of Abram/Abraham's life and what God expects from us.

    God wants obedience (doing what God says to do), faith (trusting and acting on the belief of what God says he will do), and righteousness (doing the right thing). Abraham is great at obedience, not very good at faith, and downright horrible at righteousness.

    Abraham always does what God tells him to do. No questions, he just does it right then and there.

    God: Abe, drop everything and go where I tell ya.
    Abe: Already packed, Lord.

    Abraham kinda believes God in what God has promised. You know, father of a great nation and all that. That is, until he thinks he's gonna get killed.

    King Abimelech: Hi.
    Abe: Yes you can sleep with my wife, I mean, sister. Just don't kill me.

    Righteousness...well, he knows it when he sees it, but isn't so hot at doing it. And example of his unrighteousness is when he listens to Sarah when demands Abe kicks out Hagar and his only son Ishmael. He doesn't even argue; he just sends them out to die.

    However, he does know unrighteousness when he sees it, even in God. Now, Abe knows that God is righteous. And he knows that killing the innocent in Sodom and Gomorrah along with the guilty is not righteous. When he notices the dissonance, Abe is gutsy enough to challenge God on his righteousness.

    Abe: Hey, uh...God? Isn't killing good people a bit, you know, wrong?
    God: Is it, now? (Finally! I'm getting through to him!)

    But then Abe screws the pooch at the end.

    God: Hey, go up that hill and kill your son.
    Abe: Hey Isaac! Grab some sticks.
    God: ...

    I'm not entirely sure, but I think after that episode, God never speaks to Abraham again. I think the relationship gets kinda strained after that last go.

    I think it shows us why our faith has to be reckoned as righteousness. And why our faith has to be a gift from God. It's a story--a first of many for this family--that shows us how utterly depraved we are. The greater our sin, the greater our Savior.

    As a side note, at Perkins, I was in an interfaith dialogue group with some Muslim women. When I told them of the Old Testament story of Abraham, they were astonished that Jews and Christians alike saw one of God's prophets in such a poor and fallen light. In their tradition, Abraham was nearly sinless.

  46. Oh yes it's THAT week already! I struggled with the text a while back because I am liturgist this week. It's one I have always avoided. The best I came up with was that this is a strong statement about Godde NOT wanting sacrifice of children - like Joan Calvin's comment. In a culture where child sacrifice was taken for granted, it's not surprising that Abraham would think he had to offer his son. But Godde intervenes and clearly demonstrates that a new way of relating is required (not so happy for the sheep I guess but that also needs to be seen in context). My refs (including Wikipedia) are here
    Now that the struggle is complete the ministry team have decided to start a series on the book of Acts and have arranged a speaker on refugee camps in Thailand for this week. BUT if I was liturgising or preaching this text I would also ponder on the ways in which church people (and leaders?) balance their faith and family commitments. I observe plenty of potential Abraham and Isaac situations around me as obsession with a perceived responsibility causes distance from family. The knife is offputting, but I think this text is a strong challenge to an uncritical notion of God first, others second, family last. Stresspenguin's comment also leads to the need to use collective discernment to work out the "will of Godde". I'm always a bit nervous when I hear "God told me to ..." without any qualification or sense of needing to test this out with others. Go well preachers.

  47. I looked back at my sermon from three years ago and it was on Romans so I'm going to try to do Genesis and Matthew. Last week's sermon was on Genesis, though, so I think I'll back up in Matthew and take last week's reading into account, too. And if we do that, we see that Jesus seems to be saying that family relationships will be destroyed just like Abrahm's family will be if Isaac is sacrificed.
    I don't like the story, either, but there is something about being willing to put God before everything and everyone else that leads us to radical hospitality. I agree that it seems odd that Abe doesn't argue with God on this one - surely Isaac is more precious that Lot and his family in Abe's eyes - but Tripp has the right of it, I think. This is really about obedience. The slaves of righteousness line from Romans brings us to that as well. And Jesus' instructions to the disciples throughout chapter 10 is all about obedience. Jesus tells them it will be really rough even to the point of alienating friends and family and maybe even losing their lives but serving God, spreading the good news, is worth all of that and more.
    So what are we to do today? My kids don't understand my faith. And while they don't mind my being a priest, it does cause some distance in our relationships (they are 30 and 32). I would hate having my kids disown me, but I can't stop being what God has made me. Fortunately, my mother and sisters are with me in faith and offer me a cup of cold water when I need it.


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