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Proper 08 Year A Old Testament

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Theme: Keep our communication open with our kids

Let us pray.

Most holy, Lord God, sometimes your scare us and mystify us; you order your servants to do horrific things; help us to understand what you want from us and for us, help us to understand your love, and help us to understand how you related to other peoples in different times and places, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Just the first verse of this passage from Genesis makes this story strange. God has twice made a covenant with Abraham promising him that Abraham’s descendants will be numerous. Abraham has already proved his worthiness. God should know our hearts without testing, but God is going to test Abraham – even though Abraham’s name means exalted father.

God calls Abraham and Abraham answers in obedience – ready and willing to do whatever God wishes. God asks Abraham to take his only son (remember Ishmael was previously cast out) and it’s not just Abraham’s son, it is the son Abraham loves. Abraham is to take his only, beloved son to Moriah and sacrifice the boy on a mountain that will be pointed out to Abraham. Abraham is to barbeque his only, beloved son. This is child sacrifice. It should be pointed out that child sacrifice among the Canaanites was common.

So, Abraham gets up early the next morning to begin the journey. When Abraham cast out Hagar and Ishmael, he also got up early that day. And, oh yeah, God told Abraham to do that too. Abraham chops wood for the fire. He then saddles his donkey and along with Isaac and two servants and heads for Moriah. It is believed that Solomon built the temple on this site. It took three days to get there.

Abraham told the young men to wait while he took Isaac with him up a mountain to worship. Isaac carried the wood, while Abraham brought the hot coals and a knife. Isaac asked his father where the lamb for the sacrifice was. Is Isaac getting nervous? Abraham said that God will provide the lamb. Does Isaac totally trust his father? Does Abraham really believe what he is saying or is he deliberately lying? Is this supposed to be ironic?

In any case, they travel together. They will face what ever comes, together. Except Abraham knows he will travel down the mountain alone. When they arrived at the place God showed Abraham, Abraham built an altar. He then placed the wood on the altar. Then he tied up Isaac and placed the boy on the wood. Abraham then took out his knife to begin to prepare his son for the sacrifice. Just as the knife reached Isaac’s throat, an angel called out, “Abraham, Abraham!” Abraham replied, “I’m here – I’m here!” There is urgency to stay Abraham’s hand. The angel told Abraham not to touch the boy. The angel said that the angel now knows that Abraham will even offer, through murder and extreme obedience, his only, beloved son. 

Why did the angel doubt Abraham’s fear of God? It should be remembered that Abraham doubted God’s protection in Egypt. Sarah laughed at the prospect of bearing a child in old age. Both of them conspired to have a child with a slave woman.

As Abraham looked up, he saw a ram caught in a nearby thicket. Abraham took the ram and sacrificed it in place of his son. Abraham named the place, “God will provide” People continued to say, “God will provide on the mountain.” What we don’t hear is the renewal of the covenant between God and Abraham in the verses that follow.

This is another troubling story. This is a heartbreaking story. Now I wonder what Isaac thought of the old man after this experience. I’ll bet he had trouble sleeping. I’ll bet he was always watching his back. I’d be surprised if he ever accepted very many invitations to travel with his father. If Isaac were to die, what would happen to covenant God promised to Abraham and Sarah? Isaac must live for God’s promises to be fulfilled. Yet God commanded Isaac’s death.

This is a story that is not easy to hear for people who suffered from abuse in their lives. This story raises questions about authority and what kind of faith is demanded by God. We are not told Abraham’s mind in this story. Some say that Abraham knew that God would not let his son die, but the text never says that and we should never read into the text what is not there. We need to remember that the culture that Abraham and Sarah lived in is an alien culture. They might as well be from a different planet.

I don’t think that any one of us would even entertain the thought of sacrificing one of our children. Still, we read in the newspapers cases of people who do that very thing. In Abraham’s day child sacrifice was ritually done. Today, it is done through anger or some mental disorder. What is hard for all of us, is to keep the lines of communication open with our kids.

Patti Teel offers some advice for us on how to keep in contact with our kids. She suggests that we write love letters to our children. She says that it should be done year round and not just for special occasions. It also doesn’t matter how old our children are. This is especially useful for the teen years.

Patti suggests some ways to express yourself to your children.

·        Express love – Children can’t be told too often that we love them or that we’re thankful to be their parent. 

·        Give appreciation and thanks – When your child surprises you by straightening a room or helping with the dishes, write a quick thank-you note, and post it where he or she is sure to spot it.

·        Congratulate and celebrate – Young children love to receive mail. Occasionally, surprise your child by sending a congratulatory note in the mail. 

·        Apologize – If you lose your temper, or make a mistake that affects your child, write an apology note. You will be teaching your children to accept responsibility for their actions and to make amends to anyone who is harmed by them.

·        Remind your child – While verbal reminders can feel like nagging, notes can clearly list the chores your child is expected to do. 

·        Give encouragement – When your child will be facing a particular challenge at school, tuck a note in his or her lunchbox or backpack saying, “You can do it,” or “I have faith in you!”

For older children, use notes or emails to:

·        Gain understanding and stay close – Share a journal with your older child or teen. Pass it back and forth and keep it in a place where each of you can get to it and easily express your feelings. Or keep an email chain going between you.

 

·        Show concern and clear up misunderstandings – If your child becomes defensive and angry when you try to correct her or his behavior, notes or emails can be especially effective. A thoughtful note can clear up a misunderstanding and help to ensure that constructive criticism is taken in the spirit that it is intended.

Our culture and our times offer different challenges than what Abraham and Sarah faced in their time and culture. We can, through Christ, extend our love to others and especially to children.

We now pray: Gracious God and giver of all good gifts, we thank you for the gift of discernment, so that we may more fully know you and what you would have us do, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Text: Genesis 22:1-14 (NRSV)
22 After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” 6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. 7 Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

9 When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to killa his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”;b as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”c

[1]


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a  Or to slaughter

b  Or will see; Heb traditionally transliterated Jehovah Jireh

c  Or he shall be seen

[1]  The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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