Prayer together for 08.02.20
God, we thank you for ‘seeing good’ moments. When we see the extraordinary in the ordinary. In the midst of quarantine and isolation, in these times of protests and economic fears, in dark times when little seems familiar, we recognize your light in the heart, and actions, of others.
God, we have seen the extraordinary in the ordinary of our healthcare workers. Endangering themself and their families through the ordinary act of going to work. Frequently having to isolate from their families & friends. Enduring conspiracy theories & personal rights proclamations, from many of those to whom they extend mercy.
God, we thank you for our local leaders as they seek to take precautionary measures to protect us from illness and death. They have put their own positions at risk in making the difficult and tough decisions. They have made decisions that others have been afraid to make.
God, we thank your for our public eduction leaders, teachers, and staff. Jumping into action to do their ordinary jobs in an extraordinary fashion. They have strategized how to resume an ordinary when the ordinary is no longer an option. They now face the risks for self, students and all their families, as they report back to jobs that will never be the same.
God, we also thank you for the essential works & businesses quickly developing new systems to serve us even when existing systems were no longer usable. They have continued to work, to serve, and to smile, in the midst of the risks and dangers. They have been underpaid, overworked, and almost always, unnoticed.
God, we thank you, we are seeing noticing of others more than ever before,
Just life Christ did with the bent over woman in the temple, the accused woman in the public square, the weak woman in the crowded streets, the ruler who had everything but could give up nothing, the thief hanging on the cross.
God, thank you as we begin to notice beyond skin color,
We are seeing beyond cultures and actions, beyond nationalities, religions, & practices, we have begun to notice that pain can go deeper than we can comprehend. Pain that reveals itself in ways that distract us from the reality of the devastating impact passed down through generations.
God, thank you that we continue to see the beauty of your creation in the joy of a pet, the smile of a neighbor, the laugh of a child, the opportunity to help and serve, the expressions of concern and empathy, the masks worn even when not mandated, the hands and feet of those who help after a storm, the privileged standing up for the underprivileged, the different colors that are standing up for each other, the realization of things we don’t need, & what we do need.
God, we thank you for truth. We thank you for the truth. We acknowledge that you are truth.
We are grateful that your word is truth. We are thankful that your word is a lamp to our feet. We are grateful that truth is a light to our path.
Lord, we confess that we have failed to seek truth. We have settled for the darkness of Deceitful words, Hateful rhetoric, Divisive subtleties, Contentious labeling, and, Dangerous coverups.
We have given away the power of our own path over to, Screaming pundits, False prophets, Clever slogans, Internet bots, and Manufactured conspiracies.
We have covered our ears, We have closed our eyes, in order to hear, and see, their deceit.
Lord, remind us to uncover our ears, remind us to open our eyes, to see your lamp guiding our feet, to see your light directing our path.
Lord, we will know it is your light, your lamp, your light, when we can see and hear…. Love, Peace, Patience, Joy, Compassion, Caring, Justice, Sacrifice, Humility, Mercy, and Unity.
God, we will discern it is your word, your truth, when it is consistent with the life and words of Jesus.
Lord, remind us of our Privilege to seek truth, Our obligation to search for light, Our choice to take the path you set before us.
God, we know that when we find truth, we will find freedom, and then, when we are able to lay down our burdens, we will experience your rest,
For we will find that your burden is truly light.
I vividly remember a friend in high school telling me that her mom was wanting to switch churches. Since I also attended the same church I was very curious as to the reason. The story was that her mom was mad at the pastor because he didn’t speak about sin enough. She especially wanted him to preach about the sin of smoking. I found this amusing as my first memory of church was going to a small town First Baptist Church every Sunday morning and the doorway which we entered in was also the smoking spot for all the deacons. Mom and Dad would tell us to take a breath and in we went.
Bobby Schuller, pastor of Shepherd’s Grove Church in Irvine, California, tells the story of being a new pastor, and coming up with what he thought was a genius marketing strategy to reach their surrounding area. Most of the commercial business establishments in the immediate vicinity of their church building were bars, so Bobby thought it made sense to have match books made up with their church name and basic details. The plan was to give them free to the bars and then ask them to, in turn, give them to their customers. Customers would stick them in their pockets and later, pull them out and read the cover. After he handed out several bulk boxes of matches to the bartenders and bar owners, several of his members were aghast to find the name of their church on the match boxes they were given at the bar. Ironically, it was the effectiveness of his marketing scheme that landed him in hot water with several of church members and leaders. They accused him of inciting people to sin by giving them matches.
As I have planned out this message, I have attempted to formulate a soften, and possibly humorous, way to announce the theme – However, I have to just be honest. Today we talk about Sin.
There is a high likely hood that even as I say this word, you are thinking of the sins that you most enjoy judging and condemning in other people, or, you are thinking of the sins that you are most ashamed and humiliated by in your own life.
The apostle Paul makes a very personal revelation as he writes to the churches in Rome:
‘I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.’
Apostle Paul (Romans 7:15b)
Philosopher and theologian, Philip L. Quinn, described the manner in which the three major world religions approach the subject of sin:
‘Sin is the concept of a human fault that offends a good God and brings with it human guilt. Sins’ natural home is in the major theistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. These religious traditions share the idea that actual or personal sins are individual actions contrary to the will of God. In the Hebrew Bible, sin is understood within the context of the covenantal relation between Yahweh and his chosen people. To be in covenant with Yahweh is to exist in holiness, and so sin is a deviation from the norms of holiness. In the Christian New Testament, Jesus teaches that human wrongdoing offends the one whom he calls Father. The Qur’an portrays sin as opposition to Allah rooted in human pride.’
Regardless of our definition, sin is, by all counts, a bad thing, and to be considered a sinner or sinful, is an even worse thing
This was the mission of John the Baptizer, to prepare the people for the arrival of the Messiah – by preaching a message of repentance from sin.:
Let’s define Sin.
The prophet Isaiah defined sin this way:
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way,
God sums this up with the word Iniquity.
So, ‘going astray’ and ‘turning to our own way’ is our iniquity.
‘Straying from God’, ‘turning away from God’, changes what guides our actions, reactions, responses, thoughts, plans, and agendas. So, ‘Our way’ as opposed to ‘God’s Way’ is what points us in the direction of actions that are right or are that are sin.
Next let’s look at the first Sin to better understand,
Eve, perfect until the serpent tricks her into taking the forbidden fruit, OR, Eve, created with the ability to make her own choices, having already placed herself on the trajectory of taking the fruit as she would sit everyday, eating the the identical fruit as she could get from the forbidden tree, however, the more she stares at that same fruit on the forbidden tree, the more she wants the forbidden fruit.
She has had the choice of which way to look, God’s Way or Eve’s Way. One way reminds us of truth, the other takes us to a fantasy deceitful world where anything forbidden will taste better. By looking away from God, Eve has allowed her personal ‘wants’ to take over.
Enter the serpent, his job is pretty easy, he just has to point Eve in the direction of the forbidden fruit, she has already set her mind on it, she has already quit listening for the voice of God in the garden, or even looking his way, so she can have a better and unhindered focus on this fruit that she does not have, she just needs a little nudge, a little encouragement, a little affirmation, that this bad choice is actually the best choice.
The same way that Eve ended up with a forbidden fruit, is the same was that we end up with forbidden fruit. It begins with our turning away from God, going astray, is a sometimes subtle, sometimes blatantly intentional, choice on our part. At some point, it is a choice, that often comes in times of stress, boredom, grief, exhilaration, desperation, insecurity, arrogance, self-entitlement, and any other time we are longing for an escape, or we end up focusing solely on me or my cause.
It is then that the action, or inaction, manifests as sin.
And, as Paul states, once actions of sin, manifest in our life, it festers and soon becomes an automatic response. We become enslaved by it.
Paul explains our sin problem by starting with the law.
As Adam and Eve, due to their turning away from God, were expelled from the garden, they were separated from God. This meant that God was no longer there, walking with them, telling them what would harm them and what was good. This harm would be in regard to their relationship with him, their relationship with each other, as well as their relationship with all of God’s creation. So, now, on their own, by their own choice, they were without God’s instruction; no rules, no laws – the wild west.
This is how life was for humanity for the next 3,000 to 4,000 years. They did not know what was harmful, they did not know their actions that were literally killing them, each other, God’s creation, and especially their relationship with God.
They were the walking dead. Digging themselves into a deeper grave with every action and inaction.
Life was chaos, murder, unfaithfulness, deceit, jealousy, revenge, hopelessness, suspicion, hatred, betrayal, theft, destruction, abuse, threats – all without having been told that these things are harmful and wrong.
In our weekly Bible Project we ask questions, a lot of questions, and then we ask more questions. Then, after we have exhausted asking the questions we begin searching for answers. The process is often chaotic, especially on zoom, and sometimes overwhelming. It is not a process for every personality. Since we began with the book of Genesis in January, we have had one consistent question, that has increasingly become a complaint, and most recently an acknowledgement that the lineage of Jesus includes a very shady group of individuals. That constant, is the horrible actions and relationship of all most everyone we have encountered in Genesis. They are a mess, they are miserable, they are mean and often vengeful, they are manipulative and calculating, they are dismissive and neglectful, they are bad parents, they are bad spouses, they are often, very bad people.
Last Tuesday Mitch Musgrove, in speaking about this issue and the sad state of affairs in the OT, said,
‘[Throughout the Old Testament] God is painting us a picture of life without God.’
So, after three to four thousand years of this misery of existence, Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, God gave them the ten commandments, the Law. How to live. Much more extensive than just ten bullet points it covered everything.
One rabbinical tradition is that the Law, the details of what is harmful or what was healthy, was offered to all nations – however, with the exception of the Israelites, all other nations said that they didn’t want to know what was wrong and harmful because they wanted to keep doing the things they figured would be wrong. They could already assume the the law was going to forbid adultery, murder, and theft, so they passed. They instinctually kind of already knew the error of their ways, but, without the law, they could claim ignorance.
So, now the Israelites knew what was already killing them.
They were no longer ignorant.
However, now that they knew, this new knowledge, combined with their freedom of choice, put them on a perplexing journey. Their rebellious nature wanted to partake of the forbidden fruit – just life Adam and Eve, and their new affirmation of right and wrong countered their temptation, this put them in a perplexing dilemma.
Theologian C.S. Lewis said,
‘No man knows how bad he is until he has tried to be good.’
So, Paul says the same thing that all of humanity has said for thousands of years and still says today:
‘I do not understand my own actions. I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.’ (Romans 7:15b)
The great British preacher, Charles Spurgeon, explained our perplexity this way:
“It was the custom of ancient tyrants, when they wished to put men to the most fearful punishments, to tie a dead body to them, placing the two back to back; and there was the living man, with a dead body closely strapped to him, rotting, putrid, corrupting, and this he must drag with him wherever he went. Now, this is just what the Christian has to do. He has within him the new life; he has a living and undying principle, which the Holy Spirit has put within him, but he feels that everyday he has to drag about with him this dead body, this body of death, a thing as loathsome, as hideous, as abominable to his new life, as a dead stinking carcass would be to a living man.” (Spurgeon)
A. What is Paul’s manner of dealing with this?
First, he stands on the assurance, that, although we may be weak, God is not:
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.’
Apostle Paul (Philippians 4:13)
Second, he adopted a life philosophy:
‘beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. …for I have learned to be content with whatever I have.’
Apostle Paul (Philippians 4:8-9, 11b)
B. The mistake of religious institutions in regard to sin.
First, we have had the audacity to think that we can stop, control, and eliminate sin. Much of this comes from a misunderstanding of sin and the Law, but it has led to training believers (of all faiths) to be the exact thing we are told not to be – Judgmental and Condemning. Both of which we do not know how to do without also being hateful, arrogant, and condescending. Our approach has turned us into the opposite of Christlike.
Second, we have failed to truly understand that sin is just the tip of the iceberg, that it is actually something much different, often times something that could be better addressed with compassion, mercy, justice, grace, and love – however, our approach has been to rank sins without regard to the fact that all sin is a result of a deeper turning away from God and going astray. We have made those sins that rank highest in our ‘most heinous’ list the ones we focus on – we love the word ‘abomination’. Giving us even more reasons to judge, condemn, hate, chastise, reject, and basically be very unChristlike.
Third, since our sins are less heinous or are more invisible, we have made ‘Being a Christian’ to be an impossible journey, pushing the labeled sinners into the closet. Once again, making us very unChristlike.
Fourth, we have missed the opportunity to go out on the journey that Jesus sent his disciples on. A journey to free the oppressed, to heal the sick, to cure diseases, and, as we are there, to tell that ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is Near.’
C. The Reason for God’s Desire that we Live Right
Jesus said the reason is:
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly
Jesus (John 10:10b)
Sin is the killer of right.
Sin is the killer of mercy.
Sin is the killer of justice.
Sin is the killer of abundance.
God is the perfect father, who desires the best for us. He does not bait us into sin, nor does he reject us because of sin. He does not desire us to carry around death but, instead, to live in freedom. He want us to live in Joy, that is why he has told us the things that will take away that joy.
Paul, as he explained the law, stressed that our obligation to the law in only until death, in the same way that a woman is obligated to her marriage vow until death of the spouse. So, as Christ died for us, we are not guided by the law, we live in the freedom of the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
As Christ died, he died our death, therefore we are free. It is our privilege then to live in the freedom that he secured for us all.
The redemptive nature of grace is not just an eternal thing, it is a now thing. God’s desire that that we not live in the flux of a perplexing life met with death at every turn.
Jesus is our resurrection from death. Jesus is our life outside of the tomb.
Jesus said to the woman who had been caught in the act of sin,
‘Go and sin no more.’
Jesus (John 8:11b)
He didn’t say this so that she could be forgiven, or acceptable – he said it because he wanted her to have life and to not have to carry that dead body around anymore.
Jesus says the same to us, in order that we too, can live in, and with, that joy.
An expression of gratitude for Love
God, we thank you for love. We are grateful that your greatest commandments are all about love.
That make sense as you are love.
We recognize your love in, and all over, your sacrifice of Jesus. You showed us how to love through your actions.
Love always comes out in actions.
We now know that loving others is not a cliche, It is more than a a gooey feeling,
Love calls for sacrifice.
That is what you, O Lord, have shown us through your actions. We now know what your sacrifice looks like,
It looks like grace,
It looks like forgiveness, It looks like mercy, It looks like compassion, It looks like a call for justice, It looks like persevering kindness, It looks like love,
Love extended to all, Love extended for all, Love that is not selfish, Love that is never withheld, Love that motivates our sacrifice, Love that notices others, Love that prompts us to a response of empathy.
Love is Love.
O Lord, there is really no other way to say it,
Love is Love, and, your Love is life. It is the ‘all that I need’ kind of life.
As we adopt your kind of love, we will meet all with your embrace, We will see chaos through your eyes of peace, We will see the needs of a hurting world, We will see the injustice in the streets, We will the pain that precludes violence, We will see the hurt hiding in the shadows, We will see the desperate reaching for any sign of hope, We will see the life you desire that we have, We will see the life you sacrificed for us to live.
God we give thanks for love. O Lord, we give thanks for Your love.
Show us when we are failing to love you, Reveal to us when we are failing to love others.
God, we thank you for Love.
In the second half of the 1800s, Presbyterian teacher, author, and musician, Julia H. Johnston, sat down to pen a hymn that would explain the Grace the the Apostle Paul preached to the Churches at Roman, the words became the lyrics for Grace Greater than our Sin:
Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt! Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured, There, where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.
Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that will pardon and cleanse within; Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that is greater than all our sin!Julia H. Johnston
In proclaiming Christ, John said:
From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.john 1:15
Grace is a difficult concept to explain no matter who you are speaking with. The apostle Paul found this to be true as he attempted to teach the concept to the churches at Rome.
Paul was writing to churches that consisted mostly of Jewish believers but a growing group of gentiles (non Jewish believers as well. It was a difficult concept – receiving something for nothing. It was especially difficult when the learners are accustom to a religousity that sets up many dos and don’t, as well as many gos and don’t gos. He started was our human condition – using references from the teachings that the Jews would have grown up with:
“There is no one who is righteous, not even one; there is no one who has understanding, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, there is not even one.”Romans 3:9b-12
And then Paul expands.
‘Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.
For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed;
it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the lawRomans 3:19-26, 31
Understand? Everything crystal clear?
Don’t worry it it is all still a little fuzzy, or even hugely fuzzy. It was fuzzy to most of those hearing Paul’s words as well.
Paul, recognized the existing fuzziness, so he illustrated by painting a word picture that most, could identify with. Ironically, it is an explanatory picture that is possibly even more understandable, and relatable, today.
Paul took the listeners, and he takes us, back to a common figure – Abraham.
Abraham, given the label ‘Father of Our Faith’ by the three major world religions is a difficult individual. Let’s face it, the man used his wife, twice, as a human shield to protect himself. He gave her away so that his life would be spared. How is there anything redemptive in a person that would disregard his wife in such a calculated manner.
And, to make this matter more NOT understandable, he is rewarded for doing this – receiving riches from a ruler!
I have to be honest, I spent a lot of time this week trying to redeem the man Abraham, to no avail.
It finally occurred to me, the story of Abraham, is not a story of a saint, it is not the story of a near saint, it is a story of a man who needed a lot, I mean a lot, of grace. It is a story that allows us to see the what grace is and what grace does.
The one thing about Abraham, the thing that puts him into this story, is that he is a man who often sincerely said:
‘Here I am.’
(or at least of verbal or action form of ‘okay’)
That is all that grace needs, ‘Here I am,’ and ‘Okay.’ These are two powerful statement. “I Am Here’ the opposite of what Adam and Eve said when they hid from God in the garden; the same as what Isaiah said when God called him to be a prophet. It is a statement of vulnerability. ‘I Am Here’ just ‘Here’ no where great, and ‘I Am Not Perfect’ but ‘I Am Here.’
It is then, that grace, met by his willingness to say ‘okay’, that God moves him from our ‘Here’ through his own resistance to go to God’s ‘Far Away.’
Grace is not necessary to people who are Saints, it is not needed by perfect people, it is of no consequences to those people who are self sufficient, it is wasted on those who can go through life with a single minded focus that never sways away from God.
In reality, the raw reality where we all live, none of those people exist, so grace is always needed, always available, and is always the balm that heals our soul.
So, let’s reintroduce ourselves to Abraham:
He gave his wife away to protect himself…..twice.
He owned people, he had slaves.
He would have definitely have been a target of today’s ‘Me Too’ movement.
He quickly accepted his wife’s hall pass to sleep with another woman.
He sent that ‘other’ woman, and their son, out, surely, to their death.
And, that is just some of what is documented, his first seventy-five years are a mystery.
When his deceased brother’s son needed a new dad, Abraham said, ‘I Am Here’.
When God told him to pack up his family and possessions he said, ‘Okay’.
When God made a ridiculous promise that, in no way, was possible, he said, ‘Okay.’
When he needed to put his own life on the line and risk everything he had to save his nephew, he said, ‘Okay.’
When his son, Isaac said, ‘Dad?’ Abraham said, ‘I Am Here.’
The good does not outweigh the bad by any means. That is why Abraham gives us the perfect understanding of grace, the grace that he needed, the grace that we need.
The promise from God was made to him that he would be the father of many people and many nations even though his wife was barren and considered too old for pregnancy; He was promised to have a land, even though he was a nomad; He was promised to be a blessing to all, even though his own house was dysfunctional.
Like most of us, Abraham had his safety net, his backups in the case God needed help with his plan. He had his long time beloved servant Eliezar – Eliezar could be the heir to Abraham, he could birth many people and ultimately a nation – but God said ‘no’. He still have his loved nephew Lot, but then Lot left, he wasn’t really interested, he had other plans.
It was at this point that Abraham began to be stressed and distressed. His back up plans had been rejected or they had withdrawn from being a option.
In the midst of Abraham’s depression, God showed up. The promise still held, even without Eliezar and Lot. Only this time, God specified that the son would be a biological son of Abraham.
Abraham said ‘Okay’. It was crazy, it was impossible, it wasn’t going to happen, but Abraham said ‘Okay.’
Now notice, Abraham says ‘okay’ but we are still not to a perfect, saintly Abraham. But, even with what takes place next, God still credits Abraham’s heart felt, and sincere, ‘Okay’ as righteous.
Promise is repeated, grace is extended, that is what grace is, it is not about our actions, it a gift that we don’t deserve. God received a sincere heart ‘Okay’ from Abraham, grace was offered, grace was given. Even while Abraham was still painfully imperfect. Grace Goes Before Us
Then, there seemed a loophole had been exposed, it seemed that there was a back up plan that Abraham was unaware of.
The servant of his wife, she could be the biological mother and Abraham could be the biological father! It was genius. And, the best part of this brilliant plan was that it was first suggested by his wife Sarah. How could this fail?!
So he agreed, Sarah agreed, and, of course, the servant Hagar didn’t have to agree. It would work, and it did work, Hagar had a son by Abraham who was named Ishmael.
But that wasn’t God’s plan.
‘Sarah will be the biological mother of the Son that you have been promised,’ God said.
Then Abraham swallowed hard, and Sarah laughed.
Abraham didn’t say much – after all, he did still have a back up – there was his son Ishmael outside playing.
But then, Sarah, probably due to the double rejection by Abraham, not to mention how quickly he had a baby with Hagar, Sarah became jealous. Hagar and their son Ishmael were sent away.
Now, no Son, and no back up plan. No safety net.
But then, as Abraham is without a back up plan, and Sarah apparently is without a viable womb – Sarah birthed a son. To everyone around it was a miracle, a crazy miracle. The kind of miracle you read about in the line to pay for your groceries.
To God – it was his plan. It was the most basic requirement of his promise. A Son.
Abraham and Sarah now have a son. Neither needs a back up plan or a safety net, they are the biological parents of this promised son.
There is one more thing, and this thing is about Abraham. It is a necessity for Abraham.
It was time for Abraham to grow into God’s grace. It was time for him to be a man of Faith and to live a life of faith.
God called on Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac
Danish philosopher and theologian, Soren Kierkegaard, was fascinated with the story, and person, of Abraham. In 1843, under a pseudonym, Kierkegaard wrote a book titled Fear and Trembling based on Philippians 2:12, ‘work out your salvation with fear and trembling’. He focused on the inter anxiety, and turmoil, that Abraham must have experienced as he said “okay’ to God’s call to sacrifice the only son he had left and the son that he so deeply loved.
Kierkegaard, in this book which many thought was an autobiographical account of his own faith, developed the concept of ‘Infinite Resignation,’ which, he says, is the final element in the process of ‘working out your salvation.’ It is the giving up your backup, the one thing that you have held back from God, the one thing that you are unable to surrender to God, the one thing that you withhold from God, the one thing with which you are unable to fully trust God.
“I am here.’a conversation between God and Abraham
God knew it was time for Abraham to move from here to ‘work out his Salvation with fear and trembling.’ He told Abraham that he was to offer his only son, the son that he loved, as a burnt offering, a sacrifice.
We don’t hear Abraham say, ‘okay’, but he did obey. He got up early and headed to the place, with Isaac, that God would show him.
On the way, as they stopped to prepare, Abraham looked, far away to where he was to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. It was far away. Far away from Sarah, far away from home, far away from him. There was no way he was going to get there. However, he still said, ‘Okay.’
‘I Am Here Son.’
‘What will we Sacrifice?’a conversation between Isaac and Abraham
It was a long journey, far away always is. The two must have talked about everything, everything except the sacrifice. That was a personal journey for Abraham, Sarah nor Eliezar could share it, Isaac definitely couldn’t. It was a lonely journey to ‘far away.’
Abraham was ‘working out his salvation’ as he traveled far away, he separated God’s promise and God’s provision. He asked himself if he trusted God enough, did he have faith enough to trust the promise and surrender the provision?
According to Kierkegaard, ’Infinite Resignation is the last stage before faith, so any who one has not made this movement does not have a full faith, for only in Infinite Resignation does an individual become conscious of his external validity, and only then can one speak of grasping existence by virtue of faith.’.
Simply put, one must give up all of his, or her, earthly possessions and must also be willing to give up whatever else it is that he, or she, loves more than God.
Abraham received God’s grace when he said ‘I am here,’ as well as when he said, ‘Okay,’ to God. He received ‘Grace upon Grace. It was then that he began his journey of faith, a faith that would carry him through life. Grace was given long before he reached the point of surrendering everything.
It was then, at the mental surrender, he was truly a man of faith, it was then that the world could look at him at the Father of Our Faith.
As Abraham was about to plunge the knife into the body of his dear son, an angel cried out, ‘ABRAHAM!’
‘I Am Here’an urgent conversation between angel and Abraham
Abraham, far away at a place that he never wanted to go to, held the knife steady and said, ‘I Am Here.’
Sure, we know that this was a test from God. Isaac was never going to die. Abraham probably considered the possibility as well, but to even go through the motions, he had to ask the question, ‘Is this for real?’ He had to make the decision the sacrifice would be offered.
In offering his son, Abraham made the sacrifice. He was now living by faith in God.
The comparison with God’s giving of His son are there, the painful resignation to surrender that which is most valuable is obvious.
We, however, have much to surrender. All of us, if we have said “I Am Here’ and ‘Okay’ are on a far away journey. We are called to a sacrifice, God is showing us the way. Not only those things that we hold dear, but also those we hold dear. We have been asked to isolate at home and, when we are out, to wear a mask for the health of others. It was just a preparatory sacrifice as God, now asks us to sacrifice our long held prejudices and judgements. Our own way of looking at others, especially those who are different from us and that we do not understand. We are being called to take the initiative, to not only understand, but to love beyond words. To become uncomfortable with the status quo of our faith in this current reality, to become unsettled with the contradictions seen in our faith and in the reality of the world – to see the disconnect between the life of Christ then and the life of believers now.
This turmoil that we are in, in a world that cannot control the disease and the disgruntled protests in the street – It is All Part of God Moving Us Far Away – to a place of Sacrifice.
It all seems very far away. But God’s grace took him there. This was not something great historically about Abraham, we see little else about him after this story. But, the life he now lived was fully, and completely lived in faith.
This far away faith journey was for him, it is what Christ meant when he said ‘I came so that you may have life, and have it abundantly!’
God is calling us, are we ready to say, ‘Here I Am’?