We meet in the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.
O Jesus I have promised -
My brothers and sisters,
as we prepare to celebrate the presence of Christ
in word and sacrament,
let us call to mind and confess our sins…
Father, you come to meet us when we return to you:
All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class,
The covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own,
The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth,
Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,
Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee,
The lust which dishonours the bodies of men, women and children,
The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God,
Be kind to one another, tender- hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgives you.
The Sacrifice of Isaac
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” ] will go over there and worship and come again to you.” And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.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 of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy[
When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. ] as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”;[
“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person's reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”
I know the church does not celebrate Father’s day which was last Sunday, but there is something to be said about this particular father…Abraham. God said he would be the father of a great nation. To do that he gave up just about everything he ever had to follow God- to keep the faith. The price of that faith nearly cost him his beloved son- or at least that is how it seemed. So how did it go so wrong…let’s recap.
This week we are looking at how we got from this…
Abraham never had it easy- he has already uprooted his family to follow God to a new land.
He has had to say goodbye to his other son and his mother and really had to rely on God to keep them safe.
And now God sends his most trying test of faith.
Let’s visit this story once more…
Abraham’s test of faith will stand throughout all history. All that God had promised Abraham now stood in jeopardy. What was God up to? Had he changed his mind?
This whole test of faith was appalling emotionally and theologically because it was only through Isaac that all God’s blessing would be fulfilled.
When the call came to Abraham, he didn’t outwardly argue and his obedience was prompt and complete. They had to travel 50 miles to Moriah to this place appointed by God for the sacrifice. Abraham didn’t delay, this was a response from the heart for not only the love of God but also a sense of duty. Had he delayed for any length of time, his mind would have hardened his heart to God’s command and instead dwelt on his love for his son.
I expect he didn’t tell Sarah.
This was to be a sacrifice of the heart and spirit.
Having arrived at Moriah, Abraham went on further with Isaac to the appointed place. He gave him the wood to carry for the sacrifice.
And they journeyed on.
Isaac was well versed in the ritual of sacrifice and asked the key question
To which Abraham replied “
These very words- my father and my son, must have cut Abraham’s heart to the core. They were the last words Abraham heard or spoke to his son before the sacrifice took place. What is surprising in this account, is the lack of argument from Isaac- he seemed to just comply with what his father wished as Abraham bound him and laid him upon the wood. Isaac was to die at the hand of his own father and the light of the promise was to be extinguished.
God only required a sacrifice of the heart not of the flesh. God abhorred the pagan sacrifices. He wanted Abraham to sacrifice Isaac in his heart to show that Abraham loved God more than Isaac.
Of course, Isaac was not sacrificed. God stopped the whole proceeding and a ram, caught in the thicket was used instead.
God wants us, to put God first and right at the heart of everything that we do.
That following God is not easy, he does not always lead us down the direct road. There will be twists and turns along the way- there will be sideroads that we should avoid. The journey will have challenges, but God will never leave us to face them alone.
That the only sacrifice God wants is our hearts.
This whole episode actually deepened Abraham’s capacity to obey God and developed his character. Abraham faced agonising choices. Step by step faith and hope triumphed over fear and doubt.
We are Christians who follow a God who knows something of personal sacrifice. He himself, sacrificed his only Son on a cross of wood, his Son was made to carry to Golgotha. Unlike in Abraham’s case, there was no intervention to save him. And in return, his only Son Jesus, never argued when the time came but gave his life willingly to die for the sins of everyone.
Following such a God will cause all sorts of inner turmoil- bringing challenges we never expected.
Often God’s action in our lives is compared to refining a metal ore, dug out from the ground. The beauty of the metal is held hidden within. Life’s challenges are like the ore being heated up and the metal being extracted and refined until its true beauty is revealed. The whole process allows the true nature of the metal to be seen in a new light.
Life’s challenges, especially when very difficult, can make us feel insecure and alone. But we are never really alone, because we have faith. We believe that God walks with us. It is these challenges that bring out the true nature of our faith, an ongoing process, refinement after refinement, until at last its beauty can be truly seen in the light of God.
Finish with a prayer…
Let us declare our faith in God.
The peace of the Lord be always with you
Let us offer one another a sign of peace.
The Lord be with you
Lift up your hearts.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to praise you, Father, Lord of all creation;
in your love you made us for yourself.
When we turned away
you did not reject us,
but came to meet us in your Son.
In Christ you shared our life
that we might live in him and he in us.
On the night he was betrayed,
at supper with his friends
he took bread, and gave you thanks;
he broke it and gave it to them, saying:
Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you;
do this in remembrance of me.
At the end of supper, taking the cup of wine,
he gave you thanks, and said:
Drink this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant,
which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins;
do this in remembrance of me.
As we proclaim his death and celebrate his rising in glory,
send your Holy Spirit that this bread and this wine
may be to us the body and blood of your dear Son.
With your whole Church throughout the world
we offer you this sacrifice of praise
and lift our voice to join the eternal song of heaven:
We continue with the words of The Lord's Prayer:
We break this bread
to share in the body of Christ.
Every time we eat this bread
and drink this cup,
we proclaim the Lord’s death
until he comes.
God’s holy gifts
for God’s holy people.
The peace of God,
which passes all understanding,
keep your hearts and minds
in the knowledge and love of God,
and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.
The BlessingEven if you do not wish to sing….please join in with the actions.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
What's on this week...