Friday, June 27, 2008

The Binding of Issac

I have been "listening" in on lectionary discussions this week regarding the Genesis passage chapter 22:1-19; the "binding of Issac". As preachers we tend to avoid this text. As teachers, we never want to teach it to children. (and surely never show them the pictures!) Perhaps this text doesn't stand alone in scripture as much as we think. Last week's gospel pericope included the following:
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 37-39)
It is hard not to be grasped by the child binding (to use the Jewish phrasing) and to not be horrified by a father willing to kill his child. We are so accustomed to reading horror like this in the newspaper that we forget we are to read scripture in a different manner and mindset than the daily news. If we set aside the graphic details and look deeper, we see that Abraham is promising with his actions that nothing will get between him and his God. Abraham is living Jesus' words which come so many generations later. Abraham is about to give up, to lose his very life because in that day, one's life is only continued thru offspring. Abraham is willing to end even his link to 'eternal' life thru this son (given by God) because he trusts in the promise of the hesed God, the Steadfast One.

The details are not the focus of this story. We recognize it's parallel to Jesus' carrying the cross, as Issac carries the wood. We hear the appropriate response of Abraham, "Here I am." We should also note that Issac disappears and is not even mentioned coming down the mountain. Issac is a very 2-dimensional character at best in the Genesis story. He gets us from one generation to another, often thru fumbling efforts. To focus on Issac and what he is feeling or thinking is to miss the point entirely.

We admit that none of us have the level of trust Abraham shows. That none of us could raise the knife. Thank God, we are not asked to. This story shows the ultimate level of commitment a human can have. This story shows how one man, so committed to God's promise, could begin a salvation history in humanity that continues to this day. A salvation history, in which we participate. If we make a commitment, in any small beginning way, and trust in Abraham's God, the One who delivers.

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