Abraham’s Faith

Today’s first reading is one of my favorites. I know someone is thinking…”FAVORITES? God asks Abraham to kill his only son–why in the world would that be your favorite reading?”

Well it is. And here’s why.

First of all it’s a dramatic story where God seemingly asks Abraham to do something unthinkable. And the question we have to ask is the one we should ask: Why?

In some ways I wonder why Abraham wouldn’t ask the same question. And I’m sure he did. I can see him standing there wondering why God would ask such a question of him. But I can also see him humbly standing before God, assured that it was God’s voice that asked this of him–because Abraham knew God well–and after all, Isaac was given to Abraham and Sarah in their old age by God. “Who am I to not give him back to God if he wants him?” is something I can imagine him saying in a deep Brooklyn Jewish accent (as I hear almost all biblical characters speak)–a resignation that simply in the retelling of the story says: “So I went. What could I do? I could do nothing else but what God commands.”

But even deeper thinking reminds us not of the horror of the command, but of God’s promise.

God further said to Abraham: As for Sarai your wife, do not call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah.
I will bless her, and I will give you a son by her. Her also will I bless; she will give rise to nations, and rulers of peoples will issue from her.j
Abraham fell face down and laughed* as he said to himself, “Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah give birth at ninety?”
So Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael could live in your favor!”
God replied: Even so, your wife Sarah is to bear you a son, and you shall call him Isaac. It is with him that I will maintain my covenant as an everlasting covenant and with his descendants after him

Isaac is Abraham and Sarah’s only descendant. So God MUST have a plan. Abraham knows to trust God that he must be going to make this OK.

I can see Abraham’s eyes well up with water when Isaac asks him where the lamb is for the sacrifice. “Son, God himself will provide the lamb.”

I hear that voice of the angel shouting “Abraham, ABRAHAM!” stopping the forward thrust of the knife just in time. And the shock in the angel’s voice “Do not do the least thing to him.”

Child sacrifice was common at the time of Abraham. And God’s test is one of Abraham’s faithfulness. I often think that God wanted to see if even a righteous man like Abraham would think that this could possibly come from God and the truth is that the child sacrifice was so common that even Abraham thought that God could require it. Legend tells us that sacrificing children was ceased after this.

How do we listen to the voice of God in our lives and can we trust enough that we might go somewhere where we might not wish to go? Can we discern between God’s voice and the evil one and know what voice to listen to?

Can we believe that the promise God makes to Abraham is also one he makes to us? That all good things come from God and that our job is to trust God enough to know that God is all we truly need.

And that when God truly calls us, we just might look beyond everything and remember all that God has promised to us.

God Finds a Way

At the Easter Vigil tonight, the 2nd reading is one of the most dramatic of all the scriptures. Abraham is asked to sacrifice his only son by God.

It sounds horrible and ridiculous. Why would God ask for a human sacrifice? Some scholars believe that because human sacrifice was common during that time, that this is God’s prohibition of that sacrifice from this day forward.

Still, why would God test Abraham in this way anyhow? We forget that God’s promise to Abraham of a son, namely Isaac, was a promise that a great nation would come from him. That Abraham descendants will be great indeed.

Abraham had to be scratching his head…how can I kill Isaac and still have descendants? I’m an old man who is lucky enough to even have this son!

But it is Abraham’s faith in God that turns the story into a deep and touching drama. God will find a way to keep his promise. God must have a reason to ask this of me and I will trust that his ways, though mysterious, are the ways that I must follow.

Truly that’s the faith that we are called to, each time tragedy befalls us as well. Can we believe that God can make a way out of no way?

Perhaps no time is more suited to call this to mind than it is tonight. When death seemingly has had the final word, are we still hopeful that the light can break the darkness? When the savior we look for has been killed by hanging from a cross, can we hope beyond hope that something else is surely coming our way?

When God is killed, can we trust that death cannot hold God in its dastardly clutches?

God always finds a way to provide us with what we need, what can and does sustain us. This Easter we believe that light always shatters the darkness. If that’s true and if Jesus really has overcome death than we need not be afraid of anything. We never have to fear death, for resurrection is always just another breath away.

Come Risen Jesus, break the chains of death and provide for us a way to renew our belief that somehow God always finds a way.

He is Risen. Alleluia.