Monday, June 20, 2011

Cup of Sacrifice: Proper 8, Year A

This Week's Lectionary Texts
Genesis 22:1-14 or Jeremiah 28:5-9
Psalm 13 or Psalm 89:1-4
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

This Week's Reflection

I sometimes imagine the passages for the week to be in conversation with one another. In the same way that I seek out a theme to tie the lectionary texts together, this can be difficult at times. I'm not suggesting it to be an academic endeavor either. It is just that when I read the four (or more) texts listed in the lectionary, I wonder what they can be saying to one another in addition to the reader. This is a difficult week for many reasons, not the least of which is the Genesis story of Abraham dragging his son up a mountain and almost using him as a human sacrifice.

What does a text that has Jesus empowering and uplifting disciples to offer a cup of cold water to God's children as the very representatives of Christ himself have to say to a text that has a father almost killing his own son before a ram is found to be stuck in a thicket? To be completely honest, I'd prefer to just skip the Genesis text this week, pretend it doesn't exist, chalk it up to some mistake made along the way in thousands of years of storytelling and translation. I've never been able to stomach it very well.

Oh, I could write about sacrifices that we must make in our lives, how we must be willing to give up the very thing that means the most to us, in order to give our whole selves to God. I could write about how God will always provide what is needed for us even in a moment that seems to be so completely desperate and painful. We've all heard those sermons many times. Good sermons. Good lessons to learn. It just doesn't deal with the issue of God asking for this sacrifice or that an innocent child almost died because of it. So, can't we just pretend it doesn't exist at all?

The Jeremiah text is a little easier to swallow. It isn't full of any surprises. It isn't even one of the many times that Jeremiah is weeping while prophesying to the people. What he does say, though, is that when a prophet finally comes along and says that peace is coming, then we will only know that this prophet was true when we experience the peace that was promised. In other words, you can't know it was right until you look back and see it from the other side.

Maybe Abraham just thought he heard the voice of God. There is nothing in the text to support my saying this, but it sure would make it easier for me to think that a human got it wrong instead of thinking that a loving God had asked for such a horrifying thing to be done. If you are reading this and hope that I come to some great, clear, uplifting answer for the trouble in this Genesis passage, I'll save you the trouble of reading any further. I don't understand it and that is what I am saying. Often we don't understand. We think we should take path A only to find ourselves a few intersections down the way to learn that it really should have been path B.

If Jesus is in conversation with Abraham from the Matthew text to the Genesis text, all I can see that he may be saying is reminding all of us that we won't always know the way. Sometimes we will even mistake our way for his way. And, even so, he provides what we need, allows us to represent him on this earth to all the parents who feel like they are sacrificing their own children on all kinds of altars.

I prefer to just not think about this story of Abraham and Isaac, but the lectionary does not allow that. So, maybe what we really need to ask in relation to these texts is about the ways in which the Church is representing the Christ to a world that feels desperate, confused, in pain, and willing to sink into violence in search for answers. I think it is time to find our way out of the thicket and offer them a drink of water.

This Week's Art

in order of appearance in the reflection

Sacrifice or Save by Denise Cromie
Tall Drink of Water by TABauknight
Sacrifice by Auras
Refresh Your Spirit by Jeanne Winters

Other Resources