Monday, July 3, 2017

How Do We Sacrifice to God?

Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC, 2 July 2017
Year A RCL Proper 8: Genesis 22:1-14; Psalm 13; Romans 6:12-23; Matthew 10:40-42

Notice: Jesus speaks to us today about welcoming & its rewards.
We hear this message of welcome & rewards in all 4 Gospels & other New Testament books, as one preacher says,1 so we are wise to offer a broad welcome. Hospitality builds up the Body of Christ.

Know this: We can be welcoming even when we disagree about aspects of our life together2, which may challenge & test our trust in God.

Why does God test Abraham as shockingly as God does in today’s lesson? Abe has been through so much, trusting God’s promise of a son, leaving home & kinfolk to go to an unknown land God promises.

You recall at one point in the years of waiting for this promised son, Sarah & Abe improvise a solution: Sarah gives her slave girl, Hagar, to Abe as a surrogate mother.

This reminds me of an actor forgetting a line on stage & another cast member improvising a line. Sometimes this works, sometimes not so well.

We know Abe & Sarah’s improvisation leads to Sarah’s throwing Hagar & her son out of the family.
Goodbye welcome. Goodbye family.
Goodbye unity.
Remember: When we encounter today’s dramatic scene on the mountain:
Abe has already sacrificed
his first-born son.

I wonder how Abe feels carrying that fire, that knife as he walks up that mountain with his only son, his beloved Isaac, who carries the wood on his own back. What is going through Abe’s mind? Is he even thinking? What does he feel?

How many of you have driven or ridden in a car on a narrow, winding mountain road with no shoulder guard? How did that feel? [Hands went up. Some shook their heads, others giggled awkwardly at memories, saying: “Scary”, “Unreal”, “Tedious”.]

I remember my handicapped dad [with one arm partly paralyzed] handling sharp turns in Mexico’s mountains with no guard rails & before cars had seat-belts.

What would you do on a blind curve on a road like that when you see a car stopped ahead with the driver’s door open?
Who is that driver?
Law enforcement protecting you from a giant tree fallen across the road?
An armed stand-off with bad guys?
Are these the bad guys?
How do you respond to this test? Drive in reverse down the narrow, twisting road? What about cars coming up?

What is going through Abe’s mind?

He has trusted God a long time. Perhaps he has inner peace. Notice how quiet Abe & Isaac are as they walk on to make the sacrifice. We hear little dialogue.3
What is there to say?

Think about yourself in school & being tested. Recall the quiet testing requires. Silence gives us space to think, to focus, to trust that you / that we have learned.

Testing lets students & teacher know if it is time to move on to more topics or if there is more work to do on a particular skill.

Military boot camp builds the individual’s knowledge & skills & those of the group, the team. As a veteran friend of mine says: It teaches the person fortitude, teaches what the person can do & the team can do. Like a test in school, there is very little dialogue during the physical stamina testing in boot camp.

Testing builds our courage. It helps us know we are strong & who’s got our back.
Abe knows God listens & acts.

I wonder if that’s why he answers Isaac as he does.
Notice: Abe tell his team: “Stay here…; the boy & I will go over there; we will worship & then we will come back.”
We will come back.”

Surely God hears this & hears Abe assure Isaac:
God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering”

& God does.

God provides us the Lamb Jesus to die so we can live in God’s Love. As Jesus’ disciples our love overflows to others, drawing them into God’s Love. We live under grace, as our lesson in Romans reminds us: We / you have become / are becoming obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which we are entrusted…We are slaves of righteousness.
What does this mean?
To be righteous is to act “in accord with [God’s] law”4 of Love. As slaves of righteousness, we are loyal disciples of Jesus. This calls for sacrifices in our lives.

Jesus tells us today about the rewards for our sacrifices as his disciples5: “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me…[&…] the one who sent me…” Whoever gives just a cup of water to one of the little ones will receive their reward.

We serve as the welcomer & the one being welcomed, the giver & the receiver of the cup of water.6
We are Jesus’ disciples, instruments of righteousness when we proclaim7 in word & deed the Good News of God’s Love Jesus offers by dying for us.

How can we do this work? Rehearse! Study our lines – the Holy Scriptures. Build our faith bodies in the boot camp of prayer, worship, fellowship & ministry in Jesus’ Name.

Prayer is central to our work, our testing. As one of my seminary professors, Martin Smith, says in his book, The Word is Very Near You: A Guide to Praying with Scripture:

We are conditioned to maintain control, to take charge of situations, to do the talking.
Prayer means surrender, & a readiness to return to a simpler state of openness & attentiveness to a God whose ‘still small voice’
we tend to drown with our restless noisiness.”8

We see Abraham let go of control.
Surrendered to God, free of restless noisiness, he is attentive to God & can trust God will provide.

And he recognizes what God provides.

How do we sacrifice to God?

How can we / you

have the grace to
let go & trust God?

Blasdell, The Rev. Machrina. “Whom Ought I Welcome?” Accessed: 28 June 2017.
Cunningham, David S. “What Do We Mean By God?” Essentials of Christian Theology. ED: William Placher. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. 2003.
Dios Habla Hoy: La Biblia. New York: American Bible Society. 1983.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Holy Bible. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Hughes, Robert Davis III. Beloved Dust: Tides of the Spirit in the Christian Life. New York: Continuum. 2008.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Levenson, Jon D. Sinai & Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 1985.
Markham, Ian S. Understanding Christian Doctrine. Malden, ME: Blackwell Publishing. 2008.
Migliore, Daniel L. Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology. 2nd Ed. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2004.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Eds.: Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger. New York: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 1977.
Smith, Martin. The Word is Very Near You: A Guide to Praying with Scripture. Lanham, MD: Cowley Publications. 1989.

1 Blasdell, The Rev. Machrina. “Whom Ought I Welcome?” Accessed: 28 June 2017.
2 Ibid.
3 Levenson, Jon D. Sinai & Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible. Pp. 147-48.
4 Merriam-Webster. Accessed: 20 June 2017.
5 Note: Paraphrase of footnote in The New American Bible for Catholics. P. 1024.
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.

8 Smith, Martin. The Word is Very Near You: A Guide to Praying with Scripture. P. 157.

No comments:

Post a Comment