ABRAHAM AND ISAAC, SHEESH. I mean everyone knows the Bible can be a scary place, but reading a story about a man getting ready to light his kid on fire is next level. Tiana Spencer preached at Fellowship Sunday, and as always made most everybody cry. In a good way. Church a wonderful opportunity to let it all hang out – if your church is that kind of church, of course. For me, one thing these Sundays are about is regrouping from the week. And that is what sabbath is about, too, and something that no one doesn’t need: a refresh from the previous six days.
But now getting back to Abraham, his story is used in Jewish and Christian faiths as an illustration of full-on trust in God. I mean he had the knife raised and ready to go before God told him it was all good, and that there was some poor ram caught in the bushes that he could kill instead of his son. (Animal sacrifice being a thing at the time). (If you don’t know this story, you can read about it here). I remember one preacher that said that lots of people say they trust in something, are fully committed to someone – God, partner, process, etc. and that these folks try to prove their claim by holding the proverbial knife over their metaphorical child’s body. BUT, said this preacher, they are only holding rubber knives. Oh snap, that’s deep.
A lot of us say we have faith or trust in something but we’re not really willing to make the big sacrifice in the name of that trust. This reminds me of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which occurred a week ago Monday. This day irks the heck out of me. All sorts of people (and companies, and institutions, and…) claiming their deep commitment to the pursuit of civil rights. And of course some folks really are committed – though they aren’t usually the ones posting graphically appealing quotes and selfies of their annual volunteer shifts online. These are the rubber knives, a safe way to go while still looking like you’re following the leader.
Pastor Tiana pointed out that Abraham knew something that a lot of us don’t. See, one reason his faith was so unwavering is because he had already seen evidence of God in action. Like, Abe was going to trust anybody who said to him and his old wife that they were going to have a baby and then made it happen. And now he was walking with that miracle child. He was looking at his “receipt” as Pastor Tate might say. That sure got me thinking how many times I have wondered if anybody was ever going to help me with this or that, while all the time walking right next to all sorts of help already. This reminds me of one of my favorite parables:
A storm descends on a small town, and the downpour soon turns into a flood. As the waters rise, the local preacher kneels in prayer on the church porch, surrounded by water. By and by, one of the townsfolk comes up the street in a canoe.
“Better get in, Preacher. The waters are rising fast.”
“No,” says the preacher. “I have faith in the Lord. He will save me.”
Still the waters rise. Now the preacher is up on the balcony, wringing his hands in supplication, when another guy zips up in a motorboat.
“Come on, Preacher. We need to get you out of here. The levee’s gonna break any minute.”
Once again, the preacher is unmoved. “I shall remain. The Lord will see me through.”
After a while the levee breaks, and the flood rushes over the church until only the steeple remains above water. The preacher is up there, clinging to the cross, when a helicopter descends out of the clouds, and a state trooper calls down to him through a megaphone.
“Grab the ladder, Preacher. This is your last chance.”
Once again, the preacher insists the Lord will deliver him.
And, predictably, he drowns.
A pious man, the preacher goes to heaven. After a while he gets an interview with God, and he asks the Almighty, “Lord, I had unwavering faith in you. Why didn’t you deliver me from that flood?”
God shakes his head. “What did you want from me? I sent you two boats and a helicopter.”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_drowning_man
I’m thinking about the Sabbath, about resting, about renewing, and this week of making sure I see my blessings around me. Not just being grateful, but actually looking at them and thinking about how they got there. And I am going to keep the faith and do the hard work that that requires. And I’ll carry a sharp knife to illustrate that faith, and just hope I won’t have to use it.