Thursday, June 26, 2008

How Do We See God?

This week's scriptures are Genesis 22: 1-14 and Matthew 10: 34-42.

The Genesis passage for this week, often referred to as "The Binding of Isaac" is one of the more disturbing passages in the Hebrew Scriptures. The Matthew passage with its "who ever does not hate mother and father" and "I have come to bring not peace, but a sword" may not be quiet as disturbing as Abraham getting ready to make a sacrifice out of Isaac...but it's close.

As I'm living with these two passages this week there are a couple of thoughts that keep coming back to me...and before I share them I want to offer a big THANK YOU to Jeremy for his conversation with me about them-it really helped my processing of these passages.

Part of the problem is that we tend, way too often, to look at God through the lens of our culture and/or our family. We get caught up in what C.S. Lewis referred to as "Christianity and..." This is a view of our faith that defines our belief in terms of things which have nothing to do with Christianity, and, finally, these things take over and become part of our understanding of what it means to be Christian.

Abraham, lived in a culture in which the sacrifice of children was, if not normal, not unusual either. What WAS unusual in this story is that God relinquished any claim to human sacrifice here. In fact-with one exception-there is no occurance of human sacrifice in the Hebrew faith from this point on. One way to look at this story is that it is the account of the Hebrew faith breaking with the cultural expectation of human sacrifice.

This all sounds really good til we get to the Matthew passage. We don't have any trouble believing that faith should not demand human sacrifice. But when Jesus says, "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 who does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me".....that's harsh.

Can we challenge ourselves to look at our faith and seperate out all that isn't Jesus? Can we put Jesus first? Can we be willing to go against those who would make culture or family or politics a god?

These are the thoughts that are moving me toward Sunday. I hope you'll join us as we continue to explore these passages and what they mean for us and our faith today.

Hope to see you Sunday.


Anonymous said...

I haven't really found an interpretation of the Abraham-Isaac story that appeases me yet. I am convinced that it has to be somehow connected to Jesus' sacrifice (father sacrificing son) so the idea of it being an end of human sacrifice makes some sense...

As for turning on your family, and bringing not peace, but a sword, I think you're right that the point is to put Jesus first. And be willing challenge or even loose other relationships - or just a feeling of peace - for the sake of whatever God is calling us to do.

And really, that's the most common interpretation I've heard of Abraham and Isaac - God was testing Abraham to see how much he was willing to give up - to see who he was putting first.

But I gotta say, I'm happy to put God first, but I hope that as a trade he'd never ask me to do something like that!

Anonymous said...

I'm with you, Kara, although Stephen puts forth a pretty good argument in citing some cultural sources (both during the Bible study and the sermon - which I'm uploading right now). In any case, it is much more complicated than I can really comprehend (so maybe it might not be complicated at all for that matter...)