Saturday, June 28, 2008

The ram in the thicket

Been reflecting all week on this reading from Genesis that is part of our lectionary appointed for this coming Sunday -- partly because I'm preaching at the 7:30 service and partly just because. And so I ended up writing about it for my Integrity "Weekly Witness" piece. And so I'm posting it here, too.
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The text in question is Genesis 22:1-14 -- the story sometimes called "the sacrifice of Isaac."
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We know, of course, that it turns out not to be the story of the sacrifice of Isaac at all but the "the ram in the thicket" that God provided. And what I'm wondering today is if this story -- disturbing as it is to our 21st century sensibilites in many ways -- doesn't offer an important teaching about the ways of God whose ways are not our ways, but whose quality is always to have mercy.
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What I hear in the good news of "The Lord will provide" (which is the punchline of the story) is a call away from being cornered into the "either/or" messaging of the world around us and open ourselves up to the "both/and-ness" of God. We do NOT belong to a God who calls us to kill our children in order to "earn" God's love -- and we do NOT belong to a church that calls us to sacrifice ANY member of the Body of Christ in order to "earn" institutional unity.
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The good news for me in Genesis 22 is -- if we're paying attention -- the same God who provided a ram in the thicket for Abraham will provide one for the Anglican Communion. If something needs to be "sacrificed" in order to "keep the communion together" then how about anything that keeps us from truly seeking and serving Christ in one another: racism, sexism, heterosexism, liturgical fundamentalism, etc., etc., etc. My prayer is that our witness at Lambeth Conference will be to point those rams in the thicket all around us and to refute the false premise that the LGBT baptized must be sacrificed on the altar of Anglican Unity.
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For the convicting part of the story about Abraham and Isaac is that we can take ANYTHING that God has given us and turn it into an object of worship -- committing the sin of worshipping the gift rather than the giver which, as my OT professor used to remind us almost daily, is the most frequently committed sin of all. Even our beloved Communion -- intended to knit us together in bonds of affection -- can become an idol itself if we allow it to be knit into a straight-jacket of doctrinal conformity.
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And the VERY good news in Genesis 22 is our God (whose quality IS always to have mercy) is always working to move us beyond that error into all truth -- always pointing to the ram in the thicket if we will but pay attention.
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So let's pay attention. Let's pray for our bishops as they prepare to journey to Cantebury to meet for study, prayer and reflection. Let's pray for the cloud of LGBT witnesses who will surround that gathering with support, prayer and invitation to conversation. And most of all, let's give thanks that we belong to the God of infinite mercy, love, justice and peace whose will it is that we make known that love to all people.
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All for now. Amen.

4 comments:

David said...

Susan wrote

'What I hear in the good news of "The Lord will provide" (which is the punchline of the story) is a call away from being cornered into the "either/or" messaging of the world around us and open ourselves up to the "both/and-ness" of God. We do NOT belong to a God who calls us to kill our children in order to "earn" God's love -- and we do NOT belong to a church that calls us to sacrifice ANY member of the Body of Christ in order to "earn" institutional unity.'

It's only my experience and understanding but this call to a non-dualistic view of life and our engagement with a God who loves us beyond our wildest imagining is at the heart of what's going on in the Communion.
It could be that it is the three-fold ground to our faith and practice which makes us most maluable to the working of the Holy Spirit but were not alone... look at the Presbetyrians this week!

And yes, pray for our bishops Lambeth-bound, but PRAY for our awesome LGBT cloud of witness who are also going to be there. Our brothers and sisters on the front line. +Gene, Susan+ Elizabeth+ and Gilles+, to only name four- the embodiment of our experience of the Church. The Church needs us all in a Lambeth state of prayer & practice.

David@Montreal

Pete said...

I can't think of the Isaac passage without also thinking about Owen's 'Old Men and The Young' he was writing about WWI of course, but I still
think there may be some relevance:

... Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him, thy son.
Behold! Caught in a thicket by its horns,
A Ram. Offer the Ram of Pride instead.

Pete

Nannu said...

Look at it this way:

When God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, he sent the ram in the ticket to be sacrificed instead.

When we were asked through Pilate to save the the Son of God, we all yelled "crucify Him".

What a contrast.!

Wayne said...

Yes, Pete -- Owen's poem certainly comes to mind.

But, inspired by Bruce Chilton's excellent book, Abraham's Curse, I've come to look at the blessing -- i.e., that Abraham was released from his binding, Isaac from his, and they descended from Moriah transformed. As we can be.