Sunday, June 26, 2011

God will provide

The first reading appointed for this morning is the story of the near sacrifice of Isaac at the hand of Abraham, his father.

It's a powerful narrative: dramatic, suspenseful, riveting and, for many, deeply disturbing and upsetting. For the moment, however, let's leave aside all the implications regarding human sacrifice in the historical period during which this story emerged. Let's also leave aside what it triggers about child abuse for many people today as well as what some insist it indicates about the nature of God from a biblical standpoint.

Instead, let's consider the radical nature of unreserved commitment.

And then contemplate the play of light and shadow against deep darkness in the stunning painting above by Caravaggio. (Click or double click on the image for a larger version.)

Then these words from the reading:
Here I am! (Notice, Abraham says this three times: to God, to Isaac, and to God's angel.)

So the two of them walked on together. (Mentioned twice, by the way.)

The Lord will provide.
You can find all of today's readings right here.


  1. When I was a small boy this story worried me a lot. I thought, "My dad would want to do what God asked him to do. Would my dad sacrifice me if God asked?" And then I thought, "And God can't always change his mind at the last minute or people will know he doesn't mean it from the start. Maybe when God tells my dad to sacrifice me he won't change his mind." That is the real danger of this story, the fear that it can engender in children. And it's the reason that I've given it a lot of thought over the decades.

  2. It came to me. This couldn't be something that the loving God about whom Jesus taught us could have ever done. The God about whom Jesus taught us would never play games with us that force us to make "Sophie's Choice." That is what a Nazi would do but not our God.

  3. That's when I realized the story was never about what God told Abraham to do but about Abraham not having rid himself of the tapes of his previous cultural teachings about the nature of gods. Then I realized that the real intention of this story was to draw a line in the sand that said, "The God of Abraham eschews human sacrifice."

  4. All of these comments make sense to me, Tom.

    I also thought the Caravaggio painting powerfully communicated the ambiguities involved - the conflict that must have been very real for Abraham and for Isaac, too, I should say.


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