& all of these emotions are pouring out of me

i bring them to the light for you 
(it's only right)

A sermon on the "binding of Isaac," Genesis 22:1-14:

It isn’t until Abraham and the child promised to him in his old age, Isaac, begin making their way up the mountain, that the tension in today’s scripture really starts…
But, wouldn’t you agree that we never make it to the altar of the Lord until after a considerable journey? 

Maybe it’s the journey up mountain of everything you have to do at work. Or, the mountain of navigating family life. The mountain of newspaper headlines. The mountain of yet another unexpected call and everything that comes with it. 
The mountain of laying a loved one to rest, and the life we must now forge…

It's true whether we admit it or not; we only come to this altar after a journey…

That was certainly the case for Abraham that day. 
That day he found himself on a wild and windy mountain. That day the trail led to a terrible fork in the road. Where he could either turn left and disobey God. Or, turn right and murder his son. 
That day when neither path held any good choices for Abraham.

So he turned right, and trudged on…

But it was, regardless of how unimaginable this is to us; that day, when Abraham truly came to the altar of the Lord.

Because let’s be honest; at first blush, this passage is hard. Isn’t it?

A test from God?!? A child bound for a sacrifice?!? Not what we expect.

But, and regardless of how much this scandalizes you, I’d be willing to wager, that’s not what’s so challenging about today’s Holy Scripture. 

No. What I’d bet really challenges us, is how well the path this scripture bears witness is has been trod before…

Hang with me.
Because, sure. I know you’re here in your Sunday best. That you’ve brushed up on all your Sunday school answers. That you know God is as wild as a teddy bear, and as real as the fairy dust. That you’ve been trained to blurt out, “What kind of a God would do something like this.” 

But I also know we’re dealing with a real God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 
And, I also know there are some of you here who know what it’s like to stand on the mountain Abraham did. Who know what it’s like to come to those places where all our pious, platitudes do no good. Who know what it’s like to make it to the altar of the Lord a little worse for the wear, mucked up by the journey that brought you here…

I know there are husbands here, wives here, parents and grandparents here who know this mountain. Who know what its like to meet the God who calls us up this path. Who know what it’s like to hear the God who would dare to ask for everything. Who know what it’s like to climb and climb and climb, until you come to a fork where either direction has no good outcomes…

And I bet for you; for you today’s scripture isn’t so easy to brush off. Is it?

Today, scripture bids us up the mountain. And it is no easy path we climb. 
But if we’re honest, we’ve all been there before. Haven’t we? 

And so we take what little comfort we have, from what Abraham had that day; that although we can’t comprehend how, it is God who bids us along… 
Abraham turned right, and trudged on…

As he climbed, though, Isaac notices something. 
“Daddy,” he calls. “Here I am, son,” is Abraham’s reply. 
“Daddy,” Isaac says, “We have the wood and we have the fire, but where’s the lamb?” And his dad, Abraham, replies, “Don’t worry about that, my son. God will provide.”
And with that, the two of them keep trudging on.

At the top of the mountain, Abraham lingers. Slowly he sets up the altar. Taking his time, he gets the wood ready. Finally, and almost certainly, reluctantly, he binds the sacrifice; his son, Isaac.
But Abraham can’t put off the inevitable. Up there on that wild and windy mountain, there is nothing left to do, and nowhere else to go.
Both of Abraham’s terrible options collide, as he raises the knife above his son, Isaac’s head!!!

Now! Now, to fully understand all the weight Abraham bears on that razor’s edge, I need to remind you of everything Isaac means.

Remember, Abraham and Sarah are the aging couple God plucks from obscurity. The two God promises to give descendants and land to, to make a great nation out of. So that, through them the whole world might catch a glimpse of the God who provides. 

And Isaac was the child the two of them finally gave birth to. Even in their old age! In fact, Isaac means laughter, because when Sarah heard God’s outrageous promise to the two of them, she couldn’t help but laugh. And so when, indeed, Isaac was finally born, the only name Abraham could think of was laughter, Isaac. 
And it was child, Isaac, that all of God’s promises would be realized through! 

All of that lays there, under the knife. Every promise God ever made to Abraham hangs in the balance, as Abraham raises his knife!

But! But, before he can plunge it down, an angel of the Lord shouts, “Abraham! Abraham, do not lay your hand on the child or do anything to him.”

…And when Abraham looks up from what nearly happened, he sees caught in the thicket, a ram instead. A ram instead.

There, on that wild and windy mountain, when there were no good choices left; God showed up. God showed up and provided a ram instead

Now, scripture doesn’t tell us how the two of them felt as they walked back down the mountain. Perhaps they were joyful. Maybe relieved. Probably humbled. But back down they went. 
Before they left though, Abraham could think of no better a name for that place than, “The Lord will provide.”

On that wild and windy mountain, Abraham found out exactly what it means when we say “God is love.”

Because it’s easy, at first blush, to read this passage, and making sure not to blemish our patent, black leather Sunday school shoes, protest, “What kind of a God who would do this.” Isn’t it?

But for you who are here today bearing the scuffs from the journey that brought you to this altar. For you who are here weary from coming down that mountain. For you who know this God who actually meets us when there are no good choices left; you know better. Don’t you?

You know what its like to look up when every terrible choices collides, and see, wonder of wonder! A ram caught in the thicket instead.

You know this God who shows up has a love that is no mere patch-job. And it’s certainly more than just a pat on the back, and a buck-up speech. 

This is the God whose love is fully revealed by The One who takes the wood and every other consequence upon himself, and in return give us his life; Jesus Christ the lamb of God.

This is the God who would dare to ask for everything; and all the baggage that entails. This God who gives everything to have it. Even the only, begotten son; Jesus Christ the lamb of God

This God is no Sunday-School God, folks. 
This is a God whose love is so great, it goes all the way to the cross. 

So, when you find yourself on that wild and windy mountain, when all of your good choices have been exhausted; this will be the God who meet you.
This God will come bringing no lectures about what we should have done. Instead, this God will come providing. 

And truly providing, too. 
Not just filling in for now. Or substituting until later. But actually providing. Providing the Lamb of God who takes all the consequences, the sins of the world, upon himself. And in return, gives us the very life he gives up.

This is the God who calls you up the mountain, beloved. The God who would dare to show up there. The God who can actually provide there. 
Jesus, the ram instead. Jesus, the Lamb of God.

So let us too leave this mountain. Let us walk down relived. And Joyful, certainly. Humbled, undoubtedly. But before we go, let us too name this place, “The Lord will provide,” as it is still said to this day.

Because indeed, the Lord has provided. And it is in that gracious provision, Jesus Christ the Lamb of God, that we walk. 


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