Genesis 22. 7-9
Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Abraham answered, “God will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.
A Word of Hope
How much are you willing to give up for Lent? In today’s strange and often troublesome, reading from Genesis, the patriarch of the family that would later become the nation of Israel has to make that decision, but not for Lent…forever.
Most of us are familiar with the story of Sarah and Abraham, the ancestors of every shero and hero of the Hebrew Scriptures. They had been promised a child by God, one who would grow up to bless all of the nations of the world through the lives and works of his offspring. The birth of this promised infant didn’t happen right away however, not until the couple had waited until Sarah was ninety years old and Abraham was well over 100. Sarah named him Isaac, which means “the child of laughter” since, at 89, she finally couldn’t hold back laughing at the very thought of giving birth, but Isaac was a miracle child, and the blessing prophecy was now in motion.
About 20-or-so years later, God spoke to Abraham again, saying take your son, your only son, Isaac, and sacrifice him to me on an altar. Without any questions, Abraham packed up his rope, knife, and firewood (which Isaac carried) and they headed for the designated altar of sacrifice. Isaac was not privy to all of the details about this particular burnt offering, as the above scripture makes us aware, and even though, in his youth, Isaac could have easily overpowered his centi-genarian dad, he allowed himself to be bound up for death.
This is not my favorite Bible story. Oh yes, it does have a happy ending. Sure enough, the Angel of the Lord appears with a ram, and Isaac does live to fulfill his destiny. This bizarre tale about Abraham’s obedience to his God and to his faith had much more meaning to its original readers than it does to us. In the days of Sarah and Abraham, children were possessions. The donkey, the crockery, and the kids were all counted as possessions of the patriarch and all were assets that could be traded or sold to pay off a debt. Today, it is an eye-opening metaphor that asks us both what is your most precious possession, and would you be willing to give it up?
In our me-centered generation, possessions are nor necessarily material objects. Some of the possessions many of us carefully guard and protect are deeply rooted inside us; among them jealousy, greed, fear of change, stubbornness, lack of forgiveness, prejudice, bigotry, pride. To some degree, each of us carries such internal lists; tendencies so strong, so familiar, that they are no longer our possessions. They possess us. Lent is the perfect time of year to be totally honest with ourselves about those inclinations we should prayerfully examine and perhaps exchange for an uncluttered walk with God.
How much are you willing to give up for Lent?
Direct me to your altar of Love. Help me to leave the ashes of my deficiencies there. AMEN
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare