Monday, June 30, 2014

Homily On Abraham & Isaac

Readings: Genesis 22:1-14 & Matthew 10:40-42

"I recently finished the DARK TOWER series, by Stephen King. The main character in the story is a man named Roland, who is a cross between and Authurian Knight and an Old West sheriff. And Roland is on a quest to save the world, and to find this place called The Dark Tower which is for him God or the presence of God. Early on in the story, Roland is faced with a decision over whether to let his surrogate son Jake die, or to continue on his quest, and he chooses his quest and Jake dies. Later on, through a bit of magic, Jake is returned to Roland and so the whole cycle becomes this commentary or reflection on the Abraham and Isaac story. But as you go on in the series, you realize the whole thing is a commentary on that story because Roland discovers that the journey to the Tower is not measured in miles and towns but in people and relationships. He finds out that the very substance of his journey is learning how to form tight connections with the people he meets against his own nature. But as Roland learns to love these people he is tortured by the thought that if he was faced with the decision he had to make with Jake, he'd make the same one because his highest duty is to the Tower.

The same thing is definitely true of the Abraham and Isaac story. Isaac was everything Abraham had gone out into the desert to find. He was proof that God loved Abraham and that God keeps his promises. If God called Abraham into anything, He called him into relationship with Isaac, but in a moment at God's word Abraham turned away from his son.

That is true of us as well. When you get deep into your faith you feel your connection to those closest to you deepened. The love in your heart swells, and it comes to you as a miracle. You realize God, the Eternal and Almighty God, has called into into those relationships. Yet you know, in your heart, that the God who calls you into them can call you away from them. Now, it isn't like we are required to do what Abraham almost did or what Roland did. The Abraham and Isaac story is in part a commentary on the Canaanite practice of child sacrifice. The Israelites are saying in essence, 'yes we love God enough to make that kind of sacrifice too, but God doesn't require that of us. God is life and not death and He doesn't call us to take human life.' The story is about the animal sacrifices replacing child sacrifice for the Israelites.

Yet God can call us away from those we love most. He can call us to missions and projects that physically take us away from those people. He can call us to die for strangers, which removes something vital from those relationships that truly made our lives worth living. He can call us to give resources that could be spent on family and friends.

You know, if you don't have God as your highest commitment you can just sit and bask in the glory of the people that mark your life. You can say 'this one thing I will give up for nothing else, these people are my highest duty'. But that is humanism. That is the uncalled life. Christianity is something altogether different. It proclaims that there is one relationship that supersedes all the others. It seeks a higher duty to a higher authority. And so there is a sadness to our love. We feel this magic in our hearts but we know that the one who put it there can call us away from it.

So we're stuck asking: "is there a fraud in the universe? Is Goooood just messing with our heads? Is love inherently contradictory?" The answer to these questions can only be 'no' if they are seen in the shadow of the Cross and more importantly in the light of the Resurrection. You see the god Roland finds is justice, but not Love, and so Roland's life is inherently tragic. Yet we proclaim that God is Love, and as such our commitment to Him first cannot be the negation of the particular loves of our lives. It must in some sense be their fulfillment.

That is because when Jesus Christ is your highest commitment, your love and relationships attain a redemptive quality. If the Gospel reading today teaches us anything, it teaches us that: that our faith helps bring salvation and healing into the world. The connections we make with people become a part of their salvation. We are drawing those around us with us into the Kingdom of Heaven.

And that brings up another point about sacrifice, because for us sacrifice is a statement of faith. A statement that God is who we say He is, and so we do not need to neurotically ensure the safety and security of those around us. The God we serve and love, loves them as well, and will care for them. It's not like sacrifice is some payment to God for His love and favor, that too is a mistaken Canaanite attitude towards sacrifice. No, it is us showing the world that we can entrust those we love to God's care, and that we are all going to the same place. In the end sacrifice is not the cost of faith. It is it's very substance. Amen."

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