Replying to my sister’s comment from my previous post, and still thinking about it, I got the nugget. I think I figured out not only my sermon, but how I can live with this text (and I didn’t even have to hunt down a copy of Leonard Sweet’s out-of-print book, although I still have a request in to the inter-library loan for it). All it took was wrestling with that passage long enough for the Spirit to bless me (even if I think my hip is a little out of joint!). I know I’ve found good inspiration when it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
So what bugs me about the passage is not the child sacrifice (actually pretty common in Abraham’s time and place), or even Abraham’s blind obedience, inconceivable as it is. What bothers me is the praise. This was the right thing to do, and I just can’t believe that.
What I want God to say to Abe is, “Good effort, and I appreciate your faithfulness, but you’ve missed the point of being faithful. Remember when you bantered with me for the sake of a city full of rude strangers? That’s true faith. Dialogue with Me. Relationship with Me. Not blind following. Have you become so overpowered by the blessings you’ve received from me that you’ve forgotten to engage your whole self– body, spirit and mind in your worship? This is what I ask of my faithful ones: that you talk with me, argue with me, use your whole being in service to me. Ask questions. Recoil from evil, even when it comes from my lips.”
That’s what I want. I want God to tell us that something in us should recoil from a God who asks us to kill our children. I want God to say, loud and clear, this should make you uncomfortable. This should make you doubt. Never be so complacent as to think that I demand mindless automatons (is that the right word? I never know. I can’t say it right).
How would God tell us this? Tell us that we should question even the things we think are God’s words when they tell us evil things?
God would tell us this by telling us a story. A story about someone who gets obedience right and faith wrong. A story that makes us so sick to our stomachs that we have to question whether it (and by extension, any other parts of the narrative that say God is a God of death and malice and evil) can be God’s Word.
Oh, and guess what. God did.