Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Prospect
The Rev’d Robert Warren                            
Genesis 22:1-14

The reading from Genesis 22 - the Akedah or “Binding of Isaac” - is a deeply disturbing piece of Scripture.   The powers-that-be down at Lectionary Central have even graciously provided your Rector with an alternative - should he so desire.  It’s from the Book of Jeremiah and I was tempted to use it since, otherwise, that would make two weeks in a row of heart-rending Patriarchal family politics with potential victims (Hagar - Ishmael - Isaac) seemingly put in harm’s way by God and then rescued in the nick of time.  

The emphasis in our story this Sunday is that God intervenes once again to preserve life. This is true. 

That he first colluded in the expulsion of Hagar and her son Ishmael from Abraham’s camp and that he initially commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son on Mount Moriah is, however, highly problematic.  Soren Kierkegaard wrote an entire essay on the Binding of Isaac (Fear and Trembling) in which he retold the story four different times in order to try and unwind the condundrum with only limited success.

Another point of emphasis is that what we have we have received in this life is all gift.  It all belongs to God.  It can be given back.  This also is true.

But what of the godly origins of the love which should tie us unequivocally to our children, to our communities and to the vulnerable within them.  Is our ethics and our capacity for loyalty something of merely human origins which God would dispense with in the name of religion - as a quotable example of faith?

I must, of course, refuse to spare you from struggling with this text.  Jesus points back to the Abraham story.  So does St Paul.  It contains motifs of faith, obedience and sacrifice which are the building blocks of the Christian faith and cannot simply be expunged in favour of something more uplifting.  Explaining it neatly away would be a lie.   

I didn’t want to be the sort of clergyman who turns hard readings into pabulum.  And so - between now and Sunday - I will struggle to make sense of a difficult text.