God's Love is Broader Than Our Mind
Genesis 22:1-14 and Mark 8:31-38
by Susan in SanPedro
What kind of father would do something like that? What kind of God would ask him
to? I'm talking, of course, about the Old Testament Lesson today: some call it "the
testing of Abraham" ... others "the sacrifice of Isaac" ... still others
"the binding of Isaac." Whatever we call it it's a hard story -- a scary story
-- a challenging story to reconcile with the God "whose glory it is always to have
mercy" - the God we prayed to in the Collect of the Day this Second Sunday in Lent.
I remember listening to the story as a child and thinking I must have missed
something ... and as I listened to the explanations offered by the adults in charge of my
religious education, well ... they never rang true for me. I couldn't imagine the God they
told me loved me enough to come and die for me didn't love Isaac that much, too ... not to
mention Abraham! And Sarah ... we don't hear anything about her. Kill a child to test the
father? "Because I said so" wasn't enough of a reason. Nope . it just didn't
work for me.
And so in my adolescence ... and into what I now refer to as my "obligatory
young adult lapsed phase" I filed it away with all the other things that didn't make
sense about the Biblical story. My faith hung in there . I truly never remember a time
when I doubted the presence of God in my life or couldn't turn to Jesus when I needed Him
. but for a very long time I couldn't for the life of me figure out why I needed all those
confusing ancient Bible stories -- or the church that went along with them.
I returned to congregational life ... corporate worship ... when my now-18 year
old was three and his brother was a newborn: I came back to church so they would have the
foundation I had received; I came back to church to be a good mother. And I came back with
lots of questions. I think back now and realize what a trial I must have been to the
rector ... "what do you mean by.? How can you say that ...?" Lots and lots and
LOTS of questions. So many that, out of some desperation I imagine, the rector sent me to
the bible study class being offered by the Associate - Jeff - on Tuesday nights.
As luck would have it, one of the first passages we encountered was this story of
Abraham and Isaac. And for the first time, in this Young Adult Bible Study class, I heard
an explanation of this familiar and disturbing story that made sense to both my head and
"What if Abraham got it wrong?" Jeff said. "What if God never asked
him to sacrifice Isaac at all - what if the story isn't about earning God's favor through
blind obedience but about the wideness of God's mercy . wide enough to redeem, through the
ram in the thicket, Abraham's mistake in thinking that he had to sacrifice his son in
order to be faithful to God."
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