June 26, 2011 – Sermon

It makes for a good picture, I’ll give you that. The subject matter of our first reading. The testing of Abraham as it has been called. There are plenty of artistic expressions of this story. It is so full of action, tension, drama. It is quite understandable that all the great masters have tried their hands at showing the expression of Abraham and the fear and terror of Isaac, trying to capture the moment the angel intercepts the fatal strike. It is truly a horrible story, that’s probably why while it has been painted by the masters it is understandably not the subject of Sunday school bible coloring books. So as a parent, I would have to think twice about telling this story from the bible to my two young boys, I am sure it would bring up questions and fears.
Why would God ask a parent, a father to sacrifice his son? What kind of a God does that to child? Wouldn’t Isaac be scared? What kind of a father would do that? We could as a community of faith, we could as the church have just as easily skipped this reading, chosen a different one, I could have simply gone with the other suggested first reading from the lectionary. As a pastor I have that power, as a mother, I don’t.
We live in a world filled with too many instances, far too many lives destroyed by abuse in all its forms. Adults, teens, society and our economic and political systems, capitalism, all have such power over our children, and far too many times it is not used for good. Bullying is terrible whether it is a classmate, an adult, or system.
So as a pastor, as a preacher, and hopefully sometimes a prophet I emplore you to hear these words, to hopefully take the bulletin home with you and read them, to open up your bible and read around them, and listen for not just test of one particular man, Abraham, but listen as his child-as Isaac. Listen as he asks the questions the young ask, until they are silenced. Listen as his voice is silenced by the shock and threat of betrayal and violence, the silence of those without power.
A lot of voices are not heard in the world and in the church. Many folks in the church wonder why the younger generations—why the boomers, why people of my generation, and younger–our children are not here, why so many of them are not in the pews and taking ownership and leadership in the church. Now of course there are many different reasons—societal and individual. But one answer is that the young are not just looking for something more, not just a place to make them feel good. They can get that at the bar, they can get that from the TV and the computer screen, they can get that from their friends and social networks.
What we do and say here has to do and speak to real life. If they come they want what we do here to impact and change, and guide and shape what they do every day in the real world. They want to be heard. They want to be truly welcomed. They want their questions heard, not answered with sugar-coat and substanceless family values and pious platitudes. Faith, as it we all want, should be relevant. So we need to listen, even when it’s difficult and hard.
Perhaps that is the voice that God is truly calling us to listen to this morning—not just of Isaac but of all those who are silenced. And we are to be like the angel of God, God’s messenger, God’s voice getting in between the forces of gravity, inertia, and death to shout STOP! For that is God’s voice. The word angel simply means messenger of God.
And as God’s voice, God’s messengers in this world, it is up to us to speak and stand so that no more will children be sacrificed on the alters of lust as adults misuse and abuse in some sin filled aberration of love. Children will not be sacrificed on the altar of indifference as systems demand that we make money at the hands and labor of children. That corporations market and design unhealthy food, unhealthy games, attitudes, cheap toys and trinkets filled with toxins to children. No more will the innocence of children be sacrificed as they become wise too early to the evils of this world and our streets. Their innocence twisted by violence, addictions, and poverty. No more will the opportunity for a good education be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency and the goal of making a profit. Our children and our grandchildren’s health, ability to drink clean water, breathe clean air, have a safe place to play will come from our words and our hands as we truly believe and act that God does provide for all God’s children, even and especially the little ones in our midst, held in our care in our hands, not to harm but to love, that is God’s Word. Listen.
Amen.

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