Scripture for Sunday, 2 July: Genesis 22.1-14; Psalm 13; Romans 6.12-23; Matthew 10.40-42
Can we learn from our children? Do we sometimes discount their words because we know them too well – or think that we do? What is it that familiarity breeds? Having just returned from a holiday during which we spent time with our (now adult) offspring, I have been reminded – and I am still learning – that our children can teach us, and can be a valid source of information. We cannot discount the source of something just because we think that we know it too well.
Jesus knew that the witness of his disciples would not always be easy to accept and digest. He speaks to us through words captured in scripture and tells us to look for him in the poor, the needy, the hungry, the sick, the imprisoned. But he also tells us to give the prophet a prophet’s welcome. This is not always easy. It means being willing to listen out for the prophetic voice in those whom we meet. And prophets are not always easy to identify. We have to be willing to tread carefully around what may sometimes be unexpected or even weird behaviour.
Which brings us to Abraham and his strange behaviour (which may reflect what we do, since Abraham is positioned in scripture as the father of faith of humanity). He dismissed his first child, the son of the handmaiden, with his mother, Hagar, into the wilderness. Then he consented to God’s apparent instruction to sacrifice his legitimate son, Isaac, only being rescued at the last minute. Can we make sense of this?
Søren Kierkegaard, in Fear and Trembling, uses the story of Abraham and Isaac to highlight the absurdity – and the miracle – of faith, and in doing so coined the expression, “leap of faith.” Is Abraham a “knight of faith,” or a deluded, would-be murderer? How can we tell?
Yet, as Kierkegaard also noted, it is equally absurd that God should deign to forgive the sins of humans, even those who would crucify truth on the cross; turning the wages of sin from death into the opportunity of eternal life.
Faith is a gift from God – a miracle – that invites us into God’s world of truth, making the eternal present in the moments of our lives – and may very well make nonsense of them. God’s definition of the distinction between good and evil outranks any human society’s definition, and we may need to spend a lifetime of careful discernment to begin to unravel the absurdity of it all.
We do well to be alert and to listen to the voices of the ones who have the courage to speak the truth to the powerful. We do well not to second-guess the message because of the identity of the messenger. We do well not to disrespect the source of opinion because we think that we know the source too well.
God has a habit of revealing truth in ways that test and challenge us.