Sacrifice

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Sacrifice

Genesis 22:1-14

The Command to Sacrifice Isaac1

After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

Romans 6:12-23

Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Slaves of Righteousness

What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.

When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

You may have heard the phrase, “Freedom is not free.” It is true. Everything, even the ability to choose comes at a cost. In our time of rampant distrust of authorities, we each often seek our own counsel before obeying our authorities. That distrust ripples through us and all our relationships like waves on a river. Indeed, we should not be surprised when our children rebel against us after they watch us rebel against the authorities in our own lives. They are only doing exactly what we have shown them.

The price of freedom is freedom. For me to be free, someone else gave up their freedom. We honor those who fought in the military for freedom. We honor those who stood against authorities and gave their lives in civil protests. Even those who go to the extremes of terrorism are willing to give their lives for a kind of freedom in their own perspective (wrong as it may be), and often these people take the lives of others around them as a cost of that freedom as well. Giving up your own life has indeed become a hallmark of faith in anything.

There is another, perhaps even greater cost for freedom though. Freedom to give up those you love the most. Our military spouses are asked to give up their marriages during depoyments. Parents are asked to give up their children and children asked to give up their parents in the fight for freedom. Sometimes these sacrifices are the hardest to bear.

Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac in a “make it or break it” episode of the origins of our faith. Someone once told me that if it had been Sarah instead of Abraham, she never would have done it. There were two unique aspects of this sacrifice though. First of all, God did not make Abraham kill Isaac, but held him back at the last minute. Secondly, God ended up getting Isaac anyway. You see, unlike the other gods of the time, YHWH did not want his people killed. He wanted them to live for Him. As Paul writes in Romans, God desires living sacrifices, not dead ones.

Yet He still desires those sacrifices. Why? Sacrifice is just a fancy word for very costly payment, and payment to someone is one of the biggest ways we show value for who they are or what they do. We give them (ideally) something of equal value to what we have received. God had miraculously given Isaac to Abraham. The only thing that Abraham could possibly give back of similar value, was Isaac. It may seem unusual to return the very gift you have been given to the Giver of that gift, but that was largely what this sacrifice Abraham made was about.

We are called to do the same. Whatever God gives us, we give it back to Him. When he gives us love, we give it back to Him. When He gives us material blessings, we give it back to Him. When He gives us new life, we give it back to Him. When we do this, God transforms our sacrifice into something that not only blesses us, but blesses everyone else as well. Will you keep your blessings to yourself, allowing them over time to become idols in between you and God, or will you give them to God, allowing Him to bless the world through them?

What has God given you?

What is God calling you to give back to Him?


  1. (Heb 11:17–19)

Tomorrow

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Tomorrow

Deuteronomy 31:1-13

Joshua Becomes Moses’ Successor1

When Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, he said to them: “I am now one hundred twenty years old. I am no longer able to get about, and the Lord has told me, ‘You shall not cross over this Jordan.’ The Lord your God himself will cross over before you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua also will cross over before you, as the Lord promised. The Lord will do to them as he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land, when he destroyed them. The Lord will give them over to you and you shall deal with them in full accord with the command that I have given to you. Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.”

Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel: “Be strong and bold, for you are the one who will go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their ancestors to give them; and you will put them in possession of it. It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

The Law to Be Read Every Seventh Year

Then Moses wrote down this law, and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel. Moses commanded them: “Every seventh year, in the scheduled year of remission, during the festival of booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people—men, women, and children, as well as the aliens residing in your towns—so that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God and to observe diligently all the words of this law, and so that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live in the land that you are crossing over the Jordan to possess.”

John 16:16-25

Sorrow Will Turn into Joy

“A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.” Then some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying to us, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” They said, “What does he mean by this ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.”

Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant when I said, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’? Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.”

My dad used to obsess about the weather, as a hobby, I think. Sometimes it seemed a little more than a hobby. He bought several digital weather machines to hang on the roof of the house and measure wind speed, barometer, humidity, and temperature. The dog ate the first one, thinking it was a toy. Today we have phone apps that can tell you most of that stuff. But back then, as today, I always told him, the best way to determine what the weather was doing was to simply poke your head outside and see.

The problem with that method, despite its incredible accuracy for the present moment, is that it does not help you figure out what the weather will be like tomorrow. This is especially pertinent in places like the Midwest, where the weather can change pretty drastically within 30 minutes or so. It is not unheard of for a warm, sunny day to drop 20 degrees and begin pouring rain at the drop of a hat. Tomorrow is the mystery we continually seek to unravel.

If tomorrow is beyond our understanding, how can we make covenant promises that not only last for days, but lifetimes? How can we make promises to God that will affect the lives of those long after we are gone? Would it not be better to simply refuse to promise anything you cannot fulfill immediately?

That is not the Way of Love. Love is a covenant that embraces Hope which makes plans for tomorrow, even sacrificial plans. It is a commitment to choose to remain in relationship regardless of the given choices of any particular moment. It is not saying, “I know”, it is saying “I will”. that hope does not make everything work out, but it does affect everything. Where there is no hope, covenant ends… but where even the smallest glimmer of hope remains, covenant will always exist.

That is the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ! It shows that no matter how badly we mess up in our covenant with God, no matter what few choices we have left to us… there is always hope. There is always hope. That covenant has the endurance to last for eternity. How do we embrace that hope? We ask God for help.

Up until Jesus died and was raised again, the disciples sought to maintain their place in God’s Kingdom by what they did for Jesus. After He left, they had no way of serving Him or even knowing what to do the way they had in the past. From that point on, they had a greater awareness of how dependent they were upon Him. They saw their unfaithfulness and had no way of remedying it. They needed help from the other side. That is what Jesus offers when He says, “Ask in my name.” When we cannot see tomorrow, we need only ask Him Who is already there.

Where do you need hope today?


  1. (Num 27:12–23)

Excuses

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How the faithful city has become a whore! She that was full of justice, righteousness lodged in her—but now murderers! Your silver has become dross, your wine is mixed with water. Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not defend the orphan, and the widow’s cause does not come before them. Therefore says the Sovereign, the Lord of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel: Ah, I will pour out my wrath on my enemies, and avenge myself on my foes! I will turn my hand against you; I will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy. And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city. Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent, by righteousness. But rebels and sinners shall be destroyed together, and those who forsake the Lord shall be consumed. For you shall be ashamed of the oaks in which you delighted; and you shall blush for the gardens that you have chosen. For you shall be like an oak whose leaf withers, and like a garden without water. The strong shall become like tinder, and their work like a spark; they and their work shall burn together, with no one to quench them. Isaiah 1:21-31 (NRSV)

The late Dr. Robert Mulholland was known for saying, “Sin carries in it the root of its own destruction.” Sin boils us slowly, and we are not likely to notice how hot the water around us is until it is too late. God sent the prophet Isaiah to Israel to warn them about the hot water they had wandered into. Listen again to some of the things he warns them about. “Your princes are rebeles and companions of thieves… Rebels and sinners shall be destroyed together… The strong shall become like tinder and their work like a spark; they and their work shall burn together, with no one to quench them.”

This is a warning for those who have trusted too long in themselves. Both the wicked – those who do not care about God, as well as the complacent – those who think they can get through the day without bothering God, are equally guilty in God’s eyes. Both have robbed the city of justice and righteousness, so both will share the same punishment. But if you listen closely, you will see that it is more than punishment that God is handing down here. It is not retribution. It is restoration.

“I will turn my hand against you; I will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy. And I will retore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning.” God does not see our sin and failures as a lack of goodness. He sees it as foreign material that covers up the goodness he knows lies in the potential beneath it all.

There was once a sculptor who worked hard with hammer and chisel on a large block of marble. A little child who was watching him saw nothing more than large and small pieces of stone falling away left and right. He had no idea what was happening. But when the boy returned to the studio a few weeks later, he saw, to his surprise, a large, powerful lion sitting in the place where the marble had stood. With great excitement, the boy ran to the sculptor and said, “Sir, tell me, how did you know there was a lion in the marble?”

“The art of sculpture is, first of all, the art of seeing. In one block of marble, Michelangelo saw a loving mother holding her dead son on her lap, while in another, he saw a self-confident David ready to hurl his stone at the approaching Goliath, and in a third, he saw an irate Moses at the point of rising in anger from his seat. Visual art is indeed the art of seeing, and the practice of disciplines is a way to make visible what has been seen. The skillful artist is a liberator who frees from bondage the figures hidden for billions of years inside the marble. The artist reveals the true identity of the figures!” (Henri Nouwen, Clowning in Rome, (Image, 2000) pages 83-84))

When we learn to see ourselves and our world like God does, as something beautiful waiting to be brought forth from the slab of marble we are stuck in, we will set our guilt aside, quit making excuses, and really begin to pray for transformation instead of begging God to leave us to live life our own way. We will stop asking God to bless our will and instead start following God’s will for our lives. We will finally begin that our sin, while devastating to our own lives, is not even a minor inconvenience to God. Indeed He has been in the business of doing the impossible, calling light out of the darkness, every day since the beginning of creation.

What sin hangs onto you like dross and keeps you from living fully and freely as a beloved child of God?

Where are you able to see yourself most clearly?

Who helps you to seek help instead of relying on your own strength?

His strength is perfect when our strength is gone

He’ll carry us when we can’t carry on

Raised in His power, the weak become strong

His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect

Tuesday November 29, 2016

All Hallows Eve

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I found my last bed

in the place of the first

lesser my heartbeat

greater my thirst

only my pain can realize

        the silent fear

        that lingers here

among a dozen wetted eyes

and hearts doubled over

to see yellow skin

my last fleshly covering

a sad soul within

whose mate in tears resides beside

        my rock and love

        my precious dove

in whom I hope my fate abides

yet she refers me

toward other things

with halos of light

and feathery wings

but I cannot see the light from here

        with eyes gone grey

        fading away

and filled with cold and bitter tears

for fear and regret

all these chains that I’ve earned

in those toiling days

whose dreams I burned

with tunnel vision and selfish pride

        my fate I chose

        the thorny rose

whose beauty at last has bled me dry

leaving naught but a shell

that cannot receive

a blessing that’s blocked

by anger and grief

but I may have one final gift

        my heart to give

        to one who lives

long after this soul passes through the rift

may he love her with care

for better, for worse

and learn from my death

lest he fall to the curse

that still lingers here within the air

        with brutal eyes

        on new love lies

and fixes them with unmerciful stare

so my final act

will not be a cry

for mercy or peace

I simply will die

an example to a foolish world

        to which I belong

        a son of its song

        its promises lies

        when everyone dies

but lives like their lives cannot be unfurled

so breathe like it matters

live without regret

and love while you live

and never forget.

An Acrostic on Emily’s “Hope” – Life XXXII

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Her offered piece enchants

in signets

that hark, each

to his imagination, not guessed

while it tickles her

for every answer that he ends roosted sure.

 

The hand aptly tilted

presents elegance, resting carefully, her evening stretched

into night

to hold each

simple, open, unkempt love.

 

And never dreamed;

she, in negligent gowns sighs

to his emergence

tucked under natal embellishments,

when in truth, his offering under there

trembles heavy, erected

with oaken rods, drumming strong.

 

Aspirations never dripped

notions entered violet, ever resisting

stillness that opens probing silence

and trips

along lonely lust.

 

A nesting dove

set within each ear to entertain strangers tonight

is noted

to her every

gesture and leaning, enjoyed

in surrender

he enjoins a ripening dream.

 

As night deepens

she opens rushes, engaging

music unto song, thrusting

back, elevating

to his every

stroke taking on refuge, moaning.

 

To him, a trumpet,

created of unseen life, drawn

about by a soft heat

that her elation

lifts into trifling triumphs, letting each

breath infuse rocking drafts.

 

To her a tremolo,

kissing each precious tremble,

stirred over

melted and new yearnings

with a rosy monsoon.

 

In volatile embrace,

her every act reads divided,

in time

in need

to his every

caress her indignant laughter lavishes enough so that

loveliness and nonsense dance.

 

A naked dance

over noises,

they heap elatedly

sweet trespasses rolled and gracing each sweaty tremor

swooning every answer.

 

Yes, each triumph

not ended, vexed enough relented

in naive

expressions xeroxed to rend each more intimate to you.

 

It terrifies

and still keeps each daring

abstraction

carefully resting under my body

on fire

missing everything.

 

 


 

The Herald

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She sought solace, wrapped in soft,

thick clouds, from a dark, cold world.

Le Nuage d’Aurore gazes back

to the land where love and fear intersect

and mix in awesome dissonance

and beauty enough to stop the train

of Titan’s gait. He gives pause to wait

for another sight of her peaking billows

creeping over the cup of darkness below

like too much milk in a pitcher too small,

threatening to overflow and spill upon

a famished land. They cry with hand

held high toward heaven’s dove

who refuses to turn her back

on a world in which she cannot stand

to stay. Yet soon will come the day

persistence paid in scarlet streaks

she yet again will light the skies

and herald the Sun in fevered gleam

and mark the heavens

and feed His fish –

His dying wish.

 


 


 

An Acrostic on Midnight – Life XVII

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We hide each night

not in gestures, however timely

in stature

and living marks of strained torque –

deeds of no extent.

 

A new day

set upon nimble reaches in sure event,

glows red on waiting shores,

sighing onward

‘neath each awaiting response.

 

This hour answers those

warring emotions,

crashing and neurotic,

tipped over unconditionally, crying horrendously

to heroic endearments,

slighting pillars, and culling each sentinel.

 

It ticks softly,

this intimate moment evading

the other

siding midway over on the hearth

to hither ears

hidden above iridescent regality.

 

Addled, noted digressions

greet each tether,

together heading everywhere,

dreaming in multiplexed prickles, leaning ever south,

reverencing every addler, despite yourself.

 

All now declare

with open numinosity, declaring eighty reaches

without end,

cradled over us, lowered down,

crossed and redeeming evermore.

 

For our respite

there heralds a trophy,

only left dying

for a death-eating democracy

marked in damned notes, in great hellish thoughts.

 

This has a troubling,

fear-ridden intensity, garnished here this evening, next empty doors,

but underneath this,

another note…

hope – our understanding renewed.