Well, no-one said that preaching on Genesis 22 would be easy – YHWH tests Abraham’s faith by calling on him to sacrifice his son Isaac then stops him mid-strike of the knife.
The story contains all the things that shock and offend modern sensibility. We find it almost impossible to get beyond the ancient patriarchy, child sacrifice, and seeming divine capriciousness that are the hallmarks of this narrative.
We either flee from this story or fight it hard. Its so-called testimony to Abraham’s “blind faith” seems disingenuous. Better to strive with the human dilemma of long awaited realised hope challenged by unimaginable choices and a trust that comes through struggle. These are themes that find expression in stories people have told me this week and which are present in the Abraham story.
This morning I told a story of a preacher who, in wrestling with this text, found nothing beautiful and uplifting in it, and could only weep before the congregation. In doing so she gave them permission to embrace their own lament and find a place where their faith spoke of providence. Indeed this was good news.
Feedback over coffee was varied and vigorous. There were those who wanted to defend Abraham as someone who was on a learning curve. There were others who felt a connection with the struggle and who could begin to name the tensions between hope and ultimate trust, even when facing some significant blows.
Maybe not much was resolved, but there was some significant engagement.
In the end, Abraham and Isaac on Mt Moreh is a Hebrew story – and such narratives are invariably open-ended, inviting us in. Maybe that’s why they’ve been around for a long time!