St. George\'s Episcopal Church | Arlington

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02.03.16

Lift him up as a living offering

    Category: Epiphany

    Speaker: The Rev. John Shellito

    Sermon

    February 3, 2016                  Rev. John Shellito

    Gracious God, take our minds and think through them, take our hands and work through them, take our lips and speak through them, and take our hearts and set them on fire with love for you. In the name of the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Inspirer. Amen.

    “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.”

    I thought we could start with a little light reading today. You know, nothing too serious. After all, with all the important concerns in our world today, I wanted to make sure that our readings could provide a little bit of comfort and clarity in the midst of everything else going on.

    Although I tease, one thing I do appreciate about this horrifying and difficult text is that it conveys to me what Martin Luther King, Jr. described as the “fierce urgency of now.” Church isn’t a place for avoiding the most important concerns in life and in the world—it is a place for working through those issues, in community with others. Countless scholars and scribes have puzzled over this text—and yet, it remains as part of the text of the Bible and our history. I appreciate that our tradition does not “paper over” the more challenging realities—but instead, gives us a chance to engage honestly about our own past, and what that might mean for our future.

    There are some interpretations of this story that make it more palatable to me—one Jewish family friend in Boston described to me once how the Hebrew text usually read to say “offer him there as a burnt offering”—could instead be interpreted to mean “lift him up as a living offering” the word read as “offering” and “burnt offering” could also suggest simply “lifting him up”—as a living offering—an offering of life, rather than an offering of death. Her idea was that Abraham could have misunderstood God’s initial request.

    Another valuable piece of information that keeps me from wanting to never hear this story again is the fact that child sacrifice was a common

    Another friend talked about the Samurai warriors who embrace the idea that they have already died—they are simply living out the remainder of their days as best they are able.

    Outline:

    Offering

    Horrifying

    esau

    Misunderstood?

    Iconic?

    Refusal of human sacrifice?

    Tie to Jesus

    Yesterday was Candlemas, the feast of the dedication of our Lord, 40 days after December 25th. According to tradition he would have been offered to God and redeemed on that day.

                In college I had a friend ask us about our Gospel—what is this about eating flesh and drinking blood?

    At the time, I said it is part of the mysteries of God

    At this point, we embody God, we receive God, we let God into our lives, to be in our hands and minds and hearts—that we might be a part of Christ’s body in the world.

    Son’s perspective—offering himself--

    Psalm 72

    Genesis 22:1-18 (NRSV)

    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.”

    The angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By myself I have sworn, says the LORD: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.”

    John 6:52-59 (NRSV)

    The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

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