Sunday, July 2, 2017

the faith of Abraham

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our Gospel reading today shows us the high expectations that God has of those who love him. Nothing or no one is to be put before him – not son or daughter, father or mother. We read much the same in our Old Testament reading concerning the sacrifice of Abraham. This passage is often used today by those outside the Church – and sometimes even by those within – in an attempt to show the unreasonableness of God. But, of course, they can only do so by interpreting the passage in ways contradictory to the way in which it has been read by the Church down through the generations. Such attempts to use the Word of God to speak against Almighty God and the teachings of his Church should always serve to remind us that even the devil himself can try to quote Scripture to his advance his evil purposes; and that it is done so frequently in the age in which we live should only high-light the Spiritual dangers of the world around us.

Properly understood – which is, of course to say understood in the way that the Church has always understood this passage – the story of the sacrifice of Abraham teaches us much. First it serves as a testimony to the great faith of Abraham. He is an old man, already approaching the end of his years. One of the great sorrows of his life was that for many years his marriage to Sarah was childless. Late in life God grants them a child; and more, promises that through this child he will have descendants as numerous as the stars in the heavens. And then he is asked to sacrifice this child. If ever a man faced a temptation to defy the will of God, even a man like Abraham, one who spoke with the Almighty on such intimate terms that he could have no doubt that this command did indeed come from God, this was it. But Abraham responded to this challenge with a faithfulness and serenity that has served as an inspiration to all the generations that followed. He put his trust in God that he, Abraham, could be both obedient to the commandments of God and that God could even so still be faithful to the promises that he had made. And his great faith was rewarded.

And that is the second lesson for us from this story. It testifies to the great fidelity of God. He keeps his promises to us in all circumstances. We may find that this life gives us heavy crosses to bear – and indeed we may, and we should accept them in the knowledge that we were never promised that it would be otherwise – but if in spite of our burdens we remain faithful to God then we will find that he has always remained faithful to us … and that the crosses we have born are as nothing compared to the reward that comes from having carried them in the spirit of Christian love and fidelity.

And the last lesson I wish to speak of this morning that we may take from this account of Abraham's great faith is that even though it reminds us of the high expectations that God has of us, it also serves to demonstrate that God asks nothing of us that he is not willing to do himself. For the Church down through the ages has taught that in the story of Abraham and his willingness to sacrifice his son we see a foreshadowing of God's willingness to sacrifice his Son for us. But, of course, given that even that evidence of the Creator's great love for his children is twisted by those who hate God and religion to make a mockery of what the Father was willing to endure for the sake of his creation, it should therefore not surprise us that the story of Abraham has also been twisted by claims that it offers proof of the unreasonableness of God's demands upon his children.


But, as I have already noted, this twisting is really only evidence of the spiritual dangers of the age. For of course it is only by first loving God above all things that we can properly come to love others; and only by loving God above all things that we can come to be what it was that he created us to be – his loving children, destined to spend all eternity with him in heaven. This is something that the forces of spiritual darkness at work in the world are committed to working against. And all the more reason to give God first place in our lives always; and loving him always, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

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