Trust Falls, Sacrifice and the Akedah

Trust FallDuring the summer I tend to preach without a net; walking out in front of the congregation without notes of any kind.  (That doesn’t mean I don’t prepare!)  As such, I won’t have a text to post here.  But I will take some time Monday morning to write up my main points.  No guarantees that everything I said will get written or that I said everything I write, but you’ll get the gist of it. It may not be as polished, but there you are!

Here’s this week’s sermon on the Binding of Isaac (or the Akedah).  Based on Genesis 22:1-14.

In college I had to take a class called “Discovery” which centered on group dynamics and becoming part of team in addition to exploring my understanding of myself.  We did a lot of group building activities, including a ropes course.  One day as part of that work we participated in a trust fall.

For those who haven’t done it, trust falls are terrifying.  You stand up higher than the group who is behind you with arms formed like a zipper, one person across from another in a line.  Once set, the person stays as completely straight as possible and leans back. The group catches you.  Really!  Even the big guys in our class.

The reading from Genesis this morning on the Binding of Isaac, or the Akedah as it’s known to our Jewish friends, is a strange story.  If you were here last week, you may remember that Abraham had sent away Hagaar and Ishmael.  They avoid death with God’s help and make it to Egypt.  So God speaks to Abraham, and asks him to take his only son, Isaac, and offer him as a burnt offering.

So Abraham sets out to Moriah, as God commanded, taking Isaac and some servants with him.

But, as one commentator put it, I don’t think this is about human sacrifice as much as it’s about a human’s sacrifice.  Abraham was holding on too tightly it seems to the promise that God would make his descendants number more than the stars in the night sky. He wanted his line to live forever.  So God, in asking him to sacrifice Isaac, was asking him to unclench his hands and the firm grip on that promise.  God didn’t want Isaac, but God is asking Abraham to trust.

This week I asked people on Facebook about something they gave up for people they loved.  A job came up often, leaving due to children or a move or to take care of parents.  Others spoke of giving up food if someone in their house developed an allergy.  One mentioned giving up pride.  They did these things regardless of the cost because they loved the other person.

And that’s what God wants too.  God wants to know about our hearts.  What is it that we cling to that if God asked us to give it up we might really have concerns? Which things in our lives have a hold on us? Might it be that God is asking you to sacrifice that thing so God can have your heart?

I hope we all can open ourselves up to hear God’s voice, and to let go of those things we cling to.  It’ll require some trust, but if we just lean back and fall, I know God will catch us.