We heard the most iconic story from Exodus this morning: the crossing of the Red Sea. In the lead up to that event, you may need a bit of a reminder. After ten plagues culminating with the angel of death passing through the land, Pharaoh relents and lets the Israelites leave Egypt. The Almighty guides the fleeing Israelites into the wilderness toward the Red Sea even though that way is less direct. Pharaoh, realizing his cheap labor is gone and seeing them head towards the sea, gives chase.
We live lives in submission to the clock.
While not all of us wear timepieces on our wrists anymore due to the devices in our pockets synced with the atomic clocks presumably at Apple HQ, it doesn’t mean we aren’t slaves to time. We make appointments in 15 minute increments. Some among us work in terms of billable hours. We have multiple calendars to sync together from family commitments to work engagements to sporting events. We hustle from place to place—or Zoom call to Zoom call—trying to get things done.
It’s hard to tell from our text in Genesis this morning, but we’ve arrived in the middle of a story. Abraham’s chief steward has made the 400 mile journey back to Haran, Abraham’s hometown, and is in the midst of explaining the purpose of his journey to Rebekah’s family.
Here’s the elephant in the room: There’s no way to avoid our text from Genesis this morning. If I focused on the two sentences from Matthew offered up to us by the lectionary committee, you would rightly guess that I’m avoiding Genesis—I might have added “like the plague” a few months ago, but that’s a bit too close to home. And so this story on the Binding of Isaac hangs in the air, and frankly I don’t like it.
It was all Sarah’s fault.
There is no other way to put this—if what the narrator of the book of Genesis says is accurate. It was Sarah’s idea that Hagar become her surrogate so that Abraham could have a male heir.
If you had asked me a month ago if things could get worse than they had been, I would have made some sort of joke about the apocalypse descending among us. Yes, it has been a rough few months for us, of course. The job I have been called to and loved has been completely upended. I’ve spent more hours at the grocery store gathering supplies for a ten day stretch than I could have ever imagined. My kids have had to deal with online school and cancelled events. The beginning of my course of study for a Doctor of Ministry degree has changed significantly.
I had hoped that this would be the last of my virtual sermons during our pandemic. That this next week would be spent trying to figure out the logistics of a single service with our Bishop coming to visit and a number of our teens getting confirmed. “Alleluia!” signs colored by our kids before Lent would be hung up all over, and Easter Flowers which had been on hold would fill this place. There’d be amazing music and hearty hugs and tremendous joy.
How are we supposed to understand God? How do we see God, especially in relation to us? Do we see God as kind and benevolent, or angry and harsh, or somewhere in between? How does the way we see the world and other people influence all of this?
If I asked you to name the fastest animal on earth, you would instinctively say, “the cheetah.” Indeed the cheetah holds the title of being the fastest land animal, clocking in speeds of up to an impressive 75 miles per hour. However the fastest member of the animal kingdom is actually the peregrine falcon which has a diving speed of over 200 miles per hour when it’s going after prey. Falcons soar up to a great height when out hunting, and then use the force of gravity as well as amazing aerodynamics to come barreling in on smaller birds, stunning them on impact. As the stunned bird falls to the ground, the peregrine spins around and catches it mid-air, taking it home for dinner.
I discovered hiking my senior year in college. A mentor and I went to Arethusa Falls near Crawford Notch up in the White Mountains. It was his idea, he had read about it in a Boston Globe article. One Saturday in the fall, we headed up to New Hampshire for the day, taking in the beauty of a glorious October day given to us by God. And I absolutely loved it. Both the nature part of it, hiking a moderate trail in the forest up to a 160 ft high waterfall, and the conversation part of it. I don’t remember exactly what we discussed that day, but I remember the connection of it, the gratefulness to share in that experience with someone who wanted only the best for me and my life.