God is spirit, and those who worship God must worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)
So let us join together, as the people of Carlingford Uniting Church, wherever we might be, to worship God in spirit and truth. To praise God, to pray for the world and its people, to read and listen to the scriptures and seek God’s word.
Prayer of adoration
All around us, the world is in turmoil. And sometimes we cannot see a way forward for the people of God, but God is good and God is faithful, so let us pray now:
How we adore you.
How we marvel at the depth of your love.
How we wonder at the waves of your grace.
How we are astounded by the wonders of creation;
We are in awe of the vastness of the universe.
We are so privileged to be called your children.
We are accepted and forgiven and embraced.
You are almighty, above and beyond everything.
You did not withhold your son, your only son, from us
You are victorious: Darkness, sin and death are under your feet.
You are holy, beautiful and full of love.
How we adore you.
Prayer of confession
Compassion and forgiveness belong to the Lord our God,
though we have rebelled against him,
and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God
by following the laws which he set before us. (Daniel 9:9-10)
And so, we bring our prayer of confession:
You have been generous with us beyond measure,
Yet we have not been generous to others.
You have been merciful to us beyond measure,
Yet we have not been merciful to others.
You have been faithful to us beyond measure,
Yet we have not been faithful to you.
You have not withheld you love from us,
Yet we have withheld our love from you and from each other.
Grant us your forgiveness,
Give us strength to change,
and the will to live our lives to your glory.
In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord,
Assurance of forgiveness
God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself,
not counting our trespasses against us,
and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. (2 Corinthians 5:19)
Hear then Christ’s word of grace to us:
‘Your sins are forgiven.’
Thanks be to God.
Let the peace of the place where ever you are, surround you as you pray. Let the hurry and worry of life fall away from you. You are God's child; he loves you and cares for you. He is here with you now and always. Speak to him and allow him time to speak to you. Lord, you know how busy we are.
We need to understand that God does not always answer our prayers at the same hectic rate that we try to live our lives. God has a plan, and often we don’t realise that he is working that plan for our advantage till much later. In these times of uncertainty, we should stop and take note of all that God does for us. First and foremost we have to be truly thankful for the wonderful country we live in, the freedom we enjoy, the relative safety we have, when compared to so many other places where life seems so cheap.
God of life, lead us to justice and peace; you are the very Source of our lives you created us in your own image, with dignity and worth you gave meaning and purpose for life , without you we cannot achieve full justice and peace. God of life, lead us from injustice and un-peace, to justice and peace;
We praise you O Lord for all that we see of you in the work of creation, the earth, the sea and sky and everything that has breath. You are worthy to be praised and we know that your promises are true. Lord God we are surrounded by blessings and our hearts are full of thanksgiving for all that you have done for us. Lord God we thank you for all of your faithfulness to us, and as your children, we praise your name.
We pray for the Uniting Church and the people who Minister in it .Fill them with your Spirit, that they may faithfully preach the gospel .We especially pray for Richie, our Minister, who is having a 2 week holiday. May he and his wife enjoy what they do and keep safe as they travel
We pray for politicians as they serve our country during this pandemic . We thank you for the right choices that have been made for everyone’s safety.
We pray for those we know who are sick and not well within our Church family, and for those whom we know need your loving hands laid upon them
We commend to you Father, ourselves and each other, our families, our neighbours and our friends. We may not be able to see our families, those far away at the moment but give us patience to look after each other in these uncertain times. Enable us by your Spirit to live in love for one another and for you.
We ask these prayers in your name, and through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Let us join together where ever we are, in the prayer that God has taught us:
THE LORD’S PRAYER.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Genesis 22:1-14 (NRSA)
The Command to Sacrifice Isaac
22 After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ 2 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.’ 3 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. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. 5 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.’ 6 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. 7 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?’ 8 Abraham said, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt-offering, my son.’ So the two of them walked on together.
9 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. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ 12 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.’ 13 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. 14 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.’
Matthew 10:40-42 (NRSA)
40 ‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’
Abraham and Isaac – Genesis 22:1-14
Today’s reading from Genesis is probably familiar to you, but it’s also quite disturbing: God calls Abraham to sacrifice his son. And God even emphasises how big a sacrifice it is: “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love…”
This is not what we expect from God, is it? God who made us, God who loves us, God who saves us. And here, God goes to his faithful servant Abraham, and tells him to kill his son.
What can we make of this? What does it mean for us today? Do we worry that God is going to ask us to do something similar?
Well, the reading begins, “After these things….” So it’s worth thinking about what those things were. While we do have a reasonable amount of detail on Abraham’s life recorded in the book of Genesis, immediately before our reading, in chapter 21, we have the birth of Isaac – the long promised son of Abraham and Sarah, the sending away of Ishmael (who was Abraham’s son by Hagar), and the treaty with the nearby kings Abimelech.
“After these things” implies that some time had passed, and some translations use “Some time later”, but we don’t know how long and we don’t know how old Isaac was. Traditionally, we picture him as a ‘boy’, and that was certainly the impression I got when first heard this story in Sunday School. All we know is, according to verse 6, Isaac was now old enough to carry “the wood of the burnt offering.” It may be that that Isaac was a young man at the time. We just don’t know.
And then we read that “…God tested Abraham….” And it seems that God’s testing of Abraham was to show the faith and faithfulness of Abraham. God gave this test to Abraham to see if he would follow his instruction. But… to sacrifice a child?
[God] 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.”
The command that God gave to Abraham was a complex one: it wasn’t simply ‘kill your son’ and to follow it didn’t just require obedience, but it required an ongoing commitment to the command. Take Isaac, go to another land, and sacrifice him in a particular way, in a particular place.
God’s test is hard for us to come to grips with. It just seems so foreign to how we encounter God. But if it’s hard for us, imagine what must it have been like for Abraham? Because, after all, we know that it all turns out right in the end.
God’s order would have been terrifying to Abraham, but also – on the face of it at least – entirely out of character for God who Abraham knew very well. After all, Isaac was the son God had promised to Abraham. God had given Isaac to Abraham against all likelihood.
And now God wanted Abraham to offer his son as a burnt offering?
I don’t know about you, but I would be keen to have a conversation with God about such a request. That’s putting it mildly: I would be arguing with God. I would be coming up with all sorts of reasons not to sacrifice Isaac. And I’d try and find a loophole in God’s request.
But Abraham doesn’t argue, he doesn’t try to convince God that God is wrong, he doesn’t try to find a loophole or a way around God’s request. In fact, Abraham doesn’t say anything – instead we read that obediently “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.” (22:3)
How do you think Abraham was feeling? He had a long time to think about it – we learn in the next verse that it was a three-day journey.
We know how the story ends, but for Abraham there would have been two possibilities:
Firstly, that God had changed. That the kind and loving and faithful God that Abraham knew, was no longer kind and loving and faithful. That God had given him Isaac, and now God had decided to take him away – and be so mean that he would make Abraham do it himself. Surely that possibility had weighed on Abraham’s mind on that journey.
But there was a second possibility, too. That God hadn’t changed – that God was being loving in testing Abraham. After all, Abraham had doubted God before – he didn’t think God would deliver he and Sarah a child as God had promised, and Abraham had doubted God and gone and had a child by Hagar.
Abraham had not trusted God in that, so maybe now he realised he should…Maybe he should trust God, even when given a seemingly terrible command.
Whatever was going on Abraham’s mind, he kept trusting God, he kept going for those three days, to within sight of the mountain in Moriah. Abraham trusted in God, even though he didn’t know what God’s plan was. He had faith in God. His experience was that God was good, and he had faith that God would continue to be good.
Throughout Abraham’s life, God had shown Abraham that he could be trusted, so Abraham believed God and obeyed him, even though he could not understand the how God would resolve the situation.
We don’t typically receive clear and concise instructions from God (at least, not verbally), but I’m sure we’ve all had times in our lives when God’s solutions aren’t obvious. And times when following God’s commands seems crazy. People sometimes say things like “A loving God wouldn’t let this thing happen”… but maybe a loving God would.
After all, human reasoning says that a loving God wouldn’t command his follower to sacrifice his son, would he? But a loving God did give his follower that command. (We do need to remember that in the end Abraham didn’t need to make the sacrifice of his son, though – God did provide a way out).
In fact it’s just like human reasoning says that all powerful God wouldn’t sacrifice his own son to save his fallen creation.
So Abraham, Isaac and the young men get to within sight of the mountain, and Abraham tells the young men “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.”
Note what Abraham says: We will worship, and then we will come back to you.
He was following God’s command – and although God’s command including sacrificing Isaac, he was also trusting that God would provide some way to look after Isaac.
We will worship, and then we (both of us: Isaac and I) will come back to you.
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews tells us, “By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom he had been told, “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.” He considered the fact that God is able even to raise someone from the dead—and figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” (Hebrews 11:17–19)
So Abraham and Isaac went up the mountain, and we read that…
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…” (22:6-8a)
While Abraham had faith in God, I’m sure that there were some doubts nibbling away at the edges of his mind too. Even as he said “God himself will provide the lamb” I’m sure he would have been only too aware that God himself had provided Isaac.
When Abraham and Isaac came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood (22:9).
Up until this point, I’ve been focused on what Abraham would have been thinking, but what about Isaac?
Isaac let his dad tie him up and lay him on the altar. There’s no indication that he argued or resisted. Instead, it seems he trusted Abraham just as Abraham had trusted God.
And Abraham continued to trust God going as far – as we read in verse 10 – to reached out his hand and take the knife to slaughter his son. His son, who was compliantly lying there.
This was the last moment. Every bit of faith that Abraham had in God had led him to that moment and he was ready to take his son’s life.
But God saved him: “But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am” “(22:11b).
Which is what happened at the start of our reading. God said “Abraham!” and Abraham said “Here I am.”This time the Angel says “Abraham!” and Abraham again says “Here I am”.
The angel says to “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.”
‘Fearing God’ is always an interesting concept. It’s not so much about being afraid of God – it’s more about being in awe of God. Knowing God’s power. Knowing God’s love. Knowing God’s ability to do the seemingly impossible. And responding to God with obedience.
That’s what Abraham experiences here. He’d trusted and obeyed God all the way to the point of having a knife at the throat of his son, and God’s love and power delivered a way out:
Verse 13 says, “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.”
God had provided. Abraham had faith that God would provide, but he had no idea how God would provide.
At the end of our reading we heard that “…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.””
In that moment, the most important thing that God provided Isaac was that ram, but everything that Abraham had came from God. Abraham understood that.
And so it is for us too. All that we have comes from God.
You’ll probably remember those lines inspired by 1 Corinthians 12 in induction and commissioning services:
There are diverse gifts:
but it is the same Spirit who gives them.
There are different ways of serving God:
but it is the same Lord who is served.
God works through people in different ways:
but it is the same God
whose purpose is achieved through them all.
Each one of us is given a gift by the Spirit
and there is no gift without its corresponding service.
We need to think about the gifts we have – whether spiritual or material – and think about what our corresponding service might be. I’m pretty sure that we won’t be asked to sacrifice our children, but we will be asked to make sacrifices.
We have heard today the example of Abraham’s faithfulness. He trusted God even though he couldn’t see what the resolution would be. And it’s the same with us – we need to trust God, even though we can’t see what the resolution to the problems of our lives and of our world might be.
And we can look beyond Abraham’s faithfulness to Jesus’ own faithfulness. We read in Paul’s letter to the Philippians that he “he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.”
And just like Abraham did not withhold his only son from God, God did not withhold his only son from us: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Abraham’s faithfulness, trust and obedience are important. But far more important is God’s faithfulness to provide everything for those who turn to him in faith.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us,
let us use them:
whoever contributes, with generosity;
whoever gives help, with enthusiasm;
whoever does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:6, 8)
And we pray:
We praise you, Lord Jesus Christ, for your generosity:
you were rich, yet for our sake you became poor,
so that through your poverty we might become rich.
With our praise, O Lord, accept the gifts of our lives,
and use them for the enrichment of others
and for the glory of your name.
May the God of steadfastness and encouragement
grant you to live in harmony with one another,
in accordance with Christ Jesus,
so that together you may with one voice
glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; (Romans 15:5-6)
and may almighty God bless you,
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Hymns for this week:
Looking Out: Live One Love
Next week (5 July):
Lectionary: Psalm 45:10-17 or Song of Solomon 2:8-13 or Psalm 145:8-14
Gen 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67 or Zechariah 9:9-12
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
For worship: Psalm 145:8-14, Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
Theme: “A burden or a yoke?”