Pastor Sherry’s Message for June 28, 2020
Scriptures: Gen. 22:1-14; Ps 13; Ro 6:12-23; Matt 10:40-42
It appears that this has become the my summer of sermons beginning with songs. For example, two weeks ago, I cited a great hymn about the Trinity. Then last week, I quoted the lyrics from the theme song to the TV show, “Friends.” This week, I want to remind you of the old Frank Sinatra hit, “I did it my way.” You may remember that the song is a retrospective view of a man’s life as he considers his mortality:
For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels, and not the words of one who kneels.
The record show I took the blows, and did it my way.
These are the words of someone who is totally self-possessed, totally self-reliant, and very proud! These are the words of a person who has decided to live life on his own terms, without regard for God. The song is from the 1970‘s—in fact, Sinatra quipped that it was our real national anthem in 1974. Upon reflection, we realize it could easily still be so today.
If we let those lyrics sink in, we realize they celebrate a God-less perspective. Last week, I talked about how Abraham faced a difficult choice: Honor God (and his wife, Sarah) and run off Ishmael; or disobey God and keep his first born son close by (and ultimately threaten Isaac, the “child of promise.” Abraham passed the test (and God took care of Ishmael). This week, our Old Testament passage has Abraham face another test, his 4th. YIKES! In his 1st test, God told him to leave his home and family, in Ur, and go where the Lord would lead him. His 2nd test was Lot’s request that they divide the land to accommodate their growing herds, whereupon Abraham allowed the choicest land to go to Lot. The 3rd test was to set aside Ishmael to protect Isaac. And now, almost beyond belief, is God’s demand that he sacrifice that same child.
Doing life his way must have looked pretty good to Abraham by this point. He is now about 136 years old, and Isaac is either about 15 or some scholars believe he is as old as 30 (as Christ was when He began His public ministry). There will be no more children after Isaac from Abraham and Sarah. Abraham is also probably aware that child-sacrifice is abhorrent to God. Who knows what he was thinking as he and Isaac trudged toward their destination? Nevertheless, amazingly, Abraham submits his will to God’s.
Would we be so faith-filled or so obedient, do you think? This Old Testament lesson (Genesis 22:1-14) is again a rich fore-shadowing of Jesus: God sends Abe and Isaac to the region of Moriah.
This is the same ridge as the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (constructed much later). It also appears to be the same ridge as Golgatha, the site of the Crucifixion. There is to be a sacrifice of an only, precious son. It is a 3 day journey for them, as would be Jesus’ journey from death to resurrection.
God, at the last minute, provides the sacrificial animal. This is a male sheep, fully grown (a ram) because the Bible records only one “Lamb of God,” Jesus Christ! This story vividly demonstrates Abraham’s faithàvv.7-8àIsaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and the wood are here,” Isaac said, “But where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” It also establishes the precedent for substitutionary atonement, wherein Jesus took our place as He paid the penalty for our sins.
The test was “Will you do what I ask even if it costs you. What is most precious to you?” Remember last Sunday Jesus said (Matthew 19:37) we cannot love any person more than we love God?
Abraham is the Father of our faith because he—like Jesus later—did exactly what his heavenly Father asked of him. It should be obvious that this was a gut-wrenching choice. It should also be obvious that many of us would not have been willing to submit to God’s will in that situation. Many Biblical scholars hypothesize that Abraham believed God could resurrect Isaac–if it came to that—or somehow restore him. Actually, he had implied to the two servants that he and his son would meet back up with them. And he trusted that God would keep His promise to bring forth many nations from Abraham’s and Sarah’s bodies.
This is the best response to any test God may send us. It is to trust in what you know about God’s nature, even if you don’t understand what He is doing or why. Our best response is to trust in who God and in what He has promised us.
Our other passages today provide essentially the same message:
This is what David is saying in Psalm 13. He is weary of being pursued by a murderous King Saul, so he turns to God in prayer, admitting he is afraid even to sleep. But, by vv.5-6, he has reassured himself of God’s goodness and trustworthiness, and we get the sense that he relaxes.
Paul, in our Romans 6 lesson, reminds us that we all must choose whom we will serve. He says we either serve ourselves—our sinful nature—or we serve God. Additionally, if we choose to serve God, we cannot, by our own strength, successfully live a Christian life style. We need to approach the task with faith like Abraham’s. We need the assistance of the Holy Spirit at work in and empowering us.
Jesus, in Matthew 10:40-42, also commends the role of faith and obedience. We participate in God’s work when we do even small acts of service to others. Additionally, we are not to be overwhelmed by the size of the task. Instead, we recognize in faith that God has called us to a given task; then we recognize in faith that God will enable us to do what He has called us to. Finally, trusting in the Holy Spirit rather than in ourselves, we partner with Him to put forth our best effort.
Think today of the times and ways that God has tested you:
Perhaps you have given back an overpayment at the cash register. Maybe you have held yourself back from taking from social services or the government what you know you don’t truthfully deserve. Possibly you are scrupulous abut providing a full day’s effort for a full day’s pay. Or, perhaps
if a group of folks were looting the Dollar General Store up the road, rather than joining in with them—even if you thought the police wouldn’t arrest you—you gather friends to intervene and prevent further unlawful mayhem and destruction. And we are all presented with the choice, aren’t we, to cheat on our taxes or our spouse?
There appear today to be many, many opportunities to do
the wrong thing. But as followers of Jesus Christ we don’t go the way of the crowd. We don’t even do it “my way” (according to our will, our flesh). No, to please our loving Father and our Lord, Jesus Christ, we choose to do things God’s way. This week (and always), let’s pray for the strength and courage to make choices, every day, that please our God.
©2020 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams