Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Year B Epiphany 4 WED Points of Deliverance

Year B Epiphany 4 WEDNESDAY, 31 January 2018
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“Points of Deliverance”

Genesis 22:1-18
Hebrews 11: 23-31
John 6:52-59

This morning we have three very different tales, all surrounding a central theme. As I was going through the lectionary readings, I was struck at how pivotal these moments were.

The Genesis passage is a turning point of the Hebrew Scriptures. Often called the Binding of Isaac, because that is as far as it got, thanks be to God. Abraham felt led to sacrifice his son. And scholars may debate if this was a call from God or from the cultural expectations of the surrounding Canaanite culture. For a man who had waited so long for a son and heir, these acts seem unthinkable, and that is just one of a thousand reasons this is unthinkable. Yet, here they are, trudging up the mount to give sacrifice, and Isaac asks "Where is the sacrifice?", and Abraham must stay quiet.

Archaeologists help us know the defining nature of this act by the mosaics often found in unearthed synagogues. In ancient worship spaces, they still had the niche, the ark for the Torah scroll, central just like it is today in synagogues. But in many, they have found mosaics in tile of this story. Isaac bound on the wood and stones, Abraham with knife raised, and then a ram with horns caught in the bush there, too.

This was a test, if you read it as given, and Abraham passed. Jehovah Jireh, God [the LORD] will provide. We cannot miss, from a Christian vantage point, Isaac carrying the wood and the knife just as Christ did. According to tradition, this hilltop, Mount Moriah is the same hill that the Temple of Solomon was built on. Makes one think…

The Hebrews passage summarizes the story of Moses birth, and the whole salvation history of the Exodus. All of these again, point to Jehovah Jireh, “The LORD will provide.” Over and over again, God intervenes for the salvation history of God’s people. I loved one phrase here, “He [Moses] considered abuse suffered for the Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt.” By Faith he was led to that choice, just like Abraham was led to Moriah with Isaac.

And then we come to John’s passage, with Jesus teaching in Capernaum. It is this language which so many outside the Church find so confusing, gruesome and gory, this teachers of love and peace starts babbling on about blood and flesh. But we who have ears to hear, get past the metaphor, as gruesome and gory as it may be, and it is like Isaac asking, “Where is the lamb?” Yet here, Jesus is both characters in the story, Abraham the one called and Isaac the sacrifice all in one.

The first two readings for today are about deliverance. The third reading is about OUR deliverance. The original manna, bread in the desert, was just food for the people, and those people died. Jesus gives us the true manna, the manna from heaven, as we come to his table, invited by him, the willing sacrifice for the whole world. The point of deliverance is for us. And the offer still stands. Jesus gave himself for you, because he loves you so much he would do anything for you. And he did.

Jesus is not the victim of a killing. Jesus is the Victor over Death itself, and he invites us still to follow him. Amen.

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Blessings, Rock