1st Scripture Reading: Genesis 22:1-14 & Psalm 13
It is good to be back here with you. But it was good to have a little time for rest and to get caught up on all the little things that seem to get put off for ever and ever!
I have been reminded over and over again this last month how good it is to live here – to live in this blessed part of God’s Creation. I have seen whales – so many sightings this year! I have hung two hummingbird feeders and have trouble keeping them full! I have planted my little garden and watched my beans come up! My driveway has new gravel and is ready for the tourists and family members who are coming to stay at my place this summer. Life is very good here on Texada. The problems of famine, terrorism, pollution, racism, and violence that seem to plague the rest of the world do not seem to trouble us much. Phyllis’s son Ian caught a good-sized ling cod just out here during his short visit last week. I feel God’s presence with every breath, with every passing day.
As I was preparing to write this reflection, and thinking about Abraham walking to a mountain to sacrifice his only son, the words kept coming to me from our New Creed: “to live with respect in Creation.”
I’d like us to take a moment to read this set of beliefs together, and I remind you all that if you don’t believe these things, then please don’t agree to them. You are a sovereign being, made in the image of the Creator. None of us has the right to tell you what you should believe. There are a number of creeds out there that you might be asked at times to acquiesce to. I invite you to apply the same principle of careful discernment to these as I am asking you to do to this New Creed of the United Church of Canada.
Let us read slowly together the New Creed:
We are not alone, we live in God’s world.
We believe in God: who has created and is creating, who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh, to reconcile and make new, who works in us and others by the Spirit.
We trust in God.
We are called to be the Church: to celebrate God’s presence, to live with respect in Creation, to love and serve others, to seek justice and resist evil, to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen, our judge and our hope.
In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us.
We are not alone. Thanks be to God.
Now I would like us all to think about how these words might relate to our reading from Genesis this morning. Can you see any connection? Please turn to one other person near you and have a little discussion about that question. About 2 minutes.....
That was tough wasn’t it? What kind of God would ask a loving father to kill his own child? What kind of parent would willing murder his own offspring?
Maybe God wants Abraham to see how much he loves God. Maybe God wants us to understand that our kinship and tribal ties, important as they are to us, are not as important as our spiritual life, our relationship with the Creator.
How would we have felt about this God if Abraham had actually had to go thru with this ritual sacrifice? But he didn’t – and God didn’t make him. In fact, God stopped him at the last minute, and provided a substitute.
How would we have felt about Abraham if he had gone thru with the killing of his son? Is it right for us to sacrifice our children on some altar of our own need?
“to live with respect in Creation”... those words are still ringing in my head. What might it mean to live with respect in God’s created world? A world of whales, otters, kingfishers and ling cod. Do we adults have the right to desecrate the natural world, the inheritance of our children, on the altar of our rampant consumerism?
Or are we called to “live with respect in Creation” – to steward and care for this world that God so loves, this world without which our children have no future?
We are fortunate. We have not been left without guidance. God is with us. Jesus is our guide and our companion along the Way. And Holy Spirit whispers daily in our ears. We have only to listen, to understand, and to act. God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.
Hymn #227 VU “For the Fruits of All Creation”
2nd Scripture Reading: Matthew 10:34-42
Upon my own reflection for this morning, I have extended the lectionary reading from Matthew to include verses 34-39, as well as verses 40-42.
Once again, we have a reading that doesn’t necessarily make us comfortable. Jesus is here quoted as saying, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” He then goes on to detail the family relationships that must be superceded if the right spiritual stance is to be taken.
In biblical times, and in some countries even today, tribal and family relationships were paramount. If a family member dishonoured the family, particularly its elders, then that person could be disposed of in some way: banished, killed, or punished. There was no outside authority to appeal to within the confines of such a group: the group’s decision, based on tradition and a code of honour , was law.
This is strange and alien to us, but would not have been to Jesus and his followers. “Those who find their life (within the confines of the tribe) will lose it, and those who lose their life (banishment or persecution) for my sake (for following my teachings) will find it (new life).” Not hard to see how disruptive this all would have been for the cultural norms of the day.
So there is new life with Jesus. And he is quick to point out that the ones who choose the spiritual life are like him. “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” And all of these who have been saved by following the teachings of Jesus, all of these are children of God, and all who recognize their value by offering even a glass of cool water, all those are also valued and will be rewarded.
The question for each of us might be: “Where do I stand?” Am I standing on my own two feet, making choices and decisions as a follower of Jesus, or am I bowing to the will of others and losing my God-given life? Of course we love our families and our friends, but I say again: we are sovereign beings made in the image of the Creator. If we give away our power to anyone but God, then we have lost our way.
Come, let us sing to the Lord our God.
Hymn #222 VU “Come Let Us Sing”