“Yes, I’m Listening” July 2, 2023
“Yes, I’m Listening”
A child asked his father, “How were people born?” So his father said, “Adam and Eve made babies, then their babies became adults and made babies, and so on.” The child then went to his mother, asked her the same question and she told him, “We were monkeys then we evolved to become like we are now.” The child ran back to his father and said, “You lied to me!” His father replied, “No, your mom was talking about her side of the family.”
Last week, we touched upon the fact That so many of the stories found in scripture are just… well let’s face it: They are fairly difficult to process. I can only imagine how many thousands of arguments and discussions Have sprang up because one party believes These biblical writings are historically accurate while the other party believes them to be Great poetry and wisdom writings, But nothing more. Our reading today about Abraham and Isaac is one of those stories. I’ve often thought that this story is a classic example of the fickle finger of fame. It’s ironic, don’t you think, that Abraham, who is known for so many wonderful things, should be best known for being the guy who was willing to kill his own son simply because the Lord commanded it. It’s a tough one. It’s especially rough when from the very beginning, this story tears at your heart. Whether you have children or not, We can’t help but to imagine how it might feel to actually have to make that decision and then to make the commitment to follow through.
Fortunately, This is something we should never have to face. But all the same, the story of Abraham and Isaac is still part of our story. That someone might exist whose faith and trust in God was so complete that his obedience was automatic; well, that is inspiring and frightening at the same time. But, like I said before, these are the stories that belong to us. The tricky part, I suppose, is how we tell them.
Last Sunday, I spoke a bit about the importance of understanding the context of other people’s beliefs. For example: it is going to be almost impossible to teach the absolute love of God to someone who has been taught a God of vengeance and punishment all their lives. By the same token, I have to wonder how the story of Abraham and Isaac is received by these different camps, or contexts, if you will. For those who prefer a God of retribution, you could say that Abraham was being set up here. He was being set up to fail and if not for his obedience to God, he would have failed miserably. For those who prefer a God of judgment, the testing of Abraham is full of possibilities.
But here’s the thing: For we who preach a loving God: a God of mercy and forgiveness; a God of grace; We might understand things differently. And that. my friends. Is the real power of our faith.
If an angry And vengeful God were to send us off to sacrifice our first born—Well, I can only speak for myself here, but I believe I would take a pass.
The God of Abraham, however, was a God of love. He is a God of love and compassion and mercy and that makes all the difference in the world.
It was Delmer Chilton, my favorite Lutheran, who shared this story with us last week. “Reaching the end of a job interview, the Human Resources Officer asks a young engineer fresh out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “And what starting salary are you looking for?” The engineer replies, “In the region of $125,000 a year, depending on the benefits package.” The interviewer inquires, “Well, what would you say to a package of five weeks vacation, 14 paid holidays, full medical and dental, company matching retirement fund to 50% of salary, and a company car leased every two years, say, a red Corvette?” The engineer sits up straight and says, “Wow! Are you kidding?” The interviewer replies, “Yeah, but you started it.”
Now the reason I’m sharing this with you, besides the fact I thought it was really funny – is because ‘Are you kidding?’ were the words we expected to come out of Abraham’s mouth, but they never did. No, they never did and even though we tend to get a little queasy hearing how it was that Abraham gathered up his knife and firewood and a flint to start a fire, we could handle that. These Bible stories can get bizarre, you know.
But when Abraham had tied up his own son and laid him on the altar that he built, and when Abraham actually holds the knife to the boy’s throat; that’s when I have to say, “are you kidding?” All seriousness prevails, however, and what we have left when it is all said and done is a remarkable story of how our love of God will lead to trust which leads to obedience which, in this case, leads to a beautiful demonstration of how a merciful God expresses his love.
22 After all this, God tested Abraham. God said, “Abraham!”
“Yes?” answered Abraham. “I’m listening.” ‘Yes, Lord, I’m listening’
you have to wonder, that if old Abe had any sort of a clue what God was going to ask of him he might not have answered quite as quickly as he did. ‘Yes, Lord, I’m listening’ and; such a simple response, and yet I couldn’t get it out of my head.
And so on this day, the 5th Sunday after Pentecost. I would like to ask this question of you all, and that is, What do you do when God calls out to you? Now, I really don’t want to put anyone on the spot here, so let me qualify the question by answering it myself; what do I do when God calls out to me? And the answer, I’m afraid to say, is that when God calls out to me I do a lot of congratulating; I plot and I calculate; I try my darndest to discern what it all means. But do I listen? Not really. I talk and hope that God listens. What I mean to say is that since I have returned from the land of nurses and doctors and hospital beds, I have made a point of practicing A discipline of morning prayer. And even though there are timesn when I don’t feel like I have much to offer up, I offer what’s left of me anyhow. In the course of this discipline I have noticed a few things. First of all, I’ve had to come to terms with a overinflated ego That would be pleased if God called me to some profound position. It would be pleased if God called me to any number of wonderful and glorious things. But the truth is, God has called me to prayer and I am grateful. I believe that prayer has gotten me through a lot in the last year.
“Abraham!” “Yes Lord, I am listening.”
So listen up people: we are the church and we are called upon every day. (Matt 10:40)Jesus calls to us to say: “Those who welcome you are welcoming me. And when they welcome me they are welcoming God who sent me.” It is our joy and it is our privilege to be the open arms and the hands and the feet and the body of our Lord Jesus Christ; and if you think about it, that might be considered a “are you kidding” statement all by itself.
And make no mistake, our God calls out to the church all the time.
“And how will we hear it? How will we know?” you might ask. This question it’s fairly easy to answer because when the church truly opens their arms and their hearts and their doors, then the wounded and the lost will eventually feel loved and comfortable in God’s house. What a privilege; what a blessing. And lastly, when God calls to the church, let’s not miss out. When God calls to the church to seek out the hopeless and the marginalized; let our response be, “yes Lord, we’re listening.”
Amen and Shalom