What kind of God would ask a father to kill his son. Abraham and Isaac, always a confusing confession of faith for us. But, is it not the event but the context that makes a difference? Events come and go, but the context of our lives, lives with us our whole life long. Sounds baffling. It shouldn’t be. It’s life’s twists and turns that makeup and help us define our lives.
God asks Hosea to marry a prostitute. Ummm, interesting of our Creator to do that. How about the command to lie on your side for over a year to prophesy the fall of Jerusalem. (Ezekiel)
That’s nothing. How about planning the perfect wedding, exchanging vows on the shores of Lake Michigan. Beautiful Saturday afternoon, 4:30, Sheboygan. Except no one reminded us about the winds that time of day as sands fills our clothes and hair. We hurry to a hallway to exchange those sacred vows because the ballroom wasn’t ready yet. The couple always now has a ready-made story to tell their friends.
Then there’s that misnamed story, “The Prodigal Son.” It’s not about the crazy, wild kid; it’s about the crazy, enduring love of the dad. Kill the fatted calf for the son who took half of your inheritance? An inheritance he wasn’t entitled to? So much for retiring at Alexian Village.
Speaking of the calf. There’s a lamb in the Abraham/Isaac story. More twists and turns. In the Christian tradition, the entire Bible points to Jesus, which is especially true of Abraham/Isaac. ‘This passage is like a lock,” one author writes. “Jesus is the key that unlocks it for us. Think about the parallels between this story and the story of Jesus. Both Isaac and Jesus are ‘beloved sons’ who have been long-awaited and are born in miraculous circumstances. Both sons carry the wood that is to be the instrument of their deaths on their backs. In both cases, the father leads the son, and the son obediently follows toward his own death. God provides the sacrifice, which Abraham says will be a lamb. Jesus was also an innocent son who went willingly up the mountain to be crucified.” “Lamb of God,” anyone?
There’s your quick crash course in Biblical Theology. Having lunch with a good friend on Friday, she tells me that the void of her husband’s death, after over forty years of marriage, is filled now with her young grandchildren. Her second bedroom is filled with toys and dolls for their often overnight visits. Twists and turns, or is it turns and twists? Sometimes, I get confused.
We still sillingly (I know it’s not an earthly word, but it’s my new Christian word); we still sillingly believe in this linear trip through life. “A leads to B” which soon will become “C.” If you say that when you’re twenty, then I will understand you. If you’re over forty, then you should know better. Those “A’s” and “B’s” can be loaded with a whole bunch of “Z’s.” Good and bad “Z.” It’s called a surprise when you’re happy. It’s called a shock when unhappy. In faith, it is all wrapped up in the mystery and understood as best as you can. Surprise, shock, and mystery.
What about what’s-his-name who spent three days in the belly of a whale? Nice way to spend a weekend, don’t you think? Or, does it connect Christ’s three hours of death on the cross and his three days in the tomb. Or, is it Lent’s three pillars of praying, fasting, and almsgiving? Gee, I’m not sure about measuring life’s time, but I’m entirely convinced in living and honoring my Christian life of faith.
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote in his song, “What our senses fail to fathom, let us grasp through faith’s consent.” I love that verse.
One personal caution when you leave church today. The expression, “there’s always a reason” works for dismissing the context of your life. There is not always a reason. And, we can argue about the expression of “it’s God will” for hours but again it minuses our involvement. God is not the wizard behind the curtain and I don’t own a pair of ruby slippers.
I recently learned that a parish director was planned to replace Debbie, but here I am. Second choice? Call me “Fr. Leftovers?” Or a turn and twist that somehow has meaning not in its event but within a context. The event is called life. The context is called the Christian experience. Our own Andy was ready to enjoy retirement (A to B) until a glitch caused him to return to his favorite parish. Surprise, shock and mystery? Sometimes, it can happily all happen together.
I’m confident that many of you have human episodes that broadly and profoundly contain a spiritual relationship. Events that happen with a context to be lived. Place those events within a spiritual connection to our Creator and then watch how the miracle of life becomes a holy and worthy life.
How about this one? A hardly teenage girl is honored as not only the mother of our Savior but God’s mom.