Friday, March 21, 2008

A Type of Story

On Good Friday I try to think different thoughts. And this week I've been thinking a lot about Abraham and Isaac, a story of a man being given the precious and unlikely gift of a son in his old age and then being willing to take him up a mountain and slay him because he heard God telling him to. It's in Genesis 22.

How do we make sense of a god who required a man to slay his son? We don't, because he didn't. The story goes on to tell how, at the last minute, Isaac was reprieved and a ram was slain instead.

How do we make sense of a man who thought he heard god telling him to slay his son? Whether he did or not a call from Isaac to Child-line is but a moment away if we forget to wander back to the Middle Bronze Age as we read.

Abraham lived in a culture where child sacrifice was not uncommon. The voice he heard was the voice of his culture saying 'This is what you must do.'

On top of the mountain he heard a different voice saying things had changed. Whether he heard the clear voice of God as written or simply his own head saying, 'This can't be right' we don't know. But he changed. Abraham - the man who went up the mountain a Canaanite and came down a Yahwist. Or something.

In amongst the myths, legends and smattering of historicity that are the patriarchal narratives we can take great comfort in the fact that these heroes of the faith are a dysfunctional bunch who mishear, cheat, connive and lie.

And as we ponder today and remember another, greater occasion, when it appears God required a son's sacrifice (this time voluntarily) we need to be careful to reverence not the bloodthirsty god of the Canaanites but the loving abba of all creation. Suffering can never be understood as what God wants. It can be made sense of as God in the middle of it. He gave him (son and self) over and didn't intervene.

Where is the truth? Take your shoes and socks off brothers and sisters it's just around the corner.

2 comments:

Mr Gnome said...

VG, Rev St.

Helpful and thoughtful.

If Abe had had a car the journey home could have been a yahwist drive....

Mike Peatman said...

Abraham & Isaac: a conversion story - it's the only way I can cope with that narrative too, Steve.