Year A – Proper 9 – Genesis 22:1-14

Genesis 22:1-14: After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt-offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.’ So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt-offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.’ Abraham took the wood of the burnt-offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, ‘Father!’ And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ He said, ‘The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?’ Abraham said, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt-offering, my son.’ So the two of them walked on together. When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’ And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt-offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place ‘The Lord will provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’

Summary and Insight –  This is one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture.  As with last week’s OT reading, the moral of the story is in the last line.  This is the story of our God comforting Isaac.  Also like last week’s reading, this passage highlights the drama of God’s faithfulness.  To get a true sense of chapter 24, you may want to review 23 which is all about the death and burial of Sarah.  When she died, Abraham, had to go out of his way to find a small piece of land to buy in order to bury his wife.  Remember, this is the man who has already been promised all of the land by God.  Then for several years, his promised son is unable to shake the grief of his mother’s death.  He was forty years old, living in the Negeb [desert] and still walking the fields at night in sorrow for his mother.  And this is the son through whom God promised Abraham he’d beget innumerable descendants!  But God was faithful to fulfill His promise, and in grand fashion.  He did so not only to display His greatness and glory, but also His compassion.  He turned the son of laughter from his tears and He is also a God not unaffected by our sufferings.  He bids us come and find rest and comfort in Him. Hallelujah, our God is a God of comfort!  Perhaps now would be a good time to reflect upon and share those times when you have seen Him restore comfort to you or those you know.

Discussion – How many years elapsed between Sarah’s death and Isaac’s marriage?  Why would someone like Isaac have been so grief-stricken at the loss of his mother?  How does this picture of Isaac differentiate him from the other patriarchs, Abraham and Jacob?  How much water can a thirsty camel drink after a long journey?

Prayer – Heavenly Father, we praise You for Your perfect  faithfulness, even when we are faithless.  We pray that You would comfort our sorrows and cause us to be like You in service to a grieving world.  Thank You for Your Fatherly caring.  Help us to cast all our cares upon You, by the power of Your Spirit, Who is our Comforter, and in the name of Your Son, our Lord, in Whom we find rest.  Amen.
Contributed by Pastor Ben Rossell

Year A – Proper 7 – Genesis 21:8-21

Genesis 21:8–21 – The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. 9 But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. 10 So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” 11 The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. 12 But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. 13 As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.” 14 So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. 15 When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. 17 And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. 18 Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” 19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink. 20 God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. 21 He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

Summary and Insight – There are several beautiful and powerful themes in this passage: a father’s sacrificing his son, a man asked to give everything, God testing of His people, faith in life and the resurrection, and the substitution of one sacrifice for another.  The main focus of the author’s conclusion here is timing.  God loves to put together a plan that tests and strengthens the faith of His people by timing.  James tells us that trials produce patience in us.  It was not until the very moment the angel’s voice stayed Abraham’s knife on the mountain that the entangled ram caught his peripheral vision.  Do you love ninth-inning grand-slams and last-minute victories?  This is something of the image of God in you.  And it’s often how God works His will in the world for our good and His glory.  When you are in the midst of a trial and it does not occur to you how God will see you through, take heart; wait on the Lord and hope in His deliverance.  Hear this and be encouraged: On the mount it shall be provided.

Discussion –  There is a great dejavu line, where Abraham lifts up his eyes – can you find both of them and notice the redemptive pattern?  How many days did this test take?  Why is this number significant?  Take the time to think back over the last few years.  How many times can you remember when God provided for you “on the mount”, at the fullness of time?  Perhaps you can spend some time as a family sharing these with each other – what a wonderful narrative treasure for parents to pass on to their children and grandchildren.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, You are sovereign and good.  We praise You for the way You provide for and deliver us, Your people.  Give us a mighty faith to wait on You and trust in You through Your times of testing.  Teach us to fear You faithfully like our father Abraham.  Thank You for the final deliverance You have already granted us in Christ Jesus, Who was both, Your slain Son and the Ram Who replaced us on the mount.  For it is in His strong name we pray and give thanks, Amen.
Submitted by Pastor Ben Rossell

Year B – Proper 28 – My Soul Now Bless Thy Maker (Psalm 103)

The wonderful hymn-like version of Psalm 103 in Cantus Christi hymnal is “My Soul, Now Bless Thy Maker” by Johann Gramann, 1487-1541. This hymn was written early in the Reformation, about 1525 and the melodious and joyful tune comes from Augsburg in 1540. The text was translated by Catherine Winkworth, 1863. It is a great encouragement to remember that our Covenant Lord “leaves no sufferer friendless, But rights the wronged at last.”

1. My soul, now bless thy Maker!
Let all within me bless His name
Who maketh thee partaker
Of mercies more than thou dar’st claim.
Forget Him not whose meekness
Still bears with all thy sin,
Who healeth all thy weakness,
Renews thy life within;
Whose grace and care are endless
And saved thee through the past;
Who leaves no sufferer friendless,
But rights the wronged at last.

2. He shows to man His treasure
Of judgment, truth, and righteousness,
His love beyond all measure,
His yearning pity o’er distress,
Nor treats us as we merit,
But lays His anger by,
The humble, contrite spirit
Finds His compassion nigh;
And high as heaven above us,
As break from close of day,
So far, since He doth love us,
He puts our sins away.

3. For as a tender father
Hath pity on his children here,
He in His arms will gather
All who are His in childlike fear.
He knows how frail our powers
Who but from dust are made;
We flourish like the fowers,
And even so we fade;
The wind but o’er them passes,
And all their bloom is o’er,-
We wither like the grasses,
Our place knows us no more.

4. God’s grace alone endureth,
And children’s children yet shall prove
How He with strength assureth
The hearts of all that seek His love.
In heaven is fixed His dwelling,
His rule is over all;
Angels, in might excelling,
Bright hosts, before Him fall.
Praise Him, who ever reigneth,
All ye who hear His Word,
Nor our poor hymns disdaineth-
My soul, oh, bless the Lord!

 

Year B – Proper 11 – Mark 6:30–34, 53–56

Mark 6:30–34, 53–56 NRSV –    The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 6:31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 6:32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 6:33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 6:34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 6:53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. 6:54 When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, 6:55 and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 6:56 And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

Summary – This passage shows Jesus being overwhelmed by the needs of the crowds during these days. As the disciples have gone out in His name, now their is greater demand for Jesus’s personal ministry of healing. In this setting Jesus seeks to pull away from the crowds and permit the disciples rest, since “they had no leisure even to eat.” However the crowds continue to impress their needs upon him so much so that their plan to get away was halted when everyone hurried their after them. Mark is drawing our attention in this context of busyness to Jesus’s compassionate response. “As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (34).

Insight – How do you respond to increasing demands on your time, energy and availability? In our day we speak of being overworked, stressed out, frazzled, burning the candle at both ends and fried. Jesus and the disciples are very overwhelmed but the response of Jesus is one of compassion.  He acted selflessly even in the context of physical stress. Because of His compassion He evidenced God’s power through Him so that the last word is, “And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.” All who came into contact with Jesus received God’s healing power. When we display compassion in the chaos of our stresses, God’s power also touches others.

Catechism – How did Jesus view the crowds? He viewed them with compassion since they were like sheep without a shepherd.

Discussion – When you are overwhelmed how do you respond to people around you? What are some ways to respond compassionately to others?

Prayer – Father of our Lord Jesus, we praise you that you sent to us a compassionate Shepherd in the Lord Jesus. We ask that you would make us more like Him as we continue to trust in the full healing he provided through the cross and resurrection. In Christ’s Name, Amen.