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A Nasty Little Bit of a Tale: Reflections on Genesis 22:1-14

But now God demands his own son as a sacrifice? Genesis 22:1 calls this terrible demand a "test," a sort of trial to see whether Abe is worthy of God's choice of him as the founder of Israel. And now the loquacious Abraham is silent. He was ready and eager to save Sodom with his clever arguments; now he has nothing to say to God's monstrous demand to stab his son to death to fulfill the test.

This plainly will not do in any age, but surely not in an age when the abuse of children and women is splashed on the front pages of our papers daily. As much as I get the purpose of the telling of this story—that we are to trust God, that we are not to depend on any earthly thing to secure our place in the world—when God asks for the son, God asks too much; I will not participate in such an abusive story again.

In short, this story has become for me far too terrible to use in an act of preaching. Never again will I preach a sermon based on this story, unless I use it to repudiate its horrors in as stark and powerful a way as I can conjure up. We preachers must learn to speak of the demands of faith without resorting to stories that employ the abuse and murder of a child to make a point. My own son has taught me many things, but that lesson is one I needed to learn from him perhaps most of all.

As always in these articles, I speak only for myself, but I urge you to look with great care at this famous story and to ask yourself whether it can be preached in a modern world that cries out for aid for abuse victims too many to number and name.

6/22/2014 4:00:00 AM