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Carrying the fire and the knife

by davesandel on July 1st, 2021

Thursday, July 1, 2021                       (today’s lectionary)

Carrying the fire and the knife

Our God is in heaven; whatever he wills, he does. God put Abraham to the test. Take your son Isaac and offer him up as a burnt offering.

Oh, how we love our kids. Mary Kay’s daughter Kelsey is coming this week for a visit, all the way from France and Sweden. Her mom had a great idea, because this week was also our mother’s 99th birthday. So she asked the cakemakers at Sam’s Club to create a cake with HAPPY 99TH BIRTHDAY, MOM! on one side of the cake, and WELCOME HOME, KELSEY! on the other. Oh, yes, how we love our kids!

Yesterday Andi came to spend a few hours with her own mom, as she does almost every day while Margaret recovers from the depths of  heart surgery in Ascension Seton. Room 372’s atmosphere immediately became more joyous and restful when Andi arrived. The three of us are developing the habit (I think, thanks to Andi) of praying together before I leave. Last night’s prayer time was especially satisfying, as we thanked God for both good and bad jokes, for healing, for increased urine output, and several other minor and major aspects of hospital life. Oh yes, how we love our kids!

Abraham saddled his donkey and took Isaac, two servants, and wood for the burnt offering. Then he set out.

But how unknown and unmarked are our unique paths toward God. “Your children are not your children,” Kalhil Gibran says in The Prophet, “They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.” We walk with them at first together on this path toward God, doing what we can to guide, until inevitably divergent paths take us away from each other, north and south, east and west, and toward so many more subtle variations on just those cardinal compass points.

Abraham laid the wood for God’s burnt offering on his son Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife.

Soren Kierkegaard wrote Fear and Trembling to explore Abraham’s existential response to God’s command. “Infinite resignation is the last stage before faith, for only in infinite resignation does an individual become conscious of his eternal validity.” To reach this spiritual place, I must give up whatever I love more than God.

Abraham tied up his son Isaac and put him on top of the wood, on the altar. He reached out and took the knife to slay his son. But then the Lord called, “Abraham, STOP!”

We watch our kids live their lives, sometimes difficult, painful, beautiful in their suffering. What manner of “infinite resignation” can we reach for in our faith? What matters more than how our kids come out? We ask God for their wholeness, their health, their holiness, their joy. But we must also seek to leave them alone with God, from whom they have come, to whom they are going.

Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name give glory, because of your kindness, because of your truth.

We pick up where our parents left off. And our kids pick up where we leave off. Our grandkids are not quite ready, but I am sure they too will pick up where our kids leave off. Oh yes, how we love our kids. So we offer them up, wood piled on top of each of their precious bodies, to the One who calls their names.

Jesus said, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”

(Genesis 22, Psalm 115, 2 Corinthians 5, Matthew 9)


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