Testing: One, Two, Three

18 Jun

Kathryn Hauser’s Reflection for 2 After Pentecost 26 Jun 2011

Testing: One, Two, Three

I walk through the glass doors at the mall and I’m confronted by a map in front of me with a big red star on the location where it indicates I am standing.  It says, “You Are Here.”  This leaves me feeling at once relieved that somebody knows where I am, and at the same time feeling rather two-dimensional; (I’m on some plane of the universe, but which one would that be?)  A map is just a representation, and yet it tells me: You can (or cannot) get there from here.  Life can be this way in the context of pre-faith journey and post faith metamorphosis.  This was the juncture in which Abraham found himself in the beginning of the Old Testament scripture passage for today:

Gen 22:1 After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”

“Here I am” can indicate the beginning point in the faith journey, as when God called Moses (Ex 3:4) and Samuel (1 Sam 3)

Exodus 3:4 The Lord saw that Moses had gone over to look. So God spoke to him from inside the bush. He called out, “Moses! Moses!”

   “Here I am,” Moses said.

And “Here I am” can signify any number of other points as well.  Abraham had learned a great many things about God over the years and their relationship was solid.  It was now that Abraham answered, “Here I am,” when God called.  Abraham knew where he was spiritually.  God wanted to take him deeper and truly anchor his faith.  God testing our faith is not the same as humans testing God’s faithfulness, any more than it is the same for a four-year old to test the reliability and dependability of his parent, versus the parent stepping back to “test” the child to give him an opportunity to build his confidence and to integrate what he knows so that he can internalize that into wisdom.  This builds confidence.  Abraham had confidence in God and trusted His promises.  Did he have confidence in himself?  He had enough confidence to take a donkey and two of his young men with him along with Isaac. (Gen 22:3)  (The text does not call the men slaves.)  Neither the men nor Isaac questioned Abraham’s actions and intentions to go off to make a sacrifice, nor did they question Abraham’s faith walk or direction.  We don’t know if Abraham’s hand shook as he reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. (Gen 22:10)  We don’t know if tears of relief streamed down his face after the angel told him to stop and not to lay a hand on Isaac. (Gen 22:12)  We don’t know what his thoughts were.  I know I haven’t met a parent yet who didn’t want to sacrifice their children at some point along the journey out of sheer frustration, but the text doesn’t give us many clues to their relationship and what they were going through.  Did Abraham think this was some barbaric rite that the people did in the land of Moriah?  (Gen 22:2)  The mere outlandishness of God’s demand may have actually strengthened Abraham’s conviction that God would provide a “real” sacrifice since God had promised over and over that he would be the father of many, not just a large family.  And the promise of blessing had grown over the years from a general blessing to all nations in Gen 12:3 to specific details of how God would do it in Gen 21:12:

Gen 12:3  I will bless those who bless you.
      I will put a curse on anyone who calls down a curse on you.
   All nations on earth
      will be blessed because of you.”

Gen 13:16 “I will make your children like the dust of the earth. Can dust be counted? If it can, then your children can be counted.”

Gen 15:5 The Lord took Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky. Count the stars, if you can.” Then he said to him, “That is how many children you will have.”

Gen 17:5 “You will not be called Abram anymore. Your name will be Abraham, because I have made you a father of many nations.”

Gen 21:12 But God said to him, “Do not be so upset about the boy [Ishmael] and your servant Hagar. Listen to what Sarah tells you, because your family line will continue through Isaac.”

The promise of blessing had grown and become more specific over time as Abraham’s relationship with God deepened and his trust and confidence grew.  God had consistently provided.  And Abraham consistently remained humble despite his growing wealth, power, and prestige.  He truly was a Prophet as God Himself described of Abraham to King Abimelech in a dream in Gen 20:7.

Another point, in addition to confidence-building, which shows that God is a Good Teacher, is that teachers give tests not only to measure what the pupil knows, but to mark how far he has come.  Hence: “After these things…” (Gen 22:1)  We can also draw this out to us today as a people when we look at the Prophets, the righteous, and their messages when placed in the big perspective of time to track how far we have come:

Abraham—The father of many nations.  Message: Have faith

Moses—Know Yahweh.  Message: Deliverance from bondage

Joshua—Settle in the Promised Land. (Joshua 1:3) 

Message: God Himself fights our battles (Joshua 1:9)

Deborah—Message: A woman will get credit for victory (Judges 4:9)

Gideon—Message: God is strong in our weakness (Judges 6:15)

Samson—Message: God makes us strong in Himself when we keep our focus on Him (Judges 16:30)

Samuel—“Speak, Lord, your servant is listening:” (1 Sam 3:10)

Message: God does not condone sin that is not corrected after the sin has been made known (1 Sam 3:13)

Message: Do not cease calling on the name of Yahweh to save us (1 Sam 7:8)

Nathan to King David—Message: The royal house of the LORD is established through God’s Name (2 Sam 7:13)

Solomon—Loved God. (1 Kings 3:3)  Message: Ask for wisdom. (1 Kings 3:9)

Elijah—Message: “How long do you mean to hobble first on one leg and then the other?  If Yahweh is God, follow Him; if Baal, then follow him.  But the people never said a word.” (1 Kings 18:21, JB; and doesn’t this sum up our world today, the general state of affairs, and the Church as Institution as represented in the archetypes of the Seven Churches as described in Revelation?!)

Elisha—”Please give me a double share of your spirit,” (2 Kings 2:9)

Ezra—Ezra devoted himself to the study of the law of God, to practicing it, and to teaching Israel its laws and customs. (Ezra 7:10)

Nehemiah—He was sad, because his beloved city was in ruins. 

Message: Nehemiah 2:4 Then the king said to me, “What do you want?”

   First I prayed to the God of heaven.5 Then I answered the king,…

Isaiah—His message to God: “Here I am, send me.”  God’s message through Isaiah (Is 6:9-10 NCV):

 9 Then the Lord said, “Go and tell this to the people:
    ‘You will listen and listen, but you will not understand.
       You will look and look, but you will not learn.’
 10 Make the minds of these people dumb.
       Shut their ears. Cover their eyes.
    Otherwise, they might really understand
       what they see with their eyes
       and hear with their ears.
    They might really understand in their minds
       and come back to me and be healed.”

Jeremiah—His message was in his body; his Prophet’s life was symbolic in itself, as was true for Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea and some of the Minor Prophets.  Message: “Brace yourself for action.  Stand up and tell them all I command you.” (Jer 1:17)

Ezekiel—Prophet as Visionary; his focus was on inner conversion: a new heart and new spirit which is given by God. “I have made you a symbol for the House of Israel.” (Ezek 12:6)

            And Prophet as Sentry: “Son of man, I have appointed you as sentry to the House of Israel.  When you hear a word from my mouth, warn them in my name.” (Ezek 33:7)

Daniel—(How appropriate for the last major Prophet in the Old Testament, and I quote from the introduction listed in the Jerusalem Bible🙂

“The aim of the book was to sustain faith and hope among the Jews in their persecutions by showing them the triumph of Daniel over his own severe ordeals and temptations of the same kind; and to hold before them the vision of a time to come when the wrath of God would be satisfied; and the kingdom of the saints would be under a “Son of Man” whose reign would endure forever.”

In addition to confidence-building and growth-marking, God, the Good Teacher, also recognizes when “Here I am” is a statement of availability, as with Abigail (1 Sam 25:41) and Jacob (Gen 46:2)

1 Samuel 25:41 “Abigail bowed down with her face toward the ground. She said, “Here I am. I’m ready to serve him. I’m ready to wash the feet of his servants.””

God, the Good Teacher, also uses “Here I am” as a phrase to make His own announcements:

Isaiah 65:1 “The Lord says, “I made myself known to those who were not asking for me. I was found by those who were not trying to find me. I spoke to a nation that did not pray to me. ‘Here I am,’ I said. ‘Here I am.’”

Jeremiah 9:24 “But here is what the one who brags should boast about. He should brag that he has understanding and knows me. I want him to know that I am the Lord. No matter what I do on earth, I am always kind, fair and right. And I take delight in that,” announces the Lord.

As Warning:

Ephesians 4:17 “Here is what I’m telling you. I am speaking for the Lord as I warn you. You must no longer live like those who aren’t Jews. Their thoughts don’t have any purpose.”

As Declaration:

Psalm 40:7 “Then I said, “Here I am. It is written about me in the scroll.”

Matthew 12:18 “Here is my servant. I have chosen him. He is the one I love. I am very pleased with him. I will put my Spirit on him. He will announce to the nations that everything will be made right.”

Hebrews 2:13 Again he says, “I will put my trust in him.” —(Isaiah 8:17) And again he says, “Here I am. Here are the children God has given me.” —(Isaiah 8:18)

Hebrews 10:7 Then I said, ‘Here I am. It is written about me in the scroll. God, I have come to do what you want.’ ” —(Psalm 40:6-8)

And as Command:

Revelation 2:1 “Here is what I command you to write to the church in Ephesus. Here are the words of the One who holds the seven stars in his right hand. He also walks among the seven golden lampstands. He says, …”

Revelation 3:14 “Here is what I command you to write to the church in Laodicea. Here are the words of the One who is the Amen. What he gives witness to is faithful and true. He rules over what God has created. He says, …”

I am here to tell you: “Christ is coming back!  Get ready for the party!!”

Prophets have God’s ear.  The Prophet’s job is to listen to God.  Sure there are false prophets.  How would we know a true one if we didn’t have false ones to hold up as a contrast?  We already know how to identify if the message of the prophet or righteous person is true and how to discern if the message is legit and has value.  The question then is if s/he is welcomed.

Mt 10:41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous

Welcome is not the same as fellowship.  Adam and Eve had fellowship with God before the fall because they were already accepted.  Eve took the forbidden fruit with the intention of seeking wisdom. (Gen 3:5)  Adam followed along.  Christ is the New Adam through His sacrifice. (Rom 5:18)  We don’t have to trade with good works to receive redemption already provided by His sacrifice.  Is this message welcome?  God has been faithful.  God’s covenant was with Abraham. (Gen 17:5)  The promise with that covenant was carried out through Isaac’s bloodline. (Gen 21:12)  Religions all over the world call on God by various names.  That does not diminish the fact that God has been faithful to His covenant; in fact, it merely makes it stand out even more clearly that God has kept His promise.  This fact also does not diminish Christ’s sacrifice for our redemption.

John 3: 16 “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life.

The archetypes of the Seven Churches from the Book of Revelation have received the message, but so far have not welcomed the one who has delivered it.

Mt 10:40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.

Welcome is a spiritual issue.  It is God’s turf, every bit as much as faith is God’s turf.  A spirit of Welcome asks softly, “What are you looking at?”  A spirit of Conflict asks harshly, “What are you looking at?”  Welcome is not just a psychological and emotional state when we feel welcomed in a group, and then we belong and are part of a community.  Welcome is similar to fellowship but it is not the same.  Fellowship is a state of belonging.  It is possible to have fellowship without being welcomed.  The difference between fellowship and welcome is in the value the group places on the one in the group.  Value is a spiritual issue.  It doesn’t matter if we are talking about the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Union (EU), United Nations (UN), the United States Congress, the city council; the library board, the church board, or children playing a board game; human beings in a group will flourish when they discern as a group the value of what is before them.  Every leadership group has to welcome the core message of the people they represent.  It must be valued.  Discerning value is accomplished through listening.  God has already provided the people, tools, resources, ideas, and inspirations amongst the people to solve the world economic crises, the environmental and ecological ruin,[1] social issues, political governance concerns, and to receive spiritual wholeness.  There are people who have sacrificed greatly for their passion for the Greater Good, and God has been preparing them.  God has provided the way.  The means to unite and heal the world is faith.  Faith at its core is God’s turf.  His covenant is sure and we can be anchored in it.  It is our job to welcome Him and to receive the reward of the righteous.

 

2 After Pentecost                             26 Jun 2011                          Gospel: Matthew 10:40-42

Genesis 22:1-14
22:1 After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”

22:2 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.”

22:3 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.

22:4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away.

22:5 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.”

22:6 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.

22:7 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?”

22:8 Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

22:9 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.

22:10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son.

22:11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”

22:12 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.”

22:13 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.

22:14 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.”

Psalm 13
13:1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

13:2 How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

13:3 Consider and answer me, O LORD my God! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,

13:4 and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.

13:5 But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

13:6 I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Jeremiah 28:5-9
28:5 Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the LORD;

28:6 and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the LORD do so; may the LORD fulfill the words that you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the LORD, and all the exiles.

28:7 But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people.

28:8 The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms.

28:9 As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the LORD has truly sent the prophet.”

Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18
89:1 I will sing of your steadfast love, O LORD, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.

89:2 I declare that your steadfast love is established forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

89:3 You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to my servant David:

89:4 ‘I will establish your descendants forever, and build your throne for all generations.'” Selah

89:15 Happy are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O LORD, in the light of your countenance;

89:16 they exult in your name all day long, and extol your righteousness.

89:17 For you are the glory of their strength; by your favor our horn is exalted.

89:18 For our shield belongs to the LORD, our king to the Holy One of Israel.

Romans 6:12-23
6:12 Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.

6:13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness.

6:14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

6:15 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!

6:16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

6:17 But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted,

6:18 and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

6:19 I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.

6:20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.

6:21 So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death.

6:22 But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life.

6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Matthew 10:40-42
10:40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.

10:41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous;

10:42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple — truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: