To Argue Faithfully   1 comment

sacrifice-of-isaac-caravaggio

Above:  The Sacrifice of Isaac, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death

to be for us the means on life.

Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ that we may gladly suffer shame and loss

for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 21:1-7 (Monday)

Genesis 22:1-19 (Tuesday)

Psalm 105:1-11, 37-45 (Both Days)

Hebrews 1:8-12 (Monday)

Hebrews 11:1-3, 13-19 (Tuesday)

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For he remembered his holy word

and Abraham, his servant.

–Psalm 105:42, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The New Testament defines faith three ways, for that anthology is the product of more than one writer.  Faith, in the Pauline sense, is inherently active, hence justification by grace.  Yet, in the Letter of James, faith is intellectual, hence that book’s theology of justification by works.  Those two schools of thought affirm active faith, so they are two ways of making the same point.  Then there is faith according to Hebrews 11:1:

Now faith is the assurance of things not hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Faith, according to this definition, which overlaps with the Pauline meaning, keeps one going in the absence of evidence in support of or in contradiction to a proposition.

Abraham, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, was an exemplar of that kind of faith.  As we have read in Genesis in this lectionary-based series of devotions, this was not always true.  (The author of Hebrews glossed over some content from Genesis.)  And I argue that, in Genesis 22, the patriarch failed the test of faith, for the faithful response was to argue.

Did I hear you correctly?  Do you want me kill my own son?  Have I not sacrificed Ishmael already by sending him away with Hagar?  What kind of God commands me to kill my son?

The near-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham must have caused psychological damage to the son (how could it not?), for he became a passive, minor figure and the least of the patriarchs.

My favorite aspect of Judaism is arguing faithfully with God.  In Islam one is supposed to submit to God, but Jews get to confront the deity in good conscience.  This ethic is evident in the Psalms, with frequent complaints to God.  I recall, decades ago, reading a review of a translation of the Psalms.  The new translation avoided King James-style politeness, as in

Lord, I beseech thee,

preferring

Look, Yahweh.

The review, from a Christian magazine, was favorable.  I have kvetched to God with great honesty often.  Is not honesty essential to any healthy relationship?

Pondering the art of faithful arguing led me to remember an incident from the Gospels.  The four Gospels are wonderful texts, but they lack any description of tone of voice at some crucial points in the narratives.  Tone of voice, of course, can change the meaning of dialogue.  In Matthew 15, for example, Jesus was in Gentile country–the region of Tyre and Sidon.  There a Gentile woman begged our Lord and Savior to heal her daughter.  He replied,

It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.

–15:26, The Revised English Bible (1989)

She answered,

True, sir, and yet the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the master’s table.

–15:27, REB

Jesus replied,

What faith you have!  Let it be as you wish.

–15:28a, REB

The context if that story tells me that Jesus said what he did to prompt her to reply as she did.  She passed the test.  All she had to do was argue.  Isaac would have been better off had Abraham been as faithful as that Gentile woman.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE NINTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATUS OF LUXEUIL AND ROMARIC OF LUXEUIL, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS AND ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF MARTIN RINCKART, ARCHDEACON OF EILENBURG

THE FEAST OF RICHARD BAXTER, ANGLICAN THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-second-sunday-in-lent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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