God 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 the mountain that I shall show you." - Genesis 22:2
This story is a tough one. In the face of God's demand (later rescinded) to Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, we recoil—as indeed we should. And some say they want nothing to do with such a God. I get it.
But if we stick with it, and resist an overly literal interpretation, this story has urgent questions for us in this time of so much change, loss, and anxiety about the future.
When "Isaac" stands for those good gifts of God in which we find our identity and our future, what if we must give those up? What if they are taken from us? What next? Who are we then?
I know a congregation who love their 150-year-old church building. Who they are is bound up with that beautiful, impossible building. If they give that building up, who will they be then?
Loss of a job or the end of a career raises these questions too. I (mostly) loved congregational ministry. What happens when that is given up? Who am I then?
For some of us, "Isaac" is a job or career. For others, "Isaac" is their family. For still others, "Isaac" may be a longtime home. "Isaac" may even be the once true, but now not true, story we tell ourselves about who we are and how life works.
We are right to love God's good gifts, as indeed "Abraham loved Isaac." But what happens when they are surrendered or lost? Who are we then? Is God still God? Does our trust lie in the gifts or in the Giver? That is the question this story asks.
I am here to testify that even when we surrender those good gifts that have defined us, God is still God. We may find that our life did not depend on those gifts but on the living God, who is not finished with any of us yet.
Help us to love your good gifts and to let them go. Amen.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. He is the author of many books, including What’s Theology Got to Do With It: Convictions, Vitality and the Church. You can read Tony's "Weekly Meditation" and "What's Tony Thinking?" at his website, www.anthonybrobinson.com.