Tuesday, October 04, 2005

faith redux...

Abraham and Isaac by Barry Moser

Have we made faith too easy in our day and age? Have we parcel out the most priceless of all things, in the yard-sale of our churches, counting ‘conversions’ on demand?

Abraham troubles me…his story terrifies… There are no categories I can muster with all my might and intellect, to understand him, to take from him an object lesson to live by…

How many times have we heard a sermon that takes the sacrifice of Isaac, as an object lesson of how it points towards the sacrifice of Christ? Does this mean that all I should ‘get’ from the narrative of Abraham is that his life event is meant to foreshadow the more ‘substantial truth’, that Christ was the one sacrifice for humanity, the ram caught in the thickets that replaces Isaac?

Abraham’s pathos, as a human being, at a loss within himself, is nowhere to be seen… Where is ‘the father who loved his son’ that Genesis tells us, the one who hoped for his covenantal son for close to 70 odd years, day and night counting on God’s promise, in spite of the grim reality of a physical body in decay? Did he stop hoping? Did he not worry that God actually forgot about him, or Sarah’s reproach as a barren wife?

That day came… a son was born… the entire household was in rapturous joy… God fulfills His promise to Abraham. But we do not stop here. A father’s love for his newborn son, is immediate, and yet it grows stronger by the day. No one can begin to understand that intensity of love, until you have fathered a child. You will have such attachment to the child, tell him stories, play with him, give him all the attention, all your waking hours…

But when does it all fall apart for Abraham? Did anyone else hear of it? Does Sarah know? Or his faithful servant, Eleazar? Can the Lord God be mistaken? Why does He require now, what He has so gloriously and kindly given, my only son? How will my family understand this? They will think that I’m mad… Worse still, I will be a criminal… But what can I do? Shall I disobey the one that has called me from my youth, from my kinsmen in Ur? Am I self-deceived?

Terrible days…sleepless nights… Abraham was quiet during that time. Alone in his dilemma and pain… It took a further 3 long days, riding on an ass, the slow ride up Moriah, with his beloved child by his side… “Where is the sacrifice, daddy?” Isaac would ask… Perhaps, he said ‘My boy, the Lord will provide…’, knowing well what the Lord required… The pain, the anguish, pathos…

Under the dark sky of Moriah…please do not patronize me with easy explanations…preaching on this passage as if it was universally clear to all ‘believers’ what Abraham’s story was meant to teach… In that hour, God summoned Abraham to stand alone before Himself, transparent and naked, so that ‘faith’ would arrive, but only after Abraham has exhausted himself, in his whole being, resigned to do the will of God.

This is what I do not get from the religious ones…they say to call for a ‘leap of faith’ is dangerous, irresponsible, the following of one’s private whims and fancies… But can’t they see that the ‘leap’ is not one that is performable at will, to be done as often I would like to? How can you surrender your all to God, if you had nothing in the first place, that you never experienced the natural beauty of the world, and drank deeply from the spring of life? If you have never regretted loss in your life-time? How can you offer a gift, if your hands have never clasped it so close to your heart? If you never lived in the first place, would you ever know that Christ offers a new kind of life, that is immeasurably different and better than the best this life could offer?

Faith comes, if and only if, you have performed that ‘movement of infinity’, that you have truly loved life and finite pleasures, and yet renounced them, having the strength of character to live without… Even then faith does not come automatically… A sense of the tragic might stick with you for life…It all depends on God… You may, perchance, gain all these back, a hundred fold… faith is forever the elusive, the absolute surprise…

It is easy to call oneself a Christian these days… Jesus’ own pathos is neglected… Yes, we get his story, ‘the point of it all’, that he died for the sins of humanity… It is easy to live with ‘the doctrines of our salvation’ nice and comfy in our pockets. I for one, cannot sleep at night… I have nightmares… To stand under the gaze of the one who said, ‘Go sell all that you have…’… For that, I am dumbstruck… Or what was he thinking, when he hung for hours, desperately clinging to life, on Golgotha? A living, dying, speaking Christ is scary… You cannot put him away, like a gospel tract.

Preacher, slow down… Preach first, how much Abraham truly loved Isaac. Preach that for weeks on end… Expound the depth of his love, week in, week out… Maybe then, we can go on and talk about ‘Abraham being our father of faith’, that he offered Isaac...then we might even begin to understand what Moriah is about…what Isaac's sacrifice could mean... I confess, understanding Abraham is beyond me, even after all these years... Some things just don’t yield easy explanations… Faith, above all.


At 2:37 PM, Blogger Luke Chan said...

I'll fix my eyes on Him.
Ya. many Christians are having it too easy with being a "church goer".
But I'll fix my eyes on Him.The Cross then the Resurrection.
The 3 days and nights as they journeyed up to Moriah - who can fully comprehend what really goes on in Abraham or even Issac's heart and mind.
But in the end - the lamb among the thorns. What JOY? Can you imagine what is the trip down the mountain was like ?
Shalom.. my brother.

At 4:30 PM, Blogger Ph D in Bluffology said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 4:31 PM, Blogger Ph D in Bluffology said...

Hmm..., slow down eh? You think anyone is going to? It doesn't sell my brother. These days we preachers seem to be preaching only what sells and we quickly gloss over the real nuances that are there.

That's why there are so many faith crises and a dearth of real spirituality.

I'll remember your exhortation ... why if I am true to my life ... the compass of my life shows that the journey through the different nuances are the best moments of discipleship, honesty and naked truth before our loving Father.


At 5:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i sometimes ask myself the same question: sell my house,leave my loved ones... etc..
now, i have nothing to offer him because i haven't fallen in love with finite pleasures yet...and i haven't accumulate enough wealth ...should i give myself more time or should i detach myself ?

At 5:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you read Hyperion by Dan Simmons? One of the Pilgrim's Tales includes a scholar who relives the story of Abraham and Isaac - very thought-provoking stuff from a non-Christian. But then we are often afraid to look too deeply into the mystery...



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