Carrying Costs

Carrying Costs – July 2nd, 2017

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Genesis 22:1-14

1After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2He 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.” 3So 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. 4On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. 5Then 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.” 6Abraham 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. 7Isaac 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?” 8Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

9When 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. 10Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. 11But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12He 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.” 13And 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. 14So 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.”

 

It’s been a long seven days since we last gathered together. Our mission team (20 people strong) headed to Oklahoma City on Sunday, and we built a wheelchair ramp and a storage shed. We also finished off the roofing and painting of a shed and got another one started on our last day. One thing I really appreciate about our mission team is the work of our children. They were a little skittish on the first couple of days, but by the end of the week, they were lifting, nailing, and working the cordless screw drivers.

I am thankful to be a part of a congregation that takes kids on mission trips and teaches them how to help. More than this, I couldn’t be prouder of our boys and girls for the way they interacted with the homeowners. It didn’t matter if they were older, differently able, or even suffering from a terminal disease. Our kids talked with them, asked them questions, learned their stories. To quote a volunteer from Moore, Oklahoma named Ronnie, “You guys are awesome.”

All week long, I wrestled with the question of how I was going to preach this text. I worked with our kids during the day, and I reread the story of Abraham and Isaac all night.

Last week – “You and me and baby (minus Hagar and Ishmael) makes three”. It’s an upsetting passage, but the text doesn’t give us a lot of time before it throws us another curveball.

Take your son, your only son (mentioned multiple times) and sacrifice him. Here is the child of an elderly couple who has given The God who promised the impossible is now demanding the unthinkable.

What is going on in the story? For me, it’s always raised more questions than it has answered. What kind of father would be willing to sacrifice his son? What kind of God would demand it?

It’s what Abraham Lincoln referred near the end of the Gettysburg Address as the last full measure of devotion.

In asking for his only son, Isaac, God is really asking for everything.

Abraham holds nothing back and makes the long walk up the mountain with his son. Isaac carries the wood and Abraham has the fire, the knife, and (what we can only imagine would be) the weight of the world in his heart. The father doesn’t question God. If he had any reservations, the text doesn’t make them known. Young Isaac is wondering what’s going on. We have the fire and the wood, but what about the lamb?

Long walk.

Altar.

Binding.

This is terrible to hear, and if the story ended here, I don’t know what we’d do…but the story doesn’t end here.

Angel.

Ram.

The Lord will provide.

Abraham becomes the paradigm of faithfulness (and, it’s credited to him as righteousness.)

 

Human sacrifice (child sacrifice, really) was far more common in the ancient world. The Aztec, Incas, and Mayans did it. It is thought the ancient Canaanites did it as well. These were the people who inhabited the land before the Israelites. Abraham’s God would be different. On Mount Moriah, the Lord would unbind the hands of this awful ritual and provide a better way.

The liturgical year starts in late November, the calendar year kicks off on January 1st, but an important new year started yesterday for many folks. July 1st is the beginning of a fiscal new year for many companies, organizations, and corporations. If you’re like me, you’ve been bombarded with letters, phone calls, and other solicitations. One more time to donate.

Carrying Costs – Unused inventory – there’s a price to pay when things are stuck in the warehouse. It can be rot in storage where moth and rust destroy. It can be taxed. It can take up space that could be used better otherwise.

What about our unused inventory? What about the things that God wants you to use today that we kept locked up in the storage shed of our lives?

“The one who dies with the most toys wins.” – The one who dies with the most toys is still dead. You can’t take it with you when you go.

Spiritual gifts – for what are we saving them? What is in lying unused in your warehouse right now? Abraham was faithful. Abraham was righteous.

 

Abraham put the wood on his only son’s back, and Isaac carried it willingly. If this sounds familiar, it should. So much of this story is repeated in the gospels. My son, my only son…baptism. For God so loved the world, he gave his only son. Isaac carried the wood up the hill, and Jesus carried the cross up to Calvary.

 

God asked Abraham the unthinkable…and stopped the father before he sacrificed his son.

 

Our Heavenly Father so loved the world that he gave us his only Son.

Parables and miracles.

Healings and wholeness.

Restoration of community and reorientation of families.

Ultimately, it comes back to the cross. The son carried the wood, but God put it on his shoulders. Jesus even cried out to the Father.

41Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, 42‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.’– Luke 22

The wood has already been carried, the cross has already been shouldered…the price has already been paid. As followers of the Christ, Jesus has already taken care of the carrying costs. We’re free from our sin. We’re free from the fear of death. We’re free to start unloading some of this inventory.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Lord’s Prayer – Daily Bread… all we are promised is today. What are you going to do with it. God gives spiritual gifts like daily manna… if we don’t use it, the inventory will certainly spoil.

 

 

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