29 February 2012
Midweek for Lent 1
St. John’s, Chicago, IL
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
But, God! You PROMISED! You made me wait 100 years for a son, and now this?! I am supposed to take him on that mountain, stretch him out on the wood that this only son had carried, and let him die!? By my own hands?! This is too much to bear!
You can’t even imagine the horrible anxiety going through Abraham’s mind, along with the shock. After all, the true God had never demanded human sacrifice. Yet here he was, having heard the Lord clearly. He was to sacrifice his son, his only son Isaac.
How many would be truly willing to give up a family member to the Lord? Not many. That hits very close to home for the people of St. John's Lutheran Church in Lanesville, Indiana, on this February 29th. Four years ago today, on the last Leap Day, Emma was on her way home on the interstate, when she suddenly found herself behind a broken down semi. The SUV in front of her had just swerved, and when she discovered the truck was not moving, it was too late. She braced for impact.
The Lord sent His holy angels, and spared Emma's life.
That night, when her husband retrieved their children from our home, he was "white as a ghost." The events of the day had sunk in, and he was overwhelmed -- and horrified. He had seen the remains of Emma's car and all he could say was, "By all rights, I should be a single dad right now."
The Lord worked through this to remind the congregation of God's precious gift of life. He showed His mercy in sparing her, just as he had spared Isaac. Just as He has spared each of you, with His own dear Son taking your place and paying the price of your sin, to release you and let you live in abundant forgiveness and mercy.
There is a death, though, that this gift of life due to God's free mercy and grace, which we also commemorate this day. About five hundred years ago, Patrick Hamilton was a professor at the University of St. Andrew's in Scotland, at the time of Luther. He became convinced of the rediscovery of the pure Gospel among Luther and his companions. Eventually, Patrick was arrested and tried for "the various heresies of Luther." Patrick was dragged out into a public square of the university, and burned at the stake.
A tragic end to an earthly life and ministry. Yet, for Patrick Hamilton, the 29th of February became his birthdate into heaven. God kept His promise of forgiveness and life for this faithful servant.
Yes, God! You PROMISED! You let the human race wait several thousand years for Your Son, and now this! They took Him up that mountain, stretched Him out on the wood of the cross that this only Son had carried, and let Him die!
That's right! The truth is, while God telling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac and then stopping him is a true event in history, in the end it is not about Abraham and Isaac at all. It is about Jesus! It is the Lord God foreshadowing the sacrifice of His Son, His only Son, Jesus. The Father in heaven revealing to us that the Law demands our death, but that God Himself would provide the Lamb. Not just a ram caught in a thicket, but the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
How amazing! Not quite 2,000 years earlier, the Lord was teaching Abraham what He Himself would do to save Abraham and his descendants—in fact, all people. Christ endured being that Sacrifice and dying on the wood of that cross, so that He might rescue and deliver you. The only Son willingly shed His blood and gave Himself into death, to bring righteousness to you and all the world.
Dear friends in Christ, this evening you may go down from this mountain of the sacrifice, knowing that all is made right with God. Your sins are forgiven. The only Son has died and risen for you! And all the earth is blessed through this Seed of Abraham, who was sacrificed and now lives and reigns for you. Amen.