Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Shepastor: "Trusting a Sacred God Over a Sacred Economy..."

Now after these things, God put Abraham to the test, and said to him, Abraham; and he said, Here am I.
2 And he said to him, Take your son, your dearly loved only son Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah and give him as a burned offering on one of the mountains of which I will give you knowledge. 3 And Abraham got up early in the morning, and made ready his ass, and took with him two of his young men and Isaac, his son, and after the wood for the burned offering had been cut, he went on his way to the place of which God had given him word. 4 And on the third day, Abraham, lifting up his eyes, saw the place a long way off 5 Then he said to his young men, Keep here with the ass; and I and the boy will go on and give worship and come back again to you 6 And Abraham put the wood for the burned offering on his son's back, and he himself took the fire and the knife in his hand, and the two of them went on together. 7 Then Isaac said to Abraham, My father; and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, We have wood and fire here, but where is the lamb for the burned offering? 8 And Abraham said, God himself will give the lamb for the burned offering: so they went on together.
Genesis 22: 1-8

“Trusting a Sacred God Over a Sacred Economy…”

What was happening there on Mount Moriah? One of the patriarch’s of Israel was being tested at the core of his being. What was happening there on Mount Moriah? A father and his son were making a journey of a lifetime…a journey after which neither father or son would be the same. What was happening there on Mount Moriah? God was allowing broken, bruised, sinful humanity to catch a glimpse of what would happen centuries later on Calvary.

Abraham was being asked to sacrifice his only son – Isaac. We are tempted to rush past the power, the profundity, the agony in these first few verses of the text. Abraham, with this one act of obedience was surrendering all of his hopes, dreams, desires and aspirations for his future. This treasured son for whom he’d waited for the better part of his life. This son – the promised son who was supposed to carry on his heritage, his lineage…this son in whom lay all the promises of the Nation of Israel – this son was to be sacrificed on the altar. What kind of cruel game was God playing with Abraham? The text does not reveal Abraham’s frustration, only that he was obedient.

We do, however catch a glimmer of insight into Abraham’s thinking in verse 5 for he declares to those traveling with them,
“Keep here with the donkey; and I and the boy will go on and give worship and come back again to you.”

This verse suggests that He trusted the heart of God even when it looked like God was giving him a raw deal. He moved forward in faith, willing to make the sacrifice. Why? Because that which he held sacred, his relationship with God the father took priority even over that which he held dear and loved to the utmost – his son. His relationship and his faith were sacred, they were holy…they took priority over everything else in his life. His relationship with God and his faith in God governed his life. And because God sat upon the throne of his heart, because God was truly the head of his life – God not only stopped him from sacrificing Isaac, but he made his off-springs innumerable.

Humanity has always sought to have or to identify something to hold sacred. In antiquity, men worshipped nature because they stood in awe of the sun, moon, stars, oceans, desserts, volcanoes, hail storms and drought. They constructed temples, pyramids, massive stone and marble carvings, idols to which they bowed down and worshiped because they longed to fulfill that place in their being designated for the sacred, the holy, the divine.

Today, people are not constructing pyramids and stone carvings to worship. However, they have displaced that which is truly holy and sacred for another god – the god of economics – the god of capitalism. Whereas wealth has always been a rival for men’s heart and souls, in each age, the insidious greed and all consuming desire for gaining wealth at any cost has greatly ravaged the soul of our community.

Listen to this statement made by Dell Dechant, a professor at South Florida University regarding the religious nature of the economy:

“Religion in postmodern society is that collection of culturally embedded phenomena that mediate individual and collective relationships with the sacred power of the Economy through acquisition-consumption-disposal. It is not enough to simply acquire and consume objects and images. One must do both and one must also dispose of the objects and images for the sacred to be experienced. The entire process must be completed, for only then (in the cyclical manner that is elemental to cosmological systems) can the process begin again. The quicker the process is completed and then begun again, the greater is one’s experience of the sacred, and hence the greater one’s power in the socio-religious system. For this reason, popular culture venerates the person who is able to keep up with the trends in fashion, who is able to acquire a new car every year (perhaps this explains the recent success of automobile leasing), who buys a new house, replaces appliances on a regular basis, installs a new lawn periodically, acquires the most innovative type of computer, and so on…

…The role of the Economy in postmodern culture is every bit the same as the role of nature in primal and archaic cosmological cultures. Its order and process are beyond my grasp, or anyone’s for that matter, including the CEOs of giant corporations and the Chair of the Federal Reserve. Its ways are at times capricious, ruthless, sudden and uncompromising; it cannot be controlled. Its interest in me is indifferent at best; it colors all of my activities, even if I am not immediately aware of it. It tells me who I am, what I am, and what I am able to do.” (Dell Dechant, The Sacred Santa: Religious Dimensions of Consumer Culture, The Pilgrim Press, 2002. Pp. 38-39)
If I look through the eyes of society, the economy tells me who I am, what I am and what I am able to do. Interpreters of the economy make sweeping generalizations, determining at once who is worthy to attend certain schools, receive certain benefits, be treated with certain drugs, receive certain kinds of medical treatment, obtain certain kinds of housing, determine my life span, expectancy – the economy, the almighty dollar – says society governs all of these things.

Yes the economy and those who worship at its altar said to those who did not fit their description of “the worthy,” “Give up. We won’t loan you money from our banks. Give up. We won’t sell you homes in our neighborhoods. Give up. We won’t allow your children to be educated alongside our children. Give up. Go back to share cropping. Give up. Be ashamed of what you are and who you are.”

But I hear the voices of those who have overcome, trusted God, sacrificed and served and paved the way for a better day… “Let us sacrifice. Let us put God first. Let us come together.” I hear them saying, “If God be for us, who can be against us!” I hear them saying, “Be still, God will fight your battle!”

In my mind’s eye, I see them standing, looking over the banister of eternity, whispering in our ears, “Walk together children, don’t you get weary… Sacrifice, serve and if need be, suffer in the name of Jesus. Sacrifice and don’t be swallowed up by consumerism. Sacrifice and put the credit card away. Sacrifice, tithe and then put some money in the bank. Sacrifice and help some boy or girl realize the dream of attending college. Sacrifice and support one another’s businesses. Sacrifice, get up and go give God praise on Sunday morning instead of rushing out to play golf! Sacrifice and put God first in your life!”

And when we learn what our forebears knew – when we learn not to allow others to use us against one another, when we learn that driving a Lexus and wearing a Rolex watch and dressing in the finest of clothes does not define who we are, when we learn to sacrifice, pool our resources, stand together and lift one another, we’ll see the Lord’s provision.

We like to shout about the ram in the bush, but Abraham didn’t see the ram in the bush until he was willing to make the sacrifice. Once we worship God, the Lord Jesus Christ as the holy and sacred and not the economy, not the almighty dollar, we will find that the sacred God - the only true and living God gives us our name, gives us our "somebodiness," gives us our purpose, gives us our reason for living, gives us our hope and our us the courage to be.

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

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