Philip Casmer

God Be…

by Philip Casmer on February 18th, 2024
Genesis 22:1-18 / Mark 1:12-15

Introductory Devotion to Genesis 22:1-18 / Mark 1:12-15

What do you fear? I guess I don’t mean what creeps you out or even what terrifies you… I mean, what are the circumstances, the people, the forces that want your attention and your allegiance because you think they can either take away what you hold precious or provide the future you have in mind. 

Perhaps our first reading is among the “difficult ones” because it reminds of those things… When God tested Abraham. “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac… Sacrifice him…as a burnt offering.” I imagine Abraham was quite concerned about what his life would be and who his son would be and how his future would be. And, I imagine Abraham would have been tempted to fear the loss of all those things – after all, Abraham – the man who had everything: wealth, respect, power, family, promise – to lose Isaac likely would have made everything else worth nothing at all… To walk that path of potential loss, that would have been a trial / a test…

But a test of what? Whenever you’ve stood there, knife in sweaty handy, shaking with anticipation over the sacrifice… of death, or respect, or achievement, or happiness… to sacrifice them or not… isn’t it a test? Those moments that feel unfair or that seem like some absurd morality trap – “sacrifice your only son”, lose face, give up on dreams? They’re not unfair, it’s not a trap – it’s just the ultimate question: what do you fear most? I mean, where does your respect and honor and attention lie – will it be achieving all you will / can / should be OR will you let God be everything?

I certainly don’t always – you haven’t always – Abraham didn’t always… but he did pass this test. You know what’s interesting? When we get to the bottom of that reading in a moment, it won’t say that Abraham named the place “Abraham was obedient” but rather “The Lord will provide.” Interestingly, the Hebrew words for “to fear” and “to provide” are closely related… That’s not just word-play though – that’s how it is. Because that’s how God does everything; that’s what enables you to fear him even when you might “lose everything”. You let God be everything because he has provided…

In the cosmic question of who is King of the universe – and whether you will have a relationship with him – which he calls the highest good… there is no arguing he’s unjust, or even unfair, or even unfeeling… Tell that to his Son – tempted in the desert – “just as we are” – yet he never let anything be more, always kept his relationship to God as everything. And still he empathizes with you. Still he died for you. Still his holiness covers you… And he calls you, from whatever else you’re experiencing, into that story…

In Lent, we’re following the way to his cross. But really, we’re proclaiming that we live under him in his kingdom and we serve him now and we know he will provide an everlasting future. And we’re saying that we fear nothing more… In fact, we pray that God be in our heads and our hearts, in our ministry and our plans, our beginning and ending and everything in between. Glory, praise and honor be to the God who provides for us so well that we gladly serve in all things under his gracious reign…

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