Sunday, March 17, 2013

Homily for Fifth Sunday of Lent (Judica)

“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 of which I shall tell you” (Genesis 22:2).

Abraham was an old man and Sarah was an old woman.  They laughed when God told them they they would have a son.  That is why Isaac in Hebrew literally means laughter. 

But today Abraham is not laughing today.  He is taking his son – his only son – up to a high mountain.  Isaac is carrying on his back the wood that his father had chopped up for the sacrifice.  For God had said to Abraham “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a sacrifice on the mountain of which I shall tell you.” 

Abraham who delighted in his son, now leads him steadily toward the mountain.  He looks down at his son, who trudges on – up toward the mountain to worship God.  The father loves the son and the son loves his father.  Tear drops perhaps rolled down the wrinkles on Abraham’s aging and tired face – warn down from a century from travel, bondage, and war. 

This treasure of his son – was his joy – the apple of his eye.  Perhaps his Son Isaac laughed along the way.  But on the third day.  Abraham took the wood that his son had carried.  He built an altar out of the wood.  And asked that his Son lay down on the altar.  He did.  And his father tied him down and bound him to the wood.  The son was bound and tied to the wooden altar.  God had told Abraham to do this.  And Abraham trusted God.  He knew that the Lord would provide.  But he was still a man.  An old man.  He raised his knife and took the fire in his hand. 

His wrinkled hands shook violently.  He would first slaughter his son and then he would burn him.
At that moment of complete terror, an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and told Abraham to put down his knife, now I know that you fear God and have not withheld your son.  The Lord will provide.  Abraham lifted his bloodshot eyes and saw a ram caught in a corn of thorns by horns. 

God himself would provide.  Abraham took the sacrifice caught in a crown of thorns.  Issac was released from the altar unharmed.  And the ram was offered up instead of his son.  Issac was released and the sacrifice given by God was bound.

With knife in his hand, Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the sacrifice.  He saw Good Friday 2000 years before Christ was born.  He saw that another Father offers up his Son.  God provides the sacrifice that ends all sacrifice.  God settles the debts.  The eternal Son carries his wooden altar – his wooden cross toward another mountain.  He lays down.       

You sins brought about the death of God’s son.  It could be no other way….Only in this way can we rightly understand everyone’s favorite confirmation verse “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.”  

The Father offers up his son as a sacrifice.    The father takes a knife to his own Son.  He is roasted in his  father’s wrath – lifted high against the blazing sun - the punishment we sinners rightfully deserved.  Behold the lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.  He is the Passover lamb, where death passes over.  He is the ram caught in the thicket.  He is strapped down to the altar and you go free like Isaac.

The Lord gives over his own Son to death that you might live.  This is not an illustration for God’s love.  No, he actually does this.  As much as I, as your pastors, love and care for you – here at St. Paul.  I do not love you that much. 

For you I wouldn’t take my son, my Luther, whom I love, and sacrifice him for you.  I wouldn’t.  But God’s love is not like ours.  His ways are not our ways.  And his thoughts are not our thoughts.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth so are his ways higher than our ways. 

Behold the unfathomable love of God showed to us in Christ Jesus, our Lord.  Today Jesus says to the Jews “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day.  He saw it and was glad..truly.” When Abraham lifted his knife high, Abraham had faith.  Abraham saw Good Friday – He saw the crucified Christ when he saw the Ram caught in the thorns.  He knew that God would provide the sacrifice.  Abraham believed in Jesus.  He belief that God would provide the sacrifice.  He knew that Isaac would live and Jesus would die.  He knew that he would be raised from the dead.  

God’s love it different than our love.  He gives to us his son.  The holy Son of God lays down on the altar for sinners like us.  Tremble.  What wondrous love is this?  That the same God who created the heavens and the earth, the wind the sea, our farms, lays his son in the grave, that we would spared from death.

Last week Jesus said to us, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”        

Rejoice, dear Christian.  You have passed from death to life.  Jesus has come for the likes of you.  The sacrifice is given.  Your rest is won.  Your sins have been paid for and satisfied.  The bright shore is coming.  You will weep no more.  And soon your will safely stand in your fatherland.  With Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.  In Jesus name.  

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