Unbinding the Children and the Rest of Us, Too

Sunday, July 2 at 10am | Bulletin

“Unbinding the Children, and the Rest of Us, Too”


We return to the lectionary this Sunday with a reading of one of the most terrifying and triggering stories in the Bible — the Akedah, the binding of Isaac. The narrative has troubled its hearers – Jews, Christians, and Muslims – throughout time. It’s a test of faith that Abraham passes. Right?  Abraham did what God asked him to do: he obeyed, and Isaac was spared.  For most of us, that conventional interpretation is a little too facile.

Like any brilliant narrative, the Akedah raises more questions than it answers. My first question is, what kind of monstrous divine being would ask a parent to place their child on a woodpile, then raise a knife to take their life as a sacrifice to God?  Other questions rapidly emerge:  Did Abraham hear God correctly? Is this story a relic of a primitive society’s practice of child sacrifice?  Surely, we’ve evolved beyond that, right?  Or have we?  How many children’s lives have been sacrificed on the altars of our greed, our AR-15 rifles, our inattention to a climate emergency that is taking – right now! – more and more lives?  Doesn’t our society, too, sacrifice children, poor folks, people in pain, and folks on the wrong side of the railroad tracks?

In the story, a messenger from God interrupts the violent sacrifice. He calls to Abraham. Twice. Abraham drops the knife and unbinds Isaac.  If we turn the interpretive lens a certain way, the story becomes less about Abraham’s obedience and more about the necessity of Isaac’s unbinding and the child’s freedom to flourish, which is the right of every human being. Who was that messenger?  Do we have the courage to become the kind of messengers who proclaim life in a society of violence and death? What sacrifices are required of us to become witnesses to life?

We’ll consider these questions together come Sunday.

See you then,

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