IV Pentecost

July 2, 2017

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. AMEN.

The Saturday mornings of my youth were not all that pleasant.  My Father was the sexton at our Church and so as a teenager with a body clock that was not one of a morning person, I would have to wake early on Saturday mornings to help clean the Church – without pay.

I learned to use the large dust mop to clean the linoleum tile floors.  I cleaned the bathroom toilets, and then it was off to the Church itself to use Pledge on all of the wood surfaces – the pews, the altar, the wainscoting – was there a surface that was not wood?

And then there was helping to shovel snow.  The large Lutheran Church across the street had people with snow blowers.  We had to hand shovel, the whole width of the sidewalk.  The Church was on a corner lot with sidewalk on both streets.  Did I mention that I did not get paid?

As I grew older, I would mow lawns for some of the people in the surrounding neighborhoods.  When they asked how much I would charge, I was instructed by my parents to say, “Whatever you can afford to give.”  I could have made a killing!

One of the first jobs that I had after High School was working at Kmart.  I maintained working there during summers
while I was in seminary and when I returned to my home town as I tried to get into the ordination process.  Whether it
was working at the checkout, or cleaning the entry doors with Windex, I always heard my parent’s voices – If you are going to do something, do it right.

Let’s face it, this work history helped to form who I am today.  I do not volunteer to do something or to be a part of a committee or ministry unless I feel that I can give 100%.  And it started with those Saturday morning battles with a teenager that wanted to sleep instead of being “Peter Pledge” dusting the pews at Church.

This is perhaps a silly example of something that is important.  We are people who are formed by the experiences we have in our life.  And, more often than not, it is the unpleasant or – sometimes hard wilderness times in our lives which really make us who we are.

This is true with Abraham in this morning’s lesson from Genesis.  Abraham is put to the ultimate test.  God had given him a son through which God’s promises of covenant were supposed to be fulfilled.  God had given Abraham and Sarah a child when it was thought to be impossible.

It was this child that Abraham was asked to take to the mountain and sacrifice.  Let’s put it bluntly.  Abraham was being asked to kill his son.  And as hard as it was, Abraham was willing to do it.  And, as with many of the hard things in our life, the point was not to have Abraham to kill his son, but for Abraham to be formed into the person whom God wanted him to be.

If Abraham was to be the Father of a great nation.  If he and Sarah were to have descendents as numerous as the stars in the sky.  If they were to be whom God needed them to be, they had to go through this experience.

Let me stop for a moment.  I want to be clear that I am not saying that every horrible thing that happens in a person’s life is caused by God.  There are, however, experiences or times of wilderness that are used by God to help people become who they are meant to be.

Whenever I am in the wilderness in my life, I always try to remember that we cannot get to the Promised Land without going through the dessert.  We also cannot get to the resurrection without death.

That brings me to the other important point about this morning’s lesson from Genesis.  God did not have Abraham
sacrifice his son, but God did choose to sacrifice His own Son.  And that Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, chose to die for us.  Jesus lived a human life and learned just like we did. 

If we believe that Jesus was fully human and fully divine, then Jesus had to learn from life just the way that we do.  I
believe that Jesus knew that He was the Messiah, but it was only through living His human life that He came to fully understand who He was meant to be as Messiah.

Life is filled with experiences which are often used by God to help us be formed into the people we are meant to be.  I
wish that they were all pleasant experiences, but often they are not.  But if we live a life in Christ, then we are assured that we serve a Savior who has lived a life in which He had to learn, and He is there as we learn and become the people we are meant to be in Him.  AMEN.