Holy Communion: lectionary readings Genesis 22:1-19 and Matthew 9:1-8
Two stories, that share in common a journey with others, an encounter with God, and a return home, changed.
The story of Abraham setting out to sacrifice his son Isaac is a strange one, a story to wrestle with. It is a story in which all is not as it appears. We are told that God tested Abraham. But beneath layers of tradition and translation, it is the elohim (gods) who provoke Abraham towards filicide, and Yahweh (God) who intervenes to save both Isaac and indeed Abraham from the consequences.
We set out believing we have heard God, but the truth is that it may not have been God whom we heard at all. But it does not end there. The deeper truth—the revelation in the journey—is that God hears us. Hears us, and moves to bless us and to send us home—to return, changed—to be a channel of blessing to others.
There is a story in the Gospels of friends who carry their paralytic friend to Jesus to be healed, and when their way is barred by the crowd, they climb up onto the flat roof and literally tear it apart to lower their friend to Jesus. But in Matthew’s version of the story, they meet Jesus on the lakeside. It isn’t even clear that they were looking for him. The faith Jesus recognises in them might simply be the lived-out faith of including the paralysed man, of journeying with him. Surely they knew of Jesus, but the stories of our lives are ambiguous, open to more than one telling.
As Yahweh to Abraham, so Jesus to the paralytic: a blessing—forgiveness—and a sending home, through which others are blessed—you, too, can know forgiveness.
This is the epic journey told over and over again:
a crisis that drives us out from the familiar—though often it takes a trick or misconception to nudge us over the thresh-hold;
companions to help us, and a mentor to champion us;
a battle to win;
and a prize to win, which is not for us alone but to be shared by the community we return to.
We tell the story not as escapism from life but because it is our story, the story.
Where do you find yourself in that story today?
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