Today is the second day of the Muslim festival known as Eid al-Adha commemorating the story of Abraham sacrificing his son Ishmael, somewhat different from the Jewish and Christian versions of the story. The Hebrew text has God saying to Abraham, “Tale your son, your only son…” But earlier in Genesis, it’s pretty clear that he has another son named Ishmael by his wife’s servant Hagar who he turns out into the wilderness because of Sarah’s misplaced jealousy.
How to commemorate a sacrifice, or at least an intended one? The Qur’an and the Hebrew Scripture has God stopping this human sacrifice just in time. The real test for Abraham and for all of us is one of obedience. How do we gauge when we are to be obedient and when we should ask, even question God?
Those questions are difficult for us to answer. When do we obey what we think is a command and when do we stand back and question what we think doesn’t make sense? Both the Qur’an and the Book of Genesis seem to tell us to always obey, but it is in our capacity as human beings to decide what constitutes true obedience and what fits within our preconceived notions.
Prayer for the Day
Although you know sacrifice does not become us, O Lord,
You keep throwing challenges into our lives;
Frustrated by our desire to refuse your call,
You see we look for the easy way to live.
Transform our trepidation into boldness
Enabling us to be your disciples.
In the name of him who shows us how to live,
Even Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.
Thoughts for the Day
It's not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. What's hard, she said, is figuring out what you're willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about.
Shauna Niequist, from her book Bittersweet
Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice. It demands greater heroism than war. It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.
Thomas Merton, theologian (1915-1968)
O God, who may dwell in your tent? Who may abide on your holy hill?
Those who walk blamelessly and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart
Psalm 15: 1-2