Throughout our life we try to avoid hard conversations—the ones that may embarrass, leave you feeling a fool. Hard conversations have an impact on our relationships; they don’t remain the way they were. We sense a wedge driven between ourselves and another or we glimpse a greater possibility that vastly changes our sense of self, our relationships, and our per- spective on life and death—and life again.
A Jewish scholar, Martin Buber said there are only two kinds of encounters/conversations: the rst being I-it, a mono- logue where you purposefully manipulate the other in order to get what you want. There is no need to listen. However, the other conversation, I-Thou, is based on respect where a true dia- logue can occur, where listening to the other holds the potential of our being changed by the encounter.
Our passage today begins with a hard word from God to Abraham though it doesn’t quite meet the requirement for con- versation. God calls, Abraham responds. God’s request imperils the promise, the greater possibility that an heir offered Abraham and Sarah. Couched in the language of testing, God demands Isaac as a sacri ce. Does Abraham trust God and obey out of faith, or does Abraham desire relationship only for reward?
Call, response, request, silence. The conversation ends in Abraham’s obedience. He readies the wood and donkey and sets out with his servants and Isaac. Only as they reach the place of sacri ce do words come as Abraham addresses his servants: “Stay here . . . the boy and I will go over there; we will wor- ship, and then we will come back to you.” Father and son set out with wood, re, and a knife. Isaac himself inquires, “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Another hard conversation, but perhaps they walk toward a miracle.
When did your prayer time last involve a hard conversation between God and you?
Not only is God’s call on Abraham unthinkable, it jeopardizes the long-delayed but now-realized promise. Yet in the end, Abraham’s faith and God’s grace prevail. Psalm 13 is the classic example of a psalm of complaint. It shows that a prayer of complaint is a vigorous, active form of hope in God. Thus the psalm moves from a situation of need to a resolution in joy and confidence. In the passage from Romans 6, Paul juxtaposes three pairs of opposites: sin versus righteousness, freedom versus slavery, and wages versus gifts. For Paul, sin is a power that exceeds the abilities of human beings to contest. Only God is a match for the power of sin. We cannot earn or achieve eternal life; it is a gift from God. Matthew 10 makes a strong claim about the identification of believers with Jesus and, in turn, with God.
• Read Genesis 22:1-14. We do not often face such demands from God as the one Abraham faced. What hard situations has God called you to? What hard conversations followed?
• Read Psalm 13. The psalmist asks God to pay attention and take his situation seriously. When has that been your request of God?
• Read Romans 6:12-23. When have you felt like a scout earning merit badges for God? How has obedience from the heart helped you reorient your life?
• Read Matthew 10:40-42. What “cup of cold water” might you offer to someone in need?
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