Worship without Sacrifice (28 June 2020)

28 Jun 2020 by Heather S in: Online Services

 

Acknowledgement of Country

We acknowledge the Dharawal people the traditional custodians of this land and pay our respects to Elders past and present and emerging.

We acknowledge Lord, given the themes of this morning’s service, the stolen generation. The grief, loss, anguish, abuse, ignorance and denials.

We are sorry Lord.

We pray for them as they continue to feel the effects of wrongs that have never been fully righted

Lighting of a candle

Eternal and near at hand. 
Already and not yet.

God’s promise is the foundation of all life.

Holy Trinity, full of light and movement and mystery, 
lighten the darkness of our world,
move in our hearts,
draw us deeper into the mystery of your being. 
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Call to Worship

Here we gather on a screen, each in our own homes, 
We bring to this place of worship today the joys, the worries
and the uncertainty of our lives. 

Dear Father God, as we come into your presence we humbly ask you to restore and assure us. Challenge and remake us. Encourage and equip us. Thank you for each other. Thank you for your spirit within and amongst us. In this time of quiet at the beginning of a new week, give us minds to comprehend, hearts to engage and souls with which to rejoice in your Love for us.

HYMN: Praise my soul the king of heaven

Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven;
To His feet thy tribute bring.
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
Evermore His praises sing:
Praise Him, praise Him, alleluia!
Praise the everlasting King.

Praise Him for His grace and favour
To our fathers in distress;
Praise Him still the same for ever,
Slow to chide, and swift to bless.
Praise Him, praise Him, alleluia!
Glorious in His faithfulness.

Father like He tends and spares us,
Well our feeble frame He knows;
In His hands He gently bears us,
Rescues us from all our foes.
Praise Him, praise Him, alleluia!
Widely yet His mercy flows.

Angels, help us to adore Him,
Ye behold Him face to face;
Sun and moon, bow down before Him;
Dwellers all in time and space,
Praise Him, praise Him, alleluia!
Praise with us the God of grace

Prayer of Confession   (Mother Teresa)

Lord, when I think that my heart is overflowing with love and realise in a moment’s honesty that it is only myself that I love in the loved one, 

Deliver me from myself

Lord, when I think that I have given all that I have to give and realise in a moment’s honesty that it is I who am the recipient, 

Deliver me from myself

Lord, when I have convinced myself that I am poor and realise in a moment’s honesty that I am rich in pride and envy, 

Deliver me from myself

And, Lord, when the kingdom of heaven merges deceptively with the kingdoms of this word

Let nothing satisfy me but God.

Assurance and Forgiveness

The Lord enrich us with his grace, and nourish us with his blessing;
the Lord defend us in trouble and keep us from all evil; 
the Lord accept our prayers, and absolve us from our offences,
for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Saviour. Amen.

Readings 

Genesis 22 v 1-14 New International Version (NIV)

 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied.

2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

Reflection 

“Abraham is tested”, “God will provide”.  Pretty standard titles for one of the scariest, most inappropriate stories to have ever been taught in Sunday school. Whichever way this tale is presented, it is horrific. A child old enough to walk, talk, question, is taken and bound by his father, laid on an altar and sees his father wield a knife over him. (I wonder what story Abraham made up to tell Sarah about the planned father and son camping trip?) I also wonder what sort of relationship Isaac had with his father before and after the incident. Was trust destroyed or strengthened?

The only plausible explanation of this chapter of Genesis for me, personally, is that the writer is showing that Abraham’s God does not require child sacrifice. In contrast to the tribes around them. Abraham is realising that his god, the God,  is different.

Around early civilisations there is disturbing evidence of child sacrifice in the Aztecs, Incas, Mayan and in Peru. Moving away from South America there is evidence in the Minoan culture of Crete. Disturbingly there are still, now,  killings in Uganda, and with more reports from Nigeria, Liberia, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, there are fears human sacrifice is spreading.

In Biblical times Moloch is the biblical name of a Canaanite and Ammonite god associated with child sacrifice through fire (you really do not want the details). They believed that Molech would ensure financial prosperity for the family and future children. The Israelites were strictly forbidden to practice this form of worship (Leviticus 18:21, 20:2-5; 2 Kings 23:10; and Jeremiah 32:35)

But, read a few verses from Psalm 106:

“They did not destroy the peoples
    as the Lord had commanded them,
35 but they mingled with the nations
    and adopted their customs.
36 They worshiped their idols,
    which became a snare to them.
37 They sacrificed their sons
    and their daughters to false gods.
38 They shed innocent blood,
    the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
    and the land was desecrated by their blood.
39 They defiled themselves by what they did;
    by their deeds they prostituted themselves.”

It would seem that the story of Abraham and his beloved son Isaac was not always heeded in future generations of the Israelites.

All very distressing. Should we be concerned in this day and age?

The account highlights the vulnerability of the young. Cultures have changed. A bit. Slowly. Very young girls married off early. Sons sent to war at 18. Boys ages 4 -10 sent up chimneys in the 19th century.  We would like to think that our understanding of God’s will for how children are cared for has improved in more recent times but…consider:

Exhibit A. Leaving Liverpool. The series follows two children - Lily and Bert - who meet at the Star of the Sea Orphanage in Liverpool. England in the 1950s. They are transported to Australia, where they are placed in a labour camp, and later forced to work at a sheep station. This happened until 1967. (Many of us were alive then.)

Exhibit B. Rabbit Proof Fence. The stolen generation. 

1997 - The “Bringing Them Home” report is tabled in the Australian parliament. It found:

- Between one in three and one in 10 indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and communities between 1910 and 1970.

- The children were at risk of physical and sexual abuse in institutions, church missions and foster homes.

Exhibit C. The Royal Commission into child sex abuse, carried out in many case ministers of the church. A new disturbing meaning to the term “altar boys”. Yes, the altar where sacrifice occurs. Sacrifice childhood and innocence.

And more exhibits, many more matters to consider in our age.

Here is a website about the fight to prevent female genital mutilation in Australia. Yes, Australia, not Somalia or Nigeria.

Melinda Tankard Reist has worked amazingly to combat the sexualisation of young girls. Target selling bras for 4 year olds, pressure to look like a Barbie doll and Disney princesses. I would urge you to browse her organisation Collective Shout.

The sickening dark internet and the sex slaves of today. Terrible abuse of young vulnerable children. Here is an organisation doing something about that, founded by Nick and Christine Caine.

I have read two novels that bring sexual slavery into the plot line in a sensitive and well researched way, and would recommend “Matthew Flinders Cat” by Bryce Courtenay and “Big Sky” by Kate Atkinson.

It would seem Abraham is still hovering with a knife. Many victims in the sex trade would probably prefer the knife rather than infinite hell on earth. 

The readings from Matthew emphasise Jesus’ interaction with children. In a time where children of Roman slaves were still a commodity to be bought and sold by the masters, the idea of any children drawing close to a Rabbi was at least unusual. Jesus was challenging the norms of society.

Matthew 18:1-5, 10-14

At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

2 Then he called a little child over to sit among the disciples, 3 and said, “I assure you that if you don’t turn your lives around and become like this little child, you will definitely not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Those who humble themselves like this little child will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Parable of the lost sheep

10 “Be careful that you don’t look down on one of these little ones. I say to you that their angels in heaven are always looking into the face of my Father who is in heaven. 12 What do you think? If someone had one hundred sheep and one of them wandered off, wouldn’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillsides and go in search for the one that wandered off? 13 If he finds it, I assure you that he is happier about having that one sheep than about the ninety-nine who didn’t wander off. 14 In the same way, my Father who is in heaven doesn’t want to lose one of these little ones.

Matthew 19:13–15: Jesus blesses children

13 Some people brought children to Jesus so that he would place his hands on them and pray. But the disciples scolded them. 14 “Allow the children to come to me,” Jesus said. “Don’t forbid them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people like these children.” 15 Then he blessed the children and went away from there.

Reflection 

Perhaps we need to end on this positive note and thank God for the joy of children and grandchildren in our lives. For the work in schools around us, and the before and after school care next door, where each child is known and loved.

But what is disturbing and challenging is that, in our society today, there will be practises that future generations look back on with horror. Like we look back on the stolen generation, children without education and up chimneys, that were treated by society and church as normal and acceptable at the time. - I wonder what the youngest age is of the workers making our clothes in Bangladesh or China? How to create meaningful jobs in outback communities for youngsters?  Let us keep questioning and not assuming that all is well. 

The Psalm for today is Psalm 13. More of a lament and cry for help by those who suffer for any reason. We will meditate upon it and use the psalm as a prayer for progress, that God’s kingdom may spread into areas where children are abused and deprived, hungry and hopeless. Then we will listen to a song by Graham Kendrick written in the 80’s, originally for the pro-life charity CARE Trust.  

1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

Hymn Who can sound the depths of sorrow

Who can sound the depths of sorrow
In the Father heart of God
For the children we’ve rejected
For the lives so deeply scarred?
And each light that we’ve extinguished
Has brought darkness to our land
Upon our nation, upon our nation
Have mercy, Lord

We have scorned the truth you gave us
We have bowed to other lords
We have sacrificed the children
On the altars of our gods
O let truth again shine on us
Let your holy fear descend
Upon our nation, upon our nation
Have mercy, Lord

Who can stand before your anger?
Who can face your piercing eyes?
For you love the weak and helpless
And you hear the victims’ cries
Yes, you are a God of justice
And your judgement surely comes
Upon our nation, upon our nation
Have mercy, Lord

Who will stand against the violence?
Who will comfort those who mourn?
In an age of cruel rejection
Who will build for love a home?
Come and shake us into action
Come and melt our hearts of stone
Upon your people, upon your people
Have mercy, Lord

Who can sound the depths of mercy
In the Father heart of God?
For there is a Man of sorrows
Who for sinners shed his blood
He can heal the wounds of nations
He can wash the guilty clean
Because of Jesus, because of Jesus
Have mercy, Lord

Graham Kendrick

Prayers of the people

Let us thank God the loving heavenly Father, for all organisations that seek to protect the young and vulnerable. For family and community services, school counsellors, those in young peoples’ correctional centres, Barnado’s , the Smith family, agencies mentioned above, Uniting world and many overseas. Give wisdom to the workers and carers, vision to see and create a better future, perseverance when up against many challenges. May resources of all kinds be available. We pray in Jesus’ name, who became a child on earth and grew up in a family home.

HYMNOh thou who camest from above

1 O thou who camest from above
The fire celestial to impart,
Kindle a flame of sacred love
On the mean altar of my heart!

2 There let it for thy glory burn
With inextinguishable blaze,
And trembling to its source return
In humble prayer and fervent praise.

3 Jesus, confirm my heart's desire
To work, and speak, and think for thee;
Still let me guard the holy fire,
And still stir up the gift in me.

4 Still let me prove thy perfect will,
My acts of faith and love repeat;
Till death thy endless mercies seal,
And make the sacrifice complete.

Sending out

Almighty God, We thank you for feeding us with your word this morning. 
Through you son Jesus Christ, we offer you our souls and bodies to be a living sacrifice. Holy and acceptable. May we not be conformed to this world but seek to challenge, rather than rest complacently.
Send us out in the power of your Spirit, to live and work to your praise and glory. 
Amen.

The Lord bless us and watch over us
The Lord make his face to shine upon us
And be gracious unto us.
The Lord look kindly on us and give us peace:
Amen

Further thoughts

“A number of religions in Ankh-Morpork still practiced human sacrifice, except that they didn't really need to practice any more because they had got so good at it.”  Terry Pratchett

Breakout Questions (after the service)

What do you think the Abraham and Isaac story teaches us? 

Did God sacrifice his son Jesus in the same way?

What sort of God requires sacrifice?

Two lullabies

Cradle song   (Isaac Watts)

Hush my dear, lie still and lumber,
Holy angels guard thy bed.
Heavenly blessings without number
Gently falling on thy head.

Sleep me babe; thy food and raiment,
House and home, thy friends provide;
All without thy care and payment,
All thy wants are well supplied.

How much better thou art attended
Than the Son of God could be
When from heaven he descended
And became a child like thee.

Soft and easy is thy cradle;
Coarse and hard the Saviour lay,
When his birthplace was a stable
And his softest bed was hay.

Lo, he slumbers in a manger,
Where the horned oxen fed;
Peace, my darling, here's no danger,
Here's no ax a-near thy bed.

May'st thou live to know and fear him,
Trust and love him all thy days;
Then go dwell for ever near him,
See his face and sing his praise.

The Lamb (WILLIAM BLAKE)

Little Lamb who made thee 
Dost thou know who made thee 
Gave thee life & bid thee feed. 
By the stream & o'er the mead;

Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing wooly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice! 

Little Lamb who made thee 
Dost thou know who made thee 
Little Lamb I'll tell thee,
Little Lamb I'll tell thee!

He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb: 
He is meek & he is mild, 
He became a little child: 

I a child & thou a lamb, 
We are called by his name.
Little Lamb God bless thee. 
Little Lamb God bless thee.