- We are a community seeking to have open minds, open hearts, and open arms, building community in a fragmented world.
- We want to welcome everyone who is in the house today and everyone online. We are grateful for all the many ways you can join us for worship on this Lord’s Day.
- REMINDER: We are grateful for your cooperation with our mask requirement
- Announcements will be on one sheet at the back of the sanctuary. Visit our website at mantuacentercc.org for updates, events & previous YouTube services.
- In worship today…we will reflect on a famous story, but a difficult story about Abraham and Isaac. We will explore, ask questions, and wonder together as we read the story of scripture today.
- Let’s prepare our hearts and minds for worship with our Opening Scripture Reading...
Gathering Music God will take care of you Jan Green [Robert W. Thygerson]
Opening Scripture - John 1:29-34
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” 31I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ 32And John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” 34And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.’
Let’s sing together Weave
*Response - Weave
Weave, weave, weave us together,
Weave us together, in unity and love.
Weave, weave, weave us together,
weave us together, together in love.
*Call to Worship Liz Meeker
ONE: The spirit of God calls us from many places;
ALL: some of us come from busy homes with many people, some
of us live alone. We are all part of this family.
ONE: This week has been different for each of us;
ALL: some of us have had happy news we want to celebrate;
some of us have faced grief and need to cry.
We are members of God’s family.
ONE: Yet we all come to this same place;
ALL: all of us seeking God’s presence in our lives
all of us seeking God’s presence with each other.
Together we become God’s family.
By Katherine Hawker
*Opening Hymn All Creatures of our God and King #22
All creatures of our God and King,
lift up your voice and with us sing
O burning sun with golden beam,
O silver moon with softer gleam:
O praise God, O praise God,
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
Offering of Praise Liz Meeker
Children’s Moment Ally Bozeka
Pastoral Prayer Rev. Chad Delaney
O God, who always listens to us, who breathes new life into us, everyday. You are mighty and holy, yet gentle and always closeby. By your Holy Spirit lead us, call us toward greater faith and faithfulness.
We are surrounded by a world of great fear and pain. a world where we can lose hope in our structures, ourselves, and even in you. We pray for this world in need of your Healing Strength:
for all the people in it . . .
for those who lay down their lives . . .
for those who lead . . .
God of Love,
• Give to us a faith like the grain of mustard seed though small yet yielded large results.
• Give to us faith to move the mountains of difficulty which come to each of us.
• Give to us the faith to persevere and keep moving forward
• Give us the faith to ask questions and to seek you and your righteousness
• Give to us a faith which has a vision of a new world where YOUR WAY might reign in our lives.
Hear now our silent prayers….
That we might be you hands and feet in name and likeness of Jesus. Amen.
Meditation Drema Herron
Communion Hymn Bread of the World #387
Bread of the world in mercy broken,
wine of the soul in mercy shed,
by whom the words of life were spoken,
and in whose death our sins are dead:
Prayer & Lord’s Prayer Drema Herron
Words of Institution Rev. Chad Delaney
Scripture Reading Genesis 21:1-3; 22:1-14
The Lord dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as he had promised. Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Now Sarah said, ‘God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.’ And she said, ‘Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.’
After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt-offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.’ So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt-offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.’ Abraham took the wood of the burnt-offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, ‘Father!’ And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ He said, ‘The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?’ Abraham said, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt-offering, my son.’ So the two of them walked on together.
When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’ And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt-offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place ‘The Lord will provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’
Sermon Holy Curiosity
Our scripture today is a difficult one. It is not the type of scripture that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Yes, we see there is some resolution and with relief we get to the end of the story with Abraham and Isaac walking home together...but the scripture invites all sorts of questions and wonderment.
I was blessed by a series of questions asked by Karla Suomala:
- Why did God test Abraham? Was it for God’s benefit or for Abraham’s?
- Why would God demand a child sacrifice in the first place?
- What was Abraham thinking and feeling as he journeyed three days with his son? Did he have doubts? Did he want to turn back?
- Where was Sarah? Why wasn’t she involved? Did Abraham tell her what he was going to do? Would she have permitted Abraham to leave?
- How old was Isaac? What was he thinking? When did he realize what his father was planning to do to him?
- Why did God ultimately stop the sacrifice?
What questions would you add to this small list? Some of us hesitate to ask questions for fear of being irreverent. The Bible is Holy and who am I to question it? Yet, for many, many centuries theologians, clergy, and faithful folks (whether Jewish, Christian, or Muslim) have brought the stories of Holy Scripture to life and relevance through asking questions and seeking a deeper understanding.
Through pondering the story, wondering about its contents, characters, and meanings, looking at it from different angles...we can learn and grow a lot.
For me, I really thought about how relationships might be affected by what happened.
In terms of Abraham...I wanted him to fight back and argue with God and refuse. He’s had no problem arguing with God before this. When God wanted to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah he argued with God about saving them. So why--of all times--did he stay silent and go along this time? And what would Abrahams’ relationship with Isaac have been after this? I also wondered if Sarah would have been there what would have happened? Would Isaac tell mom what happened? If so, what might have changed about her relationship with Abraham?
This story makes me think about how sometimes our beliefs and relationship with God might complicate some of our family relationships. In ministry I have seen many different kinds of situations. Many believe differently than their spouse or who have conflict with family and friends because of their faith. What happens when something we are passionate about or believe in strongly is different from a friend or co-worker? What do we do when our understanding of God and God’s will might cause friction or even pain between you and those you love? Do we make the sacrifice and end the relationship? Would God ask us to do that? Do we disobey God (in our minds) and preserve the relationship? Is there a middle ground? Do we hope that God intervenes so we don’t have to make those kinds of choices? I’m guessing Abraham was.
In other words….Life is messy. And so I believe that it is an absolute blessing that the Bible shares messy stories with us to teach and challenge and encourage us in our daily life. It’s not always cut and dry and easy to understand. I’m sure we all have situations right now that we wonder what God would have us do. We want it always to be all clean, tidy, and clear. But often it’s clear as mud. This story reminds us that navigating life and relationships and who God is and what God wants us to do is often hard...but we also see that God is always nearby.
This is what the story made me think about….what about you? What did you notice or think about? Some have speculated that this particular story intentionally left so much unknown. In many biblical stories we get the internal dialogue out loud so we can at least know what’s going on in one of the character’s heads. In this story, however, we aren’t given any such luxury. It’s almost as if the Bible is inviting us to embrace the mystery. Sometimes, we will just have to admit and understand that we might not know and understand the workings of God.
Church Family, as we again go on our trek through the bible let’s not be afraid to really engage, think about, and yes question the stories of scripture. Could we even embrace the uncertainty and confusion. Sometimes our “we want it all to make sense” way of thinking actually can hinder us from seeing something more. Instead, inquiry, questions, wondering can motivate us to grow in our faith, to seek deeper understanding. In so doing, it becomes more our faith than someone else’s.
Through the messiness of life, may we never stop seeking those chances to deepen our faith and see scripture and God in new ways. May we listen to one another, see from different perspectives, to never stop asking questions.
And may we too, trust in the goodness and mercy of God humbly recognizing that we don’t know it all and never will. As in Isaiah 8:9-10 when God puts it bluntly, “8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
May God give you a spirit of trust and faith...and may God’s Spirit continue to inspire within you a Holy Curiosity to grow and challenge your faith. May it be so.
Closing Hymn Shalom to You #436
Shalom to you now, shalom, my friends.
May God's full mercies bless you, my friends.
In all your living and through your loving,
Christ be your shalom, Christ be your shalom.
So go from here with joy and confidence
to love and serve the Lord.
Be not afraid to ask questions,
but trust in the Lord with all your heart.
For the blessing of God,
the love of Jesus Christ,
and the presence of the Holy Spirit goes with you.
Departing Music Postlude on “Faithfulness Jan Green [Douglas E. Wagner]