5th Sunday in Lent
April 9-10, 2011
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen
The Lord promised, “One who will come from your own body shall be your heir. Look toward the heaven, and count the stars. So shall your offspring be.” And Abram believed, and it was credited to him as righteousness. Sarah grew impatient. So Hagar was given law, of the Sinai to come, of bondage. Thus Ishmael and his seed would be the trouble and persecution of the children of Abraham.
At ninety-nine, still childless with Sarah, Abram continued to hope in the Lord. The foolish sign of circumcision was given, wherein Abraham, and his son, Ishmael, and all the men of his house, were to have their foreskins removed by knife's edge. The promise was renewed, “You shall be a father of many nations, and you shall be called Abraham. I will make you exceedingly fruitful. Also I give to you and your descendents after you all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” And Sarah shall bear to you a son, Isaac, at this set time. A fool-hearty sign, a promise of nations from one who remains childless, and a child from one beyond children; and yet the knife falls, Abraham believes, and Sarah laughs.
And the Lord did for Sarah as He had spoken. She conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time which God had appointed. And the promise was made flesh. And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the child, his name was called Isaac, the name given by God before he was conceived in the womb. Sarah pondered all these things in her heart, and Isaac increased in wisdom and stature.
Then one early morning, Abraham saddled his donkey and split the wood for the burnt offering. Once he had believed the promise without a son, and now he believes despite His only son's certain death. He took two of his servants and Isaac, and together they journeyed to the foot of the mountain. Three days they travelled, Abraham having decided what he must do, relying on the promise of the Divine Majesty- trusting that He who gave birth to Isaac out of a worn out womb, would likewise raise Isaac from the grave. Twenty-something Isaac uncomplainingly does his father will. On the third day, only two continued - aged Abraham with his wrinkled face and fragile skeleton, and athletic Isaac with his powerful muscles and broad shoulders.
The wood for the sacrifice was loaded upon the broad span of the only-begotten, and the will of his father was revealed in the fire and the knife. Bound together in the bond of love, nearly as one-being, the two went together toward the mountain of sacrifice. As the time of sacrifice neared, the child's eyes were opened while the servants slept, and he questioned: “My Father! the fire and the wood and where is the animal. but your will be done.”
And in the hot afternoon sun, when they had come to the place, the wood was set in place, and the son was bound upon it. His life could not be taken from him, for he was the stronger man, and yet he laid it down, submitting to the father's will, to suffer as the death of all his descendents, to be raised again from the ashes of the grave, that the father's offspring would be more than the celestial bodies of the heavens, that theirs would be the promised land, the land flowing with milk and honey.
And there was no rescue, no Angel of mercy ready to save, for I am not talking about Isaac. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of Promise made flesh, the long-awaited Seed of the woman, the Coming One, the Savior of all the nations, of Whom God had spoken to the snake:
I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heal.
And Adam believed, together with Seth and Enoch and Noah, with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, with all the faithful of Israel who looked for the long-awaited Savior.
And when the fullness of time had come, the Lord did for Mary as He had promised. She conceived and bore a son. And the Word became flesh. And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb, for He would save His people from their sins. And meloncholied Mary pondered all these things in her heart, and Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men.
Jesus is the ram caught in a thicket by its horns, the Lamb of God Who was bound in Isaac's place, Who travelled uncomplaining the way toward suffering and death, carrying the world's sins upon His shoulders, quietly doing as His Father bid Him. But as the day of sacrifice approached, He opened His eyes and mouth in prayer while the disciples slept, beseeching, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass. Your will be done.”
He died the death from which Isaac was rescued, and by the foolish sacrifice of the Father's Only-Begotten you too are rescued from sin and death and Satan and hell. For in the hot afternoon sun, when they had come to the place of the skull, the wood was set in place and the Son of God was nailed upon the accursed tree. No one could take His life from Him, but He gave it freely, submitting to the will of His Father who had forsaken Him, that He quench the Father's fiery wrath. And He gave up His Spirit crying out, “It is finished.”
The atonement for your sins is finished, accomplished, completed. There is nothing left for you to do, for the sacrifice of our Lord is all-availing, perfect. He suffered and died in the place of mankind, to be raised again from the tomb by the glory of the Father, that the children of God would be raised from the dead at the Last, that theirs would be the promised land, the land flowing with milk and honey, the heavenly Jerusalem where you are forever seated at the Heavenly Feast which never ends.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.