Week 7: It’s Not Too Late

BibleStoryline-CallingFor this week’s after-dinner family Bible conversation, we are doing Chapter 7, It’s Not Too Late, from Brian McLaren’s We Make the Road by Walking.
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1. As we’re finishing dinner
, we listen to this really excellent song based on Micah 6, plus dramatizations of Acts 17 and Genesis 18.  The theme is how Yahweh’s tastes are different from the other gods.  Yahweh desires not temples and altars and sacrifices, but justice and mercy and compassion.

 

2. I give my own personal midrash on the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac:

Once upon a time, everybody had lots of gods.  They had a god for rain and a god for sunshine, a god for helping them make friends and a god for making them feel better when they got the sniffles. When people wanted to make friends with a god, they made a little statue of that god (called an idol) and put it on a shelf.

When people wanted a god to do them a favor, they gave the god something good to eat. But here’s the thing:  Usually, the gods’ favorite thing to eat was, well, PEOPLE.  Yeah, really. 

And their favorite kind of person to eat?  KIDS.  Yum!  So yeah, needless to say, it was not a great time to be a kid (But the story gets better, I promise).

So anyway, one day a man named Abraham met a god named Yahweh.

“Hello, how are you?” said Yahweh.
“Very well, thank  you,” said Abraham.  And he thought, “What a friendly god! I wonder why he said hello to me…”

Later, Abraham said to himself:
“I know what Yahweh wants: He wants to be one of my gods!”

But then Yahweh spoke:  “No, Abraham.  I am not like the other gods.  I don’t want to share you with the other gods.  I want to be your special one-and-only.  I will be your God, and you will be my Person.”

Abraham agreed.

Later, Abraham said to himself:
“I know what Yahweh wants: He wants me to make a statue of him and put it on my shelf!”

But then Yahweh spoke: “No, Abraham.  I am not like the other gods.  I don’t want you to have a statue that looks like me.  I want you to have me.  The real me.  I will be your God, and you will be my Person.

Abraham agreed.

Later, Abraham said to himself:
“I know what Yahweh wants: He wants me to give him something special to eat!  Yahweh wants my son, Isaac, my one-and-only son, whom I love.”

But then Yahweh spoke: “No, Abraham.  I am not like the other gods.  I don’t want to eat your little boy.  I want to be friends with him, just like how I am friends with you.  I will be his God and your God, and you will be my People.

Abraham agreed.

And Isaac was happy too.

 

3. We read today’s main text out loud together, taking turns with each paragraph: Genesis 22.1-14.  This is a difficult text, especially with kids.  I personally have come to disbelieve the idea that God is just “testing” Abraham’s faith.  That makes as much sense as God “testing” Abraham by commanding him to make an idol.  Not buying it.  I think this story depicts an evolution in Abraham’s knowledge of Yahweh.  He believes God wants one thing, and then comes to realize God wants something else.  It’s never too late to learn something new about God.

If the big story of the Bible is that God cares more about obedience than anything else, then sure, it makes sense to think God is testing Abraham’s obedience here.  But if the big story of the Bible is that the divine Triune Life is being incarnated in human life in of justice and mercy… then I think we need to hear this story differently.

* An interesting sidenote:  In the Hebrew text, El (generic Canaanite deity, a name also used to apply to Abraham’s God) commands the human sacrifice, and later it is Yahweh who stops it.

 

3. We watch a set of videos — a short summary of the history of human sacrifice and it’s role in culture, and then a dramatization of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac.  If you have Netflix, I recommend watching more than just this short clip I found on YouTube.  One thing I like in the complete version (in episode one of the History Channel’s excellent BIBLE miniseries) is that it leaves it open whether God is actually commanding the sacrifice.  We, the audience, don’t hear what Abraham seems to be hearing.

 


5. We have a family conversation about it all. We use the discussion questions at the end of the chapter as a guide, but we try to let the conversation range pretty freely.

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EXTRAS:

  • A feature-length movie about Abraham, and it tells the Isaac-sacrifice stuff in a more traditional way than I prefer.
  • The human sacrifice scene from APOCALYPTO.  Really gory.  Only for much older and jaded kids who are not fazed by blood and guts.

binding-of-isaac

  • THE BINDING OF ISSAC (video game demo):  Okay, so this one is not for little kids, maybe too disturbing even for older kids.  It’s a game based on the Abraham story — Isaac’s mom (who does nothing but watch Christian TV all day) starts hearing voices telling her to sacrifice her son to God.So yeah.  I’m noticing there are not a lot of real kid-friendly games about child sacrifice…

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