It is the traditional time of year in the US to think about whether or not you agree with singing (or at least listening to) patriotic songs during worship service, what the status of flags in the sanctuary should be, and whether or not you say the pledge to allegiance.

And the RCL passage this is Abraham (almost) sacrificing Isaac. This story is SO fascinating that it is found of all kinds of weird places, anime and Xena Warrior Princess jump to mind (Have you seen that episode, its a trip!). This, this is a known story. I am convinced that the reason its so well known is because, 2000+ yrs later, still don’t know exactly what it means.

Off the top of my head my sermon can go 3 directions, and I’m still narrowing it down (God-willing, give me focus)

•I can’t help but thinking as I try to untangle this, in the context of the holiday that some of us have sacrificed/or been sacrificed in war.

•As a pastor, I empathize with Abraham trying to say “Here I am” to both God and his family/son. (See the pics of 2 of my 3 sons)


•Comedically, I wonder if the ram was there all along and if Abraham just missed it. Was Abraham too focused on what he thought he had to do and therefore basically missed God’s grace in front of his very nose?

What are you looking at this week? What new ways is God speaking to you? What passage are you looking at? Let us know where you are, how your feeling and your strategy as we celebrate the preaching that is to come!

Katy Stenta is a solo pastor at a tiny church that is bigger on the inside in Albany, NY for over six years. When she is not dreaming up projects and ideas, some of which creep into the church, she plays with her three boys-boys or goes and visits her husband at the library, while he works, to read.


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37 thoughts on “11th Hour Preacher Party: What does the Sacrifice Mean?

  1. I’m preaching on the Binding of Isaac and, since it’s only Friday evening here, I’m still in the “too many ingredients, not really sure of the recipe” phase of sermon-writing. I’ve been reading a lot of Jewish writing about the story, and your three thoughts have all shown up in my reading. The first one, children sacrificed in war, was a common direction some US Jews went during the Vietnam war. And the third point, about the ram having been there all along, reminds me of what I read about mosaic depictions of the scene in 2 6th c. synagogues, the ram is tied to a bush to signify that its “presence was providential, not accidental” (Rbt. Gregg, “Sacred Stories, Rival Tellings,” p.147). God had this set up from the start.

    I’m hoping a good night’s sleep will help me figure out what, exactly, Spirit and I will be saying on Sunday.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. i am working with Matthew, and pondering what it means to welcome another person, but also what it means to accept the welcome we are offered.
    Read something interesting, at Tuesday’s RCL discussion about a cup of cold water. Most people talk about this as something simple. but in Matthew’s time, a cup of cold water was more complicated, as once the water was drawn from the well, it would start to warm up.
    a few things to do yet this afternoon, then ready to write tonight [Saturday]

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Here we have abandoned the lectionaries for the summer, and we are exploring intergenerational relationships in scripture. So tomorrow I am preaching about Samuel and Eli…it’s sort of the beginning (ish) of the series, as the children will go out for junior church one last time before spending the rest of the summer staying in worship. I had been thinking about all the ways we are blinded (by assumptions, mainly…perhaps the assumption that Samuel was too young and therefore couldn’t possibly be hearing from god, for instance), but now I’m thinking about how the message God has to share is heard through collaboration across the ages…it takes them both teaching and learning from each other, being open to listen and to share, etc. In that relationship, even one where one person didn’t know God yet and one thought their duties were well past, God does a new thing.
    Or something like that. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love your thoughts here, Teri, and I would love to know what other passages you are using in the series. This is a series I have been wondering about doing in my church.


  4. Good morning! Tomorrow will be my first Sunday in my part-time and mini-interim (6-8 weeks) call in what I quickly discovered is a high conflict little church. They chose to go straight from a pastor of 35 years to a new pastor; one group took like ducks to water to changes he immediately introduced and another . . . did not. He is on leave and I am using the Matthew text as a springboard to talk about welcome and hospitality – challenges and possibilities thereof, with respect to both people and situations. I am realizing as I write that this is the first time I have arrived at a new church in which my own welcome has not been flowers/cards/smiles, but people appearing in the office to raise issues in tones ranging from fear to anger. Somehow I don’t think 6-8 weeks is gonna do the trick.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds as though you are the one who has been welcoming them rather than the other way around. God bless you in this work of listening and healing.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am off lectionary in Acts with the story of Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch. Sermon is “Opening the Circle” and using the image that no matter how much we like a circle for all its wonderful metaphors…it is still a closed system…there is still and inside and an outside.

    And of course, it is July 2nd! The choir director picks the hymns and did a good job there and we will have a wonderful piano/flute duet on America the Beautiful for the offertory. I am working on the POP (Prayers of the People) and wondering what this sound like: As we celebrate the 4th of July where the Continental Congress declared that the United States of America was and should be a free nation. We celebrate our freedom and we remember all the sacrifices made by men, women, children, families, and people of color who fought, and continue to fight, for our freedom. Holy God, may we also trust that our real freedom lies only in you and you alone. Comments, suggestions, other ideas much appreciated.


    1. For a fun trivia fact, you could always note that independence was actually declared on July 2, and most of the people there assumed that would be the celebration date…but the time it took to make copies of the declaration meant it didn’t all become formally public until the 4th. 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  6. finished for the night, starting the service with lament , including this brief description of lament
    sermon is on MatthewFollowing Jesus: Welcoming or Welcomed
    and it is communion, so enough happening that a shorter sermon won’t matter.
    then 3 weeks annual leave, including 2 weeks travelling from Gove to Darwin in the Northern Territory. this is Indigenous land, and the tour we are on goes into communities and has indigenous guides for many of our excursions. also looking forward to warmer weather and no sermons.
    time for tea and sleep.


  7. As I did last week, regarding the text from Genesis, I am posing a number of different ways one might understand the reading and concluding by saying that, while I’ve preached this text 5 or 6 times in the last 17 years, each time I hear something different. This time I am wondering what I need to hear from God, today? How is God leading me into liberation? (and what am I being called to be liberated from?)…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sigh….
    After a surprisingly busy and slightly chaotic Messy Church this morning, I am all worn out. We won’t have junior church again now until mid-August, but I am expecting a few children tomorrow as we welcome the community in for the start of the village’s fun “Civic Week” – lots of activities all through the week, which is always launched with a church service.
    There will be folk there because they are part of the CW committee; there will be folk there because we have a girl from the junior school singing solo – Bridge over Troubled Water, in response to the Grenfell Tower disaster – she sang it at the school end of term service, and we invited her to come to church this weekend to sing – we are holding a retiring collection for the appeal fund.
    We have been following the NL Psalms series – and reach Psalm 30 today, and the theme is Thanks for Everything!
    I need to keep it light, brief, inclusive – and I have no starting point at all.
    There is a germ of an idea bubbling under the surface – thanks for our community – and all the community who will get involved in lots of different things over the next seven days: nature walks; afternoon tea; pet show; hill races; concert; fancy dress competition & parade (seriously competitive) and a magnificent fireworks display to round the week off, so by the time I’ve said a few words about all of that, I guess I’ll be done!


  9. I’m off lectionary too, with a sermons-by-request for July. First up is patience. Colossians 1:9-17 and the story of Hannah from 1 Samuel 1. I think it’s mostly written, but I’m still figuring out if Hannah was patient or not. I may just put the struggle in the sermon and let her speak for herself.

    Side note: anyone else who is a churchy child of the late ’70s or early ’80s remember the Music Machine album? And the song by Herbert the snail “Have Patience”? It’s in the sermon too. Maybe I’ll even sing it.Thanks to the miracle of the internet, here it is:

    I need an idea for a children’s time, as I know some grandchildren will be present. Still pondering that.


    1. I only know the similar (evidently same umbrella organization Wikipedia tells me) Bullfrogs and Butterflies which we did as a musical in missionary school when I was in 4th grade. Now I have THAT going through my head. (Can you teach the kids the song for the children’s time?) –Wendy

      Liked by 1 person

      1. HA! I know that song! We sang it in children’s choir, when I was little! Do you know Tick Tock?: Tick/tock, Tick/Tock goes the big clock, Tick/tock, tick/tock night and day, while the clock goes Tick/Tock, Tick/Tock, God watches over us night and day (its more like a nursery rhyme and needs no specific tune)

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Monica, I have tortured all three of my kids with that song, usually in public waiting in never ending lines, etc. It’s amazing what sticks with us!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m preaching the Genesis lectionary texts all summer and I have NO IDEA what I’m going to do with this one. When we studied Gen22 in seminary, I remember being fascinated by all the details of the story when you pick it apart and ignored the big picture. But when facing preaching this to the congregation I serve, I don’t know how to do that. And I don’t wanna. I guess I could preach the, “listen to all this interested stuff scholars have picked out of this hot mess of a story” sermon, but for what purpose? Blerg. I’m hoping something stews today to give me more than that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erin, I’m right there with you. Part of me just wants to step back from the story and approach it as a tool to teach “bible study with terrible texts.” But that instinctive run to my intellect and theirs feels like a clear sign that there’s something juicier if I stay with it. Like choosing to study the map at length instead of actually walking the streets of Fez.
      I read the text out loud and wonder if we should want parents to keep their kids at home. That’s how much I want to avoid it.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m back after two weeks off (well, there was that little matter of Annual conference, but…) and the short miracle is that no one from my congregation died in my absence. May be a first. I’m preaching Romans, closing up a series on Wesleyan views of grace. This week is sanctification and I’m looking at it as a call to Discipleship. Here’s the sermon: We are cleaning out closets today and the neighbors’ dog is barking so much my husband brought up an old book box from the basement to play Beethoven quartets while we work. There is some wonderful Gouda. cheese from a dairy we passed in Wisconsin, which I am happy to share with the virtual table!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Preaching on Genesis… going with the theme of “Who’s Calling?” (and are we listening?) A little bit of “did God REALLY say…” and a little big of reflecting on the “akedah” and what it means to be bound up for God. Who are we in this story? (God, Abraham, Isaac, the ram, the servants at the bottom Mount Moriah, Sarah and the wives and flocks left behind?) I’m also weaving in theme that those we love are also bound — and it may or may not be our job to unbind them, but allow them to follow God as they understand it, too. This gives me a lot of grace for those I disagree with right now. And somehow all of this will be refined, distilled and put into a message. Hmmmm…. Oh. adding to the mix I’m guest-preaching for a friend as she is at the UCC General Synod this weekend. So no pressure…

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Last week, I included in my sermon the phrase that being intentional about what we sing and choosing songs carefully to echo what we believe and what we want to teach is a grave responsibility and…
    Every year at the beginning of July the pastor goes on vacation and we have a hymn sing put together by the choir director who has a slightly different theology of music (“if people love it we should sing it”) than I do. I have usually skipped it as well, but this summer we are doing some experiments with children’s worship activity spaces in the sanctuary, and I feel responsible for being there to shepherd that.
    So I’m working on a pastoral prayer that will balance the patriotic hymns and a time with the children, and need to get there early tomorrow to set up the worship activity spaces. I never got to it this week, and now I won’t have our custodian to help me. (Okay–just paused to send an email to the Nurture Committee asking for help. I am proud of myself.)

    Liked by 1 person

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