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Jul 02, 2017

Vulnerability

Passage: Genesis 22:1-14

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Kurt Gerhard

Series: Summer 2017

Category: Christian Responsibility

Summary:

We avoid vulnerability but we must step into it to make God's mission happen.

Detail:

Let me talk about vulnerability. You are vulnerable when you are susceptible to harm. It is a feeling that we do not enjoy, whether it is physical or emotional, it is something we want to avoid, yet it is something that all of us have felt or are feeling. If we are educated and wealthy and white, it is easier to avoid. But if we plan on growing and transforming or of making the world a better place, then we will have to step into that uncomfortable place. Into vulnerability. There is no other way. Any great game changer has stepped into that place and not only survived but inspired others to step into it with them. Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. lived in the past century, but there are so many more. Some internationally famous and others known only to a few who have been moved by their example.

Today, our lessons are about being in that position of vulnerability. One is the Old Testament lesson about God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son. This is the story that might have been discussed in your intro level philosophy class or in a class about the foundation of the monotheistic religions. If you remember earlier in Genesis, Abraham and Sarah are promised something that seems unlikely. A child, something that they had hoped for, at a time when it seemed impossible. So, when this child, Isaac, is provided them (a miracle), it seems troublesome that God commands Abraham to sacrifice him. So, he prepares to do so (he even recruits Isaac, his son, to carry the implements). The traditional site in Islam of the sacrificial altar is the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (where the Dome of the Rock now stands and where the Jewish Temple once stood.

Abraham pushes through his vulnerability, he trusts God by submitting to the directive. You can debate the ethics and the theology of God making this demand. As a historical record, I have doubts about the veracity of this story, but theologically, what does it say. It is pointing out that being faithful to God is about being willing to step into these vulnerable places. To risk something great so that something amazing can be accomplished.

The gospel lesson is also about vulnerability. The passage we heard read today is short. It is the conclusion of the missionary speech of Jesus. He is preparing his disciples to head out into the world. He told them in previous portions of this sermon that they will be beaten, turned away, and that it would even cause division within families. But then he tells them to go out.

Now, if I had just heard all the warnings of Jesus, I would be uneasy about taking this message out into the world. It might be like this scene from one of the greatest movies of all time…

Show clip from Return of the Jedi

Now, if you remember this scene, you know that C3PO and R2D2 were sent to Jabba the Hutt’s palace to deliver a message. But we hear and see some of the vulnerability of C3PO when he knocks lightly on the giant door and turns away after being frightened by the eye.

R2D2 on the other hand doesn’t turn away, he rushes forward, so fast that C3PO must run to catch up.

I showed this clip because this is what we are called to do in our lives. We are called to carry the message of love and peace to all corners of the world and sometimes that means being in places that feel overwhelming, that cause us to feel vulnerable.

But this is the work of the gospel. It causes us to challenge the way things are with a vision for what things should be.

As we venture forth, remember a few things. First, remember to accept the challenge to stand up for God in a world that is focused on selfishness. And remember that feeling when you step into a new place or are attempting to join a new group. Remember that feeling of risk and vulnerability. If you are the one at the door, reach out with a spirit of love and acceptance. Reduce the feeling of vulnerability by your very being.

A powerful lesson today that will give us great life forever.