3rd Sunday in Lent March 19, 2006 Series B

Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, you sent your Son, Jesus the Christ, to reveal you kingdom and to redeem us from sin and death. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, increase our awareness in the significance of Christís sacrificial death on the cross, and deepen our faith and trust in the saving grace his cross offers to us. This we ask in Christís holy name. Amen.

Richard Jensen, in his book, The Crucified Ruler, begins his commentary on our Gospel lesson with this rather strange story.

ďThe young girl lay bound on the altar. It was she who had been chosen to be the sacrifice made to the gods on behalf to the people this year. She was terrified. She watched every movement that the priest made throughout the ceremony. And then, at the climax of the ritual, the priest moved toward her with knife held high. Terror flooded her consciousness.

And then the knife came down. It plunged into her heart. In just a few moments, she was dead. Her blood flowed over the altar, dripping down to the ground. The major sacrifice of the year was now complete. The people breathed a great sigh of relief. Perhaps now, perhaps with this sacrifice, the gods would smile upon them for another year.

This is a strange story, to say the least. Strange, but true,Ē Jensen concludes. ďMany different peoples in many different cultures in the course of human history have made use of a human sacrifice in order to please the gods.Ē End quote.

To be sure, as I shared with my confirmation students in our study of the Old Testament, some cultures and peoples living as neighbors to Israel, practiced child sacrifice. In fact, some Biblical scholars believe that this practice is what gave rise to the story of God testing Abrahamís faith, by asking him to sacrifice Isaac.

We know the story well. Isaac was the SON GOD had promised would be born to Abraham and Sarah, even when it seemed impossible for them to conceive a child due to their age. Isaac was the HOPE of Abraham and Sarah, that from their offspring, God would bring forth a great people, too many to number. And then God tested Abrahamís faith, by asking him to sacrifice Isaac.

So Abraham led his young son up a tall mountain, where he built and altar to God. The two of them gathered wood for a fire. And when Isaac asked his father where they would find the animal to sacrifice, Abraham took Isaac, bound him and placed him on the altar. Then he took his knife, and just as he was about to plunge it into his son, God shouted, STOP! God said, "I do not desire the death of Isaac!

So Abraham unbound Isaac, and discovered that there was a ram caught in a thicket of briars. Abraham took the ram, laid it on the altar, and sacrificed it Ė IN ISAACíS PLACE.

Two things might be gained from this story. First, is the fact that Godís cry to stop