Genesis 22:1-14 Psalm 13 Romans 6:12-23 Matthew 10:40-42
As I was driving down Pleasant Street on Friday, I saw a boy sitting at his lemonade stand. His hand-written sign said a cup of lemonade was 25 cents. I almost stopped. Seth and Laura used to do lemonade stands, and Simon has great plans for one this summer.
As enterprises go, lemonade stands don’t make a lot of money. Simon did figure out that he needed someone to front the initial investment, but after that he could be on his own, replenishing his supplies out of his profits. But even so – you probably couldn’t say that Bill Gates starting Microsoft was like that little boy on Pleasant Street with his lemonade stand. Lemonade just isn’t the same as a revolutionary software system.
The part of Pleasant Street where the little boy had set up his stand was one of the not particularly pleasant blocks of Pleasant Street. You could say, then, that that little boy was a prophet: he saw, on his block of Pleasant Street, that that was the sort of place where people would need a cup of lemonade. He also saw Pleasant Street as a place where people would stop and drink some lemonade, and he’d get a quarter and maybe a nice conversation out of it. That little boy saw hope on Pleasant Street. He saw Pleasant Street the way all of us would like to see Pleasant Street. He saw Pleasant Street the way God sees Pleasant Street.
No one sets out to be a prophet; prophets can only be recognized from the outside, when people see their prophet-nature in what they say and what they do. That little boy didn’t set out to be a prophet; he just set out a lemonade stand. But he is a prophet. He sees Pleasant Street as it is going to be. The little boy is a prophet of the resurrection.
There is another little boy in our lessons today: Isaac. If you thought things were bad for Ishmael last week, sent out with his mother into the wilderness to die, then you will have your breath taken away by this story. God tells Abraham to take his remaining son, the one on whom he and Sarah have placed all their ancient hopes, to Mt. Moriah, and sacrifice him as a burnt offering.
What images this story raises in all of our minds, what questions about the motives of God, the obedience of Abraham – cruel? Foolish? Mindless? What kind of God is this – is God, this God, no better than the other cruel desert ones he seeks to replace with his majesty and omnipotence, with all his talk about making great nations from these two sons. Those desert gods demanded cruel sacrifices all the time; was this God to be no different?
Amazingly, I think Abraham trudged up that mountain with confidence. He had known death – he and Sarah were as good as dead when God told them they would have a son. If God could pull life out of death once before, he would do it again. “Where is the lamb?” Isaac asked. “God will provide,” Abraham answered. It is nearly impossible for us to get inside that sense of utter confidence, the confidence of one who lives now on the other side of death, the place where tragedy is no longer a possibility. Abraham is one who expects the impossible.
God did provide. In the binding of Isaac, that near-death experience, the impossible occurred. God proved that God was not going to be one of those blood-thirsty desert gods, but a God who kept promises, who gave life, who pulled life out of death, a God of resurrection, a God of hope.
In cups of water, or cups of lemonade, a prophet is one who brings us tangible proof of God’s promises of hope. Prophets come from where we least expect them, and when we least expect them – when we, like Abraham and Sarah, are as good as dead. Prophets with lemonade stands point the way to a tree-lined, safe, drug- and crime-free Pleasant Street. Can we dare to hope? Could Abraham?