After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.
When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
The angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By myself I have sworn, says the Lord: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.” So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beer-sheba; and Abraham lived at Beer-sheba.
Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness.
Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Our God is in the heavens;
he does whatever he pleases.
Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
eyes, but do not see.
They have ears, but do not hear;
noses, but do not smell.
They have hands, but do not feel;
feet, but do not walk;
they make no sound in their throats.
Those who make them are like them;
so are all who trust in them.
O Israel, trust in the Lord!
He is their help and their shield.
And after getting into a boat he crossed the sea and came to his own town.
And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.
Today in the United States, we celebrate Independence Day. We celebrate freedom from being ruled by a foreign power. We celebrate the authority to govern ourselves. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, was signed by 56 men who pledged their sacred honor to upholding the statements made in the Declaration. But signing the Declaration of Independence was not their only action. They had to fight a long and bloody war in which they were at a ridiculous disadvantage in order to back up their words. They quickly learned what we all acknowledge as Americans today: there is no freedom without sacrifice.
In today’s first reading from Genesis, God had made a covenant with Abraham. He had promised him, not only a son, but that he would make him the father of a great nation, a nation that would serve as a light to all peoples to lead them to God. God set Abraham aside to father the people that would give birth to Jesus, the redeemer of all the world, through whom we all have freedom from our sins. To enter this covenant of sacrifice, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son.
We may wonder why God asked Abraham for this sacrifice, and we may wonder even more why Abraham obeyed. Jesus gives us enlightenment in today’s Gospel. When the paralytic is brought before him, Jesus immediately sees his need. The paralytic’s whole being was being ruled by a foreign power. He was so bound up in sin, it manifested in the freezing of his body. He had no freedom to act on his own, incapable even of bringing himself to Jesus for healing. So Jesus exhorted him to have courage and forgave his sins. He commanded the man to rise and walk. Freedom from sin, freedom from foreign rule, freedom from evil gives us the ability to rise and walk to Jesus. And we only have that freedom through the sacrifice of the cross. So Jesus sacrificed himself for the freedom of all. As a nation, we also have sacrificed our sons and daughters for the sake of freedom. Because of the sacrifice of God’s Only-Begotten Son, mirrored in the sacrifice of our service men and women, we may be free from foreign powers in this life, and beyond this life. Because of the sacrifice of Jesus, upheld wherever we exercise our freedoms, we are able to rise and walk to God. Let us ask for ourselves and our whole country for our sins to be forgiven. Let us pray for the grace for ourselves and for our whole country that we may rise and walk to God, rise and walk to righteousness, rise and walk to freedom in his name. Amen.