Of Margins and Edges

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.”

My Southern Baptist grandmother was quite a character. Full of drive and optimism, she wielded a powerful charm that made you want to do things her way. After she was widowed in her late fifties, she undertook a search. What was she meant to do with the rest of her life? Following a brief foray into spiritualism, Grandmother Galliford returned to her more traditional roots. She went to India on a mission trip with a friend, then spent several years in Japan, as a Laubach Literacy volunteer. I have a number of her books on my shelves: novels, devotional books, even a self-published account of her trip to India.

good news for modern manBut the book I treasured most, now so worn that pages fall out when it is opened, was a copy of “Good News for Modern Man.” I remember seeing it for the first time in her apartment and wondering how part of the Bible had ended up in paperback, with a cover that looked like a newspaper! Because it showed the names of newspapers from around the world, “The Times of India” and “The Times of Japan,” it seemed to be especially hers, my world-traveling grandmother.

Grandma Galli explained that the word gospel meant Good News. When I got to have her copy years later, I was excited to find that she had made notes in the margins. It has always intrigued me to find her handwriting beside passages that have a special meaning for me, and even more so when her notes are found in the margins of passages that are hard to understand, words that take me to the edge of my relationship with scripture and with God.

This week I’m working on a sermon about the story of Abraham and Isaac going up the mountain together, and as that father and son step toward the summit, they take me to the edge, to the tiger mother place in me eager to refute a God who would ask such a parent to sacrifice a child, ready to take on all comers who want to insist on the inerrancy or inspiration or literal acceptance of scripture. Clearly there is more to it. Clearly, I say! Clearly there are cultural contexts we are missing, or human hand-prints all over the text. I become
vehement, and that usually results in a note in the margin of the page, perhaps a word, perhaps a string of exclamation points, or even a lopsided question mark.

Somewhere I need to leave a note for my children saying I would never sacrifice you! Or perhaps I need to think about what I have worshiped along the way that might have led me to do just that, and make a note to myself.

What do we find at the edges of ourselves, of our faith, of the pages we write with our lives? At the edges we find the margins, of course: the place where we might make a note for ourselves or leave a message for someone else to find. And perhaps it is in those edgy margins that we find out how to be God’s people, here and now.

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Genesis 22:1-14, which is NL Year 4, Week 2, as well as 3rd Sunday after Pentecost A or Proper 8 (13) A.

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