As I mentioned last svithe, my Abraham and Isaac thought for Sunday School were inspired by a list of art Bored in Vernal provided over on Mormon Matters. I ended up not getting into much of the art, although many of the rabbinical traditions surrounding the story and alternate versions came up in our discussion. (Note that some of those came up in the MM posts's comments and not the post itself.)
One thing I had not intended to bring up but very nearly did because it was apropos (but telling it would have been much like sharing This Funny Thing happened when You Really Had to Be There) was this:
Something I printed off and had with me but ended up not using was this from Woody Allen:
And Abraham awoke in the middle of the night and said to his only son, Isaac, "I have had a dream where the voice of the Lord sayeth that I must sacrifice my only son, so put your pants on."
And Isaac trembled and said, "So what did you say? I mean when He brought this whole thing up?"
"What am I going to say?" Abraham said. "I'm standing there at two A.M. I'm in my underwear with the Creator of the Universe. Should I argue?"
"Well, did he say why he wants me sacrificed?" Isaac asked his father.
But Abraham said, "The faithful do not question. Now let's go because I have a heavy day tomorrow."
And Sarah who heard Abraham's plan grew vexed and said, "How doth thou know it was the Lord and not, say, thy friend who loveth practical jokes, for the Lord hateth practical jokes and whosoever shall pull one shall be delivered into the hands of his enemies whether they pay the delivery charge or not."
And Abraham answered, "Because I know it was the Lord. It was a deep, resonant voice, well modulated, and nobody in the desert can get a rumble in it like that."
And Sarah said, "And thou art willing to carry out this senseless act?" But Abraham told her, "Frankly yes, for to question the Lord's word is one of the worst things a person can do, particularly with the economy in the state it's in."
And so he took Isaac to a certain place and prepared to sacrifice him but at the last minute the Lord stayed Abraham's hand and said, "How could thou doest such a thing?"
And Abraham said, "But thou said ---"
"Never mind what I said," the Lord spake. "Doth thou listen to every crazy idea that comes thy way?" And Abraham grew ashamed. "Er - not really … no."
"I jokingly suggest thou sacrifice Isaac and thou immediately runs out to do it."
And Abraham fell to his knees, "See, I never know when you're kidding."
And the Lord thundered, "No sense of humor. I can't believe it."
"But doth this not prove I love thee, that I was willing to donate mine only son on thy whim?"
And the Lord said, "It proves that some men will follow any order no matter how asinine as long as it comes from a resonant, well-modulated voice."
And with that, the Lord bid Abraham get some rest and check with him tomorrow.
I want to step back here and point out that, usually, I feel very strongly that lessons should be grounded in the actual scriptures under discussion. In fact, I started the lesson by reading the entire darned Genesis account. But this story is horrifying and demands more effort than that. The Bible, Nephi tells us, is missing many plain and precious parts. And this story seems to be one example of that. The popular interpretation that the sacrifice of Isaac represents the sacrifice of Jesus is extrabiblical already, so why not go even farther abreast.
When I was pressing the class to decide what the story means to them, someone through the question back at me. I started by talking about Master Fob's "Abraham's Purgatory" (note, it's not unsvithey to suggest you buy a Fob Bible as all proceeds go to LDS Humanitarian Services) and how in researching this lesson I learned that in many traditions, Abraham was not intended to sacrifice his son at all. Perhaps he got the wrong idea in his head, perhaps God expected him to say no (thus fulfilling the promise of Knowing Good and Evil) --- but the point is, perhaps he was never supposed to accept that he should through with it.
That version of the story has a lot of meaning for me. Granted, verses from the Book of Mormon and D&C (which we read) suggest that is not the true version of events, but it seems a version that has more applicability in my life. I have the power to say no --- to live my life in a way that can take Isaac off the alter. (Of course, no matter how well I live my life, I cannot take Christ off the cross --- I still need grace. But I'm sure you get the point.)
Anyway. Even though it wasn't as wild and crazy as threatened*, it turned out well and I at least learned a lot during the lesson. I hope it worked out okay for others as well.
* I don't usually post these, but three or four lessons a month and every other lesson for Sunday School (as long as I'm doing it --- it's still not my calling or anything) I shoot an email off to the ward as a preview of coming attractions. The reason I'm posting this one is because for the first time people talked to me about it. So I'm using that fact to think about how to write future emails.
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
This Sunday please be prepared to sacrifice one of your children to the glory of almighty God. Bring your own materials for building an altar, as well as a knife and wood for burning the offering afterwards in the ward parking lot. Consider fasting for at least two meals beforehand that you might better be prepared to worship through this ancient and holy practice.
In choosing which child you will sacrifice, consider how you distribute your love and affection among your children and be sure that you give unto the Lord that which you deem your best.
If you do not have a child or your children are no longer living at home, bring a pet. If you have no pets, I'm really not sure how you intend to stay on God's good side.
Upon completing the sacrifices and watching the sweet odours drift heavenward, we will return to the chapel and discuss Father Abraham's experience with our new understanding.
See you then.
ps: should Sunday be declared a Spare the Air Day, we will instead eat Twinkies in holiness
last week's svithe