We spool forward a few centuries in the story of the Old Testament, to arrive at Abraham, “our Father in faith”. Today we hear of another Covenant (like last week) - even though the word is not used. God promises Abraham descendants like “the stars of heaven”, and the showering of blessings. This shows how much God loves Abraham, and all his children. This love is proved for us in Jesus: God loves us so much he sacrificed his only Son (just as Abraham was willing to do); but this is not all: Jesus also rose from the dead, to stand at God’s right hand and plead for us. All this is revealed in the story of the Transfiguration, where Jesus is seen in the glory that is rightfully his as the only Son of God. Not until after the Resurrection will the disciples see this fully again.
This is a fairly straightforward reading, as it is telling a story (even though significant bits of the story are omitted). Don’t be afraid of expression in your voice - especially when God asks and Abraham prepares to kill Isaac - there should be a tension, even a horror about it. This allows the resolution and relief to be more effective, when the angel stops Abraham. (That said, be careful not to go over the top - allow people to paint their own pictures as you read.) The final paragraph is very significant: the establishing of a new agreement or covenant: compare it with the language of the Covenant with Noah last week, and see the formal and impressive style God uses to proclaim the Covenant. Be aware of the tone of the reading: it starts darkly, gradually brightens, and ends triumphantly.
The key phrase, which links this reading to the First Reading and the Gospel, is “God did not spare his only Son.” The Gospel reveals Jesus as the only Son of God: unlike Abraham, God does have to sacrifice his only Son - there is no angel halting the sacrifice on the cross. This is, as Paul says elsewhere, proof that God loves us. This is a good example of Paul being to the point - this is almost like a transcribed speech: you can see the pauses where Paul wants his listeners to think. As the reader, be aware of this, and allow Paul to speak to your congregation today. Paul uses rhetorical questions: every time to see a question mark, pause, for a while, so that people can consider the answer. So the first sentence, “With God on our side who can be against us?” is a real question for people to think about: what does it mean that “God is on our side”? Do we feel that people are “against us”? Give the congregation time to think. But when Paul is affirming something, do it emphatically: especially the “No!”- we don’t often see exclamation marks in Scripture: use it!
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