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Here at First Parish, the Scriptures we read on Sundays follow a lectionary. For those of you who don’t know what that is, a lectionary is at its most basic level a… three- or four-year calendar of recommended Scripture passages that pastors can use to decide what they’re going to preach on. There are a few different lectionaries to choose from; many Protestant churches use the Revised Common Lectionary, for instance. At the moment, First Parish has been using the Narrative Lectionary, which is cool because it walks us through the stories in the Bible in a pretty user-friendly order. There’s fewer legalistic or analytical passages to dig through, and we can roll up our sleeves and really focus on the stories of people. People we can identify with.

Lectionaries are optional—no one’s telling us we have to use them any given week. Pastor Anna and I can and have opted to choose a different Scripture based on current events or what we feel God has placed on our hearts. But, one of the interesting things about using a lectionary is it means that at this moment, all across the country, Christians of all kinds are reading and thinking about the same passage we are, and oftentimes even singing the same hymns.

For pastors, one of the advantages is that we don’t only focus on our favorite chapters, and it allows us to challenge ourselves with studying Scripture we wouldn’t normally even think to go to.

One of the disadvantages is that it means I find myself having to figure out how to connect “The Binding of Isaac” with the First Parish Senior High Mission Trip.

So here’s the story, and I’m sure a number of you have heard it before. Abraham—claimed as the father of the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic faiths—is told by God that he must sacrifice his son, the miracle child he thought he would never have, granted by God when he and his wife Sarah were old.

Abraham was a man of great faith. He trusted God completely. It was kind of his whole schtick. So he agrees to God’s command, wakes up early the next morning, and takes his son on the three-day journey to the holy place God decreed. He tells his son Isaac that God will provide a lamb for the sacrifice they are preparing (which wasn’t technically a lie I guess), and when they get to the holy place Abraham builds an altar, ties up Isaac, and prepares to kill him with a knife and burn him as a sacrifice to his God, as he was ordered.

And at the very last moment, God shouts down, “Abraham, Abraham! I was just kidding. Clearly you mean business here. I appreciate that you were willing to give up what is most precious to you, but it’s okay. You don’t have to do this.”

God commends Abraham for doing what God asked of him, even if it meant the loss of his own child, and in the end God provides them with a ram instead. Nobody has to die.

And so, my challenge this morning is to connect that story with the Mission Trip we went on to Maryland this year. Which would be easy if Nelson had tried to kill his son Mac while we were down there… but actually they got along pretty well.

This summer, 26 high school- and college-age youth got up early one morning, piled into vans, and made the two-day journey down to Frederick, Maryland. They chose to spend a week sleeping six-hour nights, showering outside in a cobbled-together shower house, working all day in the heat and humidity building decks and painting houses until their backs were sore, worshipping God in the evenings, and getting up the next morning to do it all over again.

Your parents and the adults of this church asked you to go to Frederick, Maryland to work hard in the service of others, and you answered the call. Some of you gave up a week of work, some of you gave up part of your summer vacation, some of you even gave up that week’s episode of Game of Thrones. You gave up creature comforts in order to serve those who needed you. People who couldn’t help themselves, whether because of money, age, or physical limitation. You even raised funds to get there, car washes and all.

And to that, I’d like to take a moment to quote a stand-up comedian I like named John Mulaney. “I really do appreciate you coming to a thing because… you didn’t have to. And it’s really easy not… to go to things. It is so much easier not to do things than to do them, that you would do anything is totally remarkable. Percentage-wise, it is 100% easier not to do things than to do them. And so much fun not to do them. Especially when you were supposed to do them.”

End-quote.

To Nelson, the Dunn’s, me, and the other chaperones involved in the trip, it may have felt like pulling teeth and twisting arms to get you to commit to going, and to get you to come to all the car washes and the trainings… and to get you to participate in today’s service… but it would have been so easy for you not to come to any of it. Not to go on the trip at all. It is 100% easier not to do things than to do them.

But 26 youth chose to get up early and make the trip down to Maryland, to work hard for the glory of God in service to others.

Abraham could have delayed, he could have hemmed and hawed, he could have tried to find a way out of what he was called to do. He could have spent a few extra days getting as much time with his son as he could. He could have just not gone. Instead, he got up bright and early and put his trust in God that what he was doing was right, that he was going on a journey he needed to go on, and that God would see him through.

This summer 26 youth got up bright and early and went to Frederick, knowing it would be 100% more difficult than staying home. They trusted that what they were being called to do was good and right, that they were going on a journey they needed to go on, and that God would see them through.

And just as Abraham was changed by putting his faith so fully into the hands of God, so too were the youth on this Mission Trip changed. The experiences we all had—experiences of fellowship, of worship, of service, of joy—they are experiences that do not leave you. I wish at least a few of them could share with you some of their experiences this morning, but like I said, it is 100% easier not to do things than to do them, and public speaking is a scary thing. Next year, huh? Start preparing yourselves for it now.

I am grateful that First Parish considers this kind of mission work part of its ministry, and I know 26 youth who feel the same way. We wouldn’t have been able to go on that trip without you. We need each other, those who journey to do God’s work and those who stay and do God’s work here. God calls us all to make different sacrifices in our lives, things that take effort, courage, and trust. And when we are called, may we all find within ourselves the faith of Abraham… and the strength of these young people.

Thanks be to God. Amen.