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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

We'll See About That

Genesis 22:1-14
"We'll See About That"
“We’ll see about that.” It’s kind of the Magic 8-ball of answers. The meaning depends on how it turns.
Ask me a question. Like, “Can we get out of church early?”
“We’ll SEE about that!”
If you say it in a cheerful tone, it means, “Hey, I can make that wish come true.”
Ask me another. Like, “Can we skip the sermon altogether?”
“We’ll see about that.”
If you say it in a flat tone, with a sigh, it means, “I’ve already started and I’m too nice to tell you no.”
And then sometimes, “We’ll see about that,” gets said before a question’s asked.It’s not an answer; it’s a warning. Like, when you’re caught doing something you shouldn’t have been. Maybe biting the shoulder of an opposing soccer player.
“We’ll see about that!”
And we did. Again and again. It made watching the World Cup interesting for those of us who don’t know a thing about soccer.
Or, heaven forbid, you mouth off to your mom.
“We’ll just see about that, YOUNG MAN (YOUNG LADY).”
It’s not an answer; it’s a promise.
“We’ll see about that” is one of those magical phrases whose meaning depends on how you use it.
In the story of the “Binding of Isaac,” as it’s called, the Bible says something about “seeing about that,” and how you say it makes a big difference. It surely made a difference to Isaac, and it makes a difference for us.
At the end of the story, the Bible says Abraham named the place where he almost sacrificed his boy, “The Lord Will Provide.”
A place’s name tells you something about it.
The Cherokees called it, “Mulberry Place.” But in 1791, William Blount, then a surveyor from North Carolina, named it Knoxville, in honor of his boss, General Henry Knox, which also tells us something about Blount’s political savvy.
It’s from the Cherokee, meaning, “Incredibly Dangerous Highway.”
Lake City – I mean, Rocky Top. No explanation needed.
Abraham named his place, “The Lord Will Provide.” In Hebrew it’s, “Jehovah-Jireh,” or, “Yahweh Yireh.” You can say it different ways. And depending on how you say it and where you say it, it can mean different things, and it’s supposed to.
It’s a pun. We don’t get that from our English Bibles. “Jehovah-Jireh” is a pun and, “The Lord Will Provide” is only one meaning.
They say that puns are the lowest form of humor. Someone should tell the people who do church signs.
“Our church is prayer-conditioned.”
“Friend Jesus with Faith-Book”
“Body piercing saved my life.”
Some of them can make you want to drive into oncoming headlights. But religious puns are not a new thing. The people who put together the Bible really, really loved puns. We don’t get them because they’re in Hebrew. But the writers of the Old Testament thought puns were just boffo.
Since his book is filled with them, evidently God must get a real kick out of the lowest form of humor, which explains so much about humanity.
Jehovah-Jireh can certainly mean, “The Lord Will Provide.” But like the one-liners on church signs, it’s a pun. It can also just as well mean, “Yahweh (God) sees.”
Or “On the mountain, [God] is seen.”
Or, “There is a vision.”
The pun-ish-ment (and the hope) of Jehovah-Jireh is that it can mean different things, depending on how it’s said and the place where you’re saying it.
Is it: “God Provides”?
Or, “God sees”?
Or, “God is seen”?
Or, “There is a vision”?
Yes. All of the above.
It sounds like, in so many words, God is saying, “We’ll see about that.”

It’s strictly coincidental that as we’re remembering the Fourth of July, and thinking about our nation’s Founding Father’s the assigned passage for this Sunday is about Abraham, THE Founding Father of our faith.
Back then, being a founding father was more literal.
If you were the founding father of a great nation, you really WERE the father.
As father, you produced sons who produced more sons, who produced more sons (and daughters you could marry off in treaty agreements) and on and on.
This was your legacy.
This was your eternal life.
So the boy, Isaac, is also like a pun because he has more than one meaning.
In one context he’s Abraham’s child.
But in another, he’s the key to everlasting life for all God’s people.
The future rested on this one child.
And, on Abraham, that day.
Would there be meaning in God’s promise of a great nation?
Or would – excuse the pun – would the whole thing go up in smoke?
So. God had a vision.
Would the vision be seen?
Or would – excuse the pun – would it all go up in smoke?
There had to be a fraction of a second, with Abraham’s hand twitching on the flame, when the fate of God’s promise remained to be seen.

I read in the news last week that in New York City there’s a preschool that costs more than Harvard.
Those kids’ll be paying off their student loans forever.
But the finger paintings are exquisite.
It sounds like so much pressure.
Pressure on the kids.
Pressure on the parents to earn enough to pay the tuition and then to justify the insanity.
Pressure on the teachers and pressure on the administration.
One bad grade, one bad decision, and the whole thing blows up.
To the eighth generation, Bitsy and Biff’s offspring will be attending public schools, shopping at Wal-Mart, and using Budweiser cans for curlers.
The beautiful dream dies.
Have you ever wanted the future to turn out a certain way – so badly – that you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders?
Have you ever wanted an assurance, a clear, unbreakable promise of success, wanted it so badly, that you’d almost kill to make it happen?
We get that one, relentless, obsessive idea stuck in our heads, and it’s hard to say if we’ve got the idea or the idea’s got us.
We see one goal.
And one way to get to it.
Even if it’s a good goal – and it may well be – we’ll sacrifice anything, and maybe anyone, who gets in our way.
The future’s on our shoulders.
WE will provide.
And isn’t it funny how often the most cruel, bull-headed ways get turned into “God’s ways”?
WE work the dream for the future.
And then the future says, “We’ll see about that.”
Jehovah-Jireh. Yahweh-yireh.
God will provide. God is seen. God sees. God has a vision.
However you translate it, if we think God has only one way of getting things done, the joke’s on us.
If we think we’ve got the 100% right way of seeing our place in God’s vision, if we think we’re 100% God-blessed on “My Way,” maybe we ought to take a deep breath and look around for the highway.
As Abraham discovered when he looked up from his child and saw the ram with its horns stuck in the thicket, there’s more than one way to interpret God’s word.
God’s way almost always seems to spare the innocents.
In fact, as we find out later in the Bible, God would rather sacrifice himself, in Christ, than see one more good person go bad.
It’s precisely at the place where Abraham thinks he has no other option, when Jehovah-Jireh, Yahweh-Yireh, God sees, God provides, and God is seen up on the mountain.
It’s precisely at the place where you think you have no option, when God says to you, “We’ll see about that.”

Why The New Name?

Because we all "see through a glass, darkly" (1Corinthians 13:12 KJV and even that lovely statement is different depending on which translation you purchase.) Because so much anxiety, in-fighting, and out-fighting could be calmed if we all ended every grand pronouncement with the humility of, "But I could be wrong." We each do our relative best. Sometimes we do get it right and I'll allow myself enough hope to believe that sometimes what I write coincides with truth beyond my words. Jesus said, "Blessed are the meek" (Matthew 5:5). In this age where everyone in the world with electronic access can broadcast opinions to everyone else in the world with access, we would all do well to tread meekly, doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). But, I could be wrong.