A sermon given during the 6pm Choral Evensong, by The Rt Rev’d Chris McLeod, on the 2nd July 2023.

Text: Genesis 22: 15 – 19; 23: 1 – 15


Obedience is a challenging word. Abraham the central character from tonight’s Old Testament reading (Genesis 22: 15 – 19; 23: 1 – 15) was prepared to sacrifice his only son, Isaac (Sunday morning’s Old Testament reading), if that is what God was asking from him. As we know God was only testing him. We know that God stops Abraham at the last minute and another sacrifice is offered.

What are we to make of this story. It seems bizarre, brutal, and replete with concerning issues. Would Abraham have really gone ahead with sacrificing his son had God not stopped him? That is the point. Abraham was obedient, even if it meant personal cost. God does not ask us to sacrifice our children, thank goodness, but God does challenge us to be obedient. Jesus asks us to follow him, and, in obedience, we do just that. Our world is different to that of Abraham’s, of course, but following God and his promises is still at the heart of our faith journey.

However, if you are like me that obedience can take some interesting twists and turns, and a combination of false starts and rebellion. Many equate Christian obedience with being unquestioning, a form of fundamentalist obedience. In this way of thinking we are being called to slavishly follow and never to question what is being asked of us. I don’t think this is a wise position to hold, and many have been abused, spiritually, sexually, and physically by being seduced into this way of thinking.

Obedience is not that, but it is about embarking upon a long journey. It is, as the spiritual writer Eugene Peterson says, a long walk in the same direction. Obedience is not so much about denying our humanness or about not using our brains. Obedience is ultimately about our relationship with God: to follow even when we are tempted to do otherwise. We trust God enough to live with a degree of uncertainty yet follow God, nonetheless.