The following are three monologues I wrote for a Religion, Spirituality and the Arts workshop and presentation sponsored by Butler University and Christian Theological Seminary. The work was on the Binding of Isaac: Genesis 22. Here is the passage:
After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt-offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.’ So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt-offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.’Abraham took the wood of the burnt-offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, ‘Father!’ And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ He said, ‘The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?’ Abraham said, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt-offering, my son.’ So the two of them walked on together.
When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’ And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt-offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place ‘TheLord will provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’
The angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, ‘By myself I have sworn, says the Lord: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.’So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beer-sheba; and Abraham lived at Beer-sheba.
The following are three monologues spoken from the perspective of Abraham, Sarah and Isaac.
I suppose you find me heartless.
You take my story and you think, “How could anyone do such a thing?”
I am Abraham. I am the Father of the nations
I had a son. He was a beautiful boy. Dark and willowy, like his mother. Her name, was Hagaar. I took it upon myself to find a way you see. To have a son. His name was Ishmael and he was beautiful. I learned I was not in control of Yahweh’s plan.
I suppose you find me heartless. But you did not journey to Sodom and Gomorrah to a people who had forgotten Yahweh. I tried to strike a deal, but there was no hope of redemption.
I became more devoted. I saw that my wife Sarah and I were only alive because of him. My only choice was obedience.
I had a son. He was a beautiful boy. Strong and broad, like his mother. Her name was Sarah. It began that day the three visitors came and we offered water and food and they announced that she would have a child, and she who should have no voice was the first to break the world with laughter. And God did provide.
A son. The seed which would carry my name, the name that God had given me.
You see he only belonged to me, because he was given and he could have been taken. His name, was Isaac.
And on that day before the sun rose, when the desert earth was cold and the wind slapped with painful force, I heard Him call my name. I was ready. I had been ready. The test had begun. I believed that through my obedience, God would provide, and he did.
I suppose you find me heartless.
There was no other way.
There is always another way…
I am Sarah. The mother of the nations, the mother of all sacrificed children. I have heard the cries of my daughters who watch their children be sacrificed on the altar of war, hatred, and greed. I have seen my daughters weep, as their children hang from trees, die in camps and be gunned down in classrooms. I have seen many children sacrificed in the name of a misunderstood God.
When will we learn that the God who speaks through angels, suffers when Her children suffer? You cannot tell me that God does otherwise. I have seen too much.
It all began when the three visitors came and we provided food and drink that hot afternoon, I overheard them say I would bear a child.
Such news was painfully laughable. 90 years of not living my life purpose. 90 years of being without a babe at my breast. And now they said I would be bear a son. The cry of laughter rose up in and rang out through the scorching heat like a thunder-cloud.
And the storm began.
He was a beautiful boy. My son. Tall and broad. Like me. Strong and trusting. Too trusting.
I should have known, that morning. When the camp was too quiet. The horses and the men were gone and he was not in his tent.
Have you seen my son? His name is Isaac. He is my son. My only son.
“Isaac? Isaac! Isaac! Where are you? Have you seen Isaac? He was here. He was just here. He’s missing. Something is wrong. I have lost him. He was just right here.
No! This will not happen.
Oh Lord my God, hear my cries! Send your angels, send your angels, send your angels to save my son!
The sky that morning was an indigo blue. The stars were still out when he came to my tent and shook me awake.
The animals were already loaded with packs on their backs.
The men stood by, holding their reigns.
He stood apart, looking toward the mountain. He turned back, nodding at me to follow. I scrambled to find my sandals and coat and ran to meet him, as he faced the mountain. A hawk screamed overhead, piercing the silent morning sky.
We walked on. I turned back once, to look down at the camp and I remembered my mother.
I hadn’t said goodbye.
The sun began to peek through the rocks. A scorpion hid from the light. A snake recoiled. The animal’s breath filled the air with smoke.
The air became thinner. The sun now blinded our eyes. Home was now a memory.
“Stay here.” He told the men, “While we go make a sacrifice to Yahweh.” I had done this before.
I looked for the lamb.
The men stood at a distance.
Did we forget the lamb?
I carried the lumber on my back. He was too old for such labor.
I lay the wood on rock. And stood. Waiting for him to tell me what to do next.
He told me to lay down.
“No. Wait. I don’t want to.”
A stringent taste came to my mouth, my heart pounded in my ears, my legs lost their strength.
I saw myself laying down. I could feel the jagged wood against my back.
The sun, now overhead blinded my eyes.
“No. Please.” I heard myself say.
He took rope and bound my hands above my head, and around my feet.
Like an animal to slaughter.
“Father!” I screamed.
The hawk cried.
The earth stood still.
The voice of an angel.
The bleating of a ram.
He untied my hands and my feet. I could not move. I remained there, on the altar. Sacrificed, but alive. I had relieved myself on the wood. The smell of urine pierced my nose.
I did come down from that mountain. I did survive, forever broken, but still Isaac, losing my sight at an early age, I think it was from staring into sun.
I wonder….what child will be going up the mountain today?