This festival seems an appropriate time for me, as well as my Muslim friends, to reflect on its significance. To me, at least, the message of the story seems very clear. God does not choose, ever, acts of violence as a way to honour him. God does not desire suffering, death or violence. Abraham heard that message and understood it: it is perhaps this as much as anything else about his story that marks him out as a man of God and father of faith.
As Wilfred Owen wrote, far more eloquently than I could express, too often, humanity, including those who profess to believe in the God of Abraham, have forgotten to listen to this message. Almost 100 years on from these words being written, sadly, we too often continue to forget.
Parable of the Old Man and the Young
So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
and builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretchèd forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo, an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.
Now would be an excellent time for us to start listening to the voice of God, the one which invites us to stay the hand of violence and choose a route of peace.