Archive for February, 2013

February 1, 2013

Worship Requires Sacrifice (February)

We live in a culture that values clever consumerism and efficiency.  “How can I get the biggest bang for my buck?  How can accomplish my tasks in the quickest and easiest way?”  Is there anything wrong finding the quickest way to the store, or using coupons to get your groceries at cheaper cost?  Not necessarily.  In many ways, we can praise people who find ways to make the burdens of life lighter for themselves and their families.  The problem arises when we import “cost-cutting measures” and “shortcuts” into our faith.

As Christians who tend to camp in the New Testament, only venturing occasionally into the Old Testament to snatch up a platitude, we may find it difficult to reconcile a life of mercy and grace with a life of law and sacrifice.  The Old Testament almost from the beginning lays out a system through which God and humanity can live together, a system that requires sacrifice.  The Hebrews would bring the best of their animals and sacrifice them before God as a sign of atonement and reconciliation.  Essentially, they understood that worship required sacrifice.

I have heard it said that worship without sacrifice is mere words.  As Christians, the faith descendants of the Hebrews, we no longer sacrifice bulls and goats on behalf of our sins.  We believe that Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, gave himself up as a sacrifice for our sins, making a way for God and humanity once again to live together.  We read in Ephesians 5, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  Jesus has become our sacrifice.

Jesus did not remain a dead sacrifice, but rose to new life so he could be our master as well!  We disciples seek to emulate our master.  Ephesians 5 reminds us to do so, to love as Jesus loved, even when it means sacrifice.  As Jesus gave up his life for us, we are called to give up our lives to him and to others.  Then men will know that you are his disciples.

Worship without sacrifice is mere words.  As we seek to be more like Christ through Bible reading, prayer, and practicing Christian virtues, we discover there really are no shortcuts.  We need to give of our time.  When we come on Sunday mornings for worship, we have a time to give of our money.  When we meet someone in need, we have an opportunity to give of ourselves.

Certainly, we sacrifice because we have been called to follow the way of our Master.  But in a beautiful turn of fortune, we are the ones who benefit in our own sacrifices.  First, we are able to prove to ourselves that our worship is not mere words but truly a commitment we want to make.  Second, as we practice sacrifice, we miraculously become more like Jesus!

The Lent Season is upon us, beginning on February 13 with our Ash Wednesday service.  Lent historically has been a time when Christians focus on themes of sacrifice and sanctification.  We reassess our lives and perhaps even make sacrifices, for others and for ourselves.  We conclude the season meditating on the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  This Lent Season, take some time to reassess your life.  Ask God and your brothers and sisters how you can become more like Jesus.  And may we as a church walk together in this sacrificial and glorious life in Christ.

Pastor Rich