Week of 8 Epiphany: Tuesday, Year 1   7 comments

Above:  Cross of Peter

Physical Sacrifices and Spiritual Rewards

NOT OBSERVED IN 2017

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 35:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

To keep the law is worth many offerings;

to heed the commandments is a shared-offering.

A kindness repaid is a grain-offering,

and to give alms is a thank-offering.

The way to please the Lord is to keep clear of evil,

and to keep clear of wrongdoing is to make atonement.

Yet do not appear before the Lord empty-handed;

perform all the sacrifices, for they are commanded.

When the just person brings his offering of fat to the altar,

its fragrance rises to the presence of the Most High.

The sacrifice of the just is acceptable,

and such a memorial will never be forgotten.

Be generous in your worship of the Lord

and do not stint the firstfruits of your labour.

Give all your gifts cheerfully,

and with gladness dedicate your tithe.

Give to the Most High as he has given to you,

as generously as your means allow,

for the Lord always repays

and you will be repaid seven times over.

Psalm 50:7-15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 Hear, O my people, and I will speak:

“O Israel, I will bear witness against you;

for I am God, your God.

8 I do not accuse you because of your sacrifices;

your offerings are always before me.

9 I will take no bull-calf from your stalls,

nor he-goats out of your pens;

10 For all the beasts of the forest are mine,

the herds in their thousands upon the hills.

11 I know every bird in the sky,

and the creatures of the fields are in my sight.

12 If I were hungry, I would not tell you,

for the whole world is mine and all that are in it.

13 Do you think I eat the flesh of bulls,

or drink the blood of goats?

14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving

and make good your vows to the Most High.

15 Call upon me in the day of trouble;

I will deliver you, and you shall honor me.”

Mark 10:28-31 (Revised English Bible):

Peter said,

What about us?” We have left everything to follow you.

Jesus said,

Truly I tell you:  there is no one who has given up home, brothers or sisters, mother, father, or children, or land, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive in this age a hundred times as much–houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and land–and persecutions besides; and in the age to come eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

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The Collect:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Christian discipleship requires sacrifice.  Something must go if we are to obey God and follow Jesus.  This is a basic principle.  So is this:  Whatever we offer to God, we must offer it out of gratitude.  We offer to God a portion of that which God has given us.  Forms of sacrifice are myriad.  They include money, talents, time, prayer, possessions, career, and life itself.  Consider Peter, who had left everything to follow Jesus.  He died when people crucified him upside down, hence the picture at the top of this post.

As I write these words, someone I do not know and will never meet is experiencing the pain resulting from the fact that his or her family and disowned him or her for becoming a Christian.  This person is not alone; God is near.  And other Christians will take this person in and become his or her new family.  And other person is dying for converting to Christianity from Islam.  He or she will receive Heaven, where nobody may harm him or her.  “Take up your cross and follow me,” Jesus says.  What is your cross?  And, more immediately, what sacrifices must you make out of gratitude?

I have been sufficiently fortunate not to experience persecution or run the risk of martyrdom.  This is because of where and when I was born.  I come from a Western society blessed with freedom of religion, one of my favorite Enlightenment ideals.  So let us bless the names of Anne Hutchinson (exiled from Massachusetts for questioning her pastor’s theology), Roger Williams (who claimed that the state should not compel anyone to pray), Thomas Jefferson (who disestablished the church in Virginia), Francis Makemie (the American Presbyterian pioneer imprisoned in New York in the early 1700s for preaching without a license), and all others who have stood courageously for freedom of religion and the separation of church and state.  They have made the lives of many people in succeeding generations much easier than they would have been otherwise.  (Read the history of the Byzantine Empire to find many abuses flowing from the union of church and state.)

But I have had to sacrifice bad (albeit enjoyable) habits, and I have done so obediently and thankfully.  Better habits have replaced them.  What I have received is far superior to what I sacrificed.  And I have had so sacrifice my illusion of control, which God has replaced with increased serenity.  I have sacrificed much arrogance, too, and found that listening more to people is quite a blessing.  I could continue, but I trust that I have made my point well.

I have many more sacrifices to make, and I trust that God will show them to me.  I have not “arrived” spiritually, and suspect that I will not do so until I enter the afterlife.  The journey continues.  Thanks be to God!

KRT

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