Going Deeper 12/20/18

The second reading for Advent 4...
Hebrews 10:5-10   Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, "Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.  Then I said, "See, God, I have come to do your will, O God' (in the scroll of the book it is written of me)."  When he said above, "You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings" (these are offered according to the law), then he added, "See, I have come to do your will."  He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.  And it is by God's will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  

Honestly, this is one of the more confusing themes in the Bible: Did God want animal sacrifices or not?  In the Old Testament, we are given the impression that such sacrifices were part of the Covenantal responses God required from the people after delivering them from abusive slavery in Egypt.  And now the writer of Hebrews quotes Jesus as saying, "You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings."  Ummmm.......

I don't really have an authoritative answer for you on this confusing question.  Here is what I do understand: God not only desires for us to do "right" things but to do them for the right reasons.  His desire has always been that we follow Him in gratitude for grace, and not fall into a rut of simply going through the motions as we perform our religious duties.  Instead of sacrifices and offerings being given in order to express thankfulness and commitment to their Savior, Israel's sacrificial 'system' became a polluted ritual performed in order to appease an angry God and/or earn His favor.  God didn't want that!

As you have heard, St. Paul instructed followers of Jesus to make a sacrifice: "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."   This, I believe, is a very important text!

This means that our walk with God is not comprised of a certain set of rites and rituals we might try to stick to in order to stay on God's good side.  Because of God mercy brought about by the sacrificial death of God's Son, Jesus the Christ, we ARE on God's good side!   As John the Baptizer declared, Jesus was the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world!  And it is in response to that salvation that we are to willingly, freely, and happily sacrifice our lives back to God.

"This is [our] true and proper worship."  We are not religious.  We are beloved children of God living out of a grace-based relationship as we seek to more and more fully model our lives after Jesus' life, filled with love and compassion, and marked by service and sacrifice.  This is our calling!

With You in Him,
Mark

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