O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth: Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
-- BCP, page 229
1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20); Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17;
2 Corinthians 4:5-12; Mark 2:23-3:6
2 Corinthians 4:5-12; Mark 2:23-3:6
Last weekend's solemn observance of Memorial Day got me pondering the meaning of the word Sacrifice. We honored our men and women who gave their lives for the sake of their country, in defense of its freedoms and peace. The word "sacrifice" came up often as I watched on television the Concert from the Mall.
Sacrifice. An appropriate word to describe people who "in the day of decision," died for our freedom, values, and ideals, as our collect for heroic service says (BCP, p. 839). We owe them and their families constant honor, gratitude, and remembrance.
The word sacrifice does not apply exclusively to dying for others, however. At its root, the word means to make an offering. In Eucharistic Prayer A, the celebrant speaks of the Holy Communion as "this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving." Praising and thanking God is an offering, a sacrifice.
In that sense, any time we offer anything to anyone, we are making a sacrifice. Parents and teachers who dedicate themselves to the wellbeing of their children are making a sacrifice. As we come this week to high school graduations in the city and county, I am mindful of the sacrifice that parents, students, and teachers have made to make the day of commencement possible. Offering not only knowledge but also encouragement, discipline, and delight (to name a but a few or their offerings), parents and teachers have sacrificed for the education of their children and students. Young people who have labored to complete assignments on time and to master the material also made a sacrifice -- at times placing their personal desires second to their educational requirements, for example.
A sacrifice then is something that requires effort. That is to say, whether the thing we offer is hard for us to do or not, we make a sacrifice when we choose one course of action over another, such as modifying one's lifestyle in order to save for the children's education or doing homework instead of playing with friends. Intentionality and commitment are part of making a sacrifice.
Making choices then means that letting-go as well as of taking-on are essential dimensions of offering, of making a sacrifice. We let go or give up something in order to take on an activity -- such as a student who curtails leisure time in order to complete homework or a teacher who works well beyond their school hours for the benefit of their students.
I've used examples that focus on students, teachers, and parents. But the dynamics of sacrifice are there for all of us in any facet of life.
At the core, to make a sacrifice is to offer ourselves for the sake of something greater or for the sake of someone else. It's what Jesus calls dying to self. Sacrificial people are not Me First people. We put others ahead of ourselves. Giving our time, our talents, and our treasure for the wellbeing of others represent the offering of ourselves. Sacrifice is an intrinsic component of service -- not only military service but any form of giving and offering to which we may called in life.
May you and I be graced with the gift of sacrificial living for the sake of the world and to God's greater glory.
Under the Mercy,