Dear First Pres Family,
John Grisham and the “Hokey Pokey” is not a new book that is out. Nor are those two standard fare in your average sermon. Yet they just happened to be features this past week. If your curiosity is even aroused a bit, you can listen to it here.
The text for Sunday, and then also for the final Wednesday Worship, was from Romans 12:1-8. I would like to tell you that I did a thorough and effective unpacking of that entire passage. It is certainly a wonderful and powerful portion of Paul’s writing to the church in Rome, and to each of us. But I did a somewhat cursory job of looking at the latter seven verses because I found myself so taken with the first verse. It is a linchpin, a turning point in the book of Romans.
“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.” It is a dynamic passage that spoke so powerfully in its day, but can lack the same punch in our day. You see Paul wrote to a Christian audience that was deeply familiar with the sacrificial system of the time. And such a system is so very far from our experience. In the day, a sacrifice was an animal, an unblemished one, which was killed and offered up.
Paul very intentionally jolts the reader with the unsettling phrase “living sacrifice,” when he speaks of offering our bodies as living sacrifices. Yes, his language here is of offering a sacrifice, but not a dead one; rather a living one. Like his initial readers, we are to think about our act of coming as a worshipper, and coming with an offering. And our burnt offering, or in our case, our offering, that we present is as a way of showing our total commitment to God. By giving it we are expressing to God: “all that I have is yours, nothing is held back.” “Nothing.”
We are directed: “Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.” Paul is saying, when in Rome, don’t do as the Romans do. Don’t live for yourself, live for God. Be a living sacrifice. Commit your whole self to his service and to loving and serving his body, the church. And in view of God’s mercy, extend his mercy to those who most need it.
This church body exhibits this calling to be living sacrifices in so many wonderful ways. Let us, together, consider how we might spur one another on to further expressing a total commitment; a willingness to put our whole selves in.
Striving to be living sacrifices with you,
Associate Pastor for Congregational Care