E-pistle October 10

Sacrifice: A Sense of Joy About It
 
During this past week’s presidential debate, Tom Brokaw read a question that he had received from an online audience member.  Fiorra from Chicago asked, “What sacrifices will you ask every American to make to help restore the American dream and to get out of the economic morass that we're now in?" John McCain said we’d have to cut some pork barrel spending and Barak Obama talked about programs to help us winterizing our homes to make them more fuel efficient and a plan to double the size of the Peace Corps.  It was clear that neither candidate wanted to talk much about sacrifice and each retreated to the safety of stump speech lines as soon as he could.
 
CNN.com has been running one of its unofficial reader’s poll for the last day or do asking the question if we’ve had to make sacrifices because of the global financial crisis.  As of this morning, nearly 400,000 readers have logged their answer and 75% say that, yes, sacrifices have been made. You just vote yes or no.  We don’t know what those 300,000 Americans have in mind when they say they’ve made a sacrifice.
 
So what do you and I have in mind when we talk about sacrifice?  The dictionary defines the verb as “to give up or suffer loss for the sake of an ideal, belief or end.”  No wonder the politicians don’t like the word.  Giving up or suffering loss doesn’t sound fun at all.  And not to be too cynical in a time of genuine concern and pockets of high anxiety and true hurt, but by that definition cutting down on the number of trips to Starbucks or driving my 15 year-old Ford another year can be considered a sacrifice.  By the way, the rear-window defrost doesn’t work anymore and there’s a new rattle somewhere around the glove box. 
 
The New Testament has something altogether different in mind when it speaks of sacrifice.  In Hebrews 13, the writer of the letter reminds us that we are those who are seeking “the city which is to come.”  And then he adds, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Hebrews 13:15-16)
 
So according to this definition I make sacrifices by praising God and confessing his name.  And by doing good and sharing with others.  Hm. It has nothing to do with missing an occasional double latte or driving a car with some pretty serious rust.  Oh, and the handle on the right rear door gets stuck sometimes and you have give a swift hit to make sure it’s latched. 
 
The mess in the world economy has consequences and for some of us they may be dire.  For most of us it may mean re-working our budgets and deferring some purchases and experiences.  That’s called prudence and belt-tightening.  The politicians don’t like talking about either of those things either, but 75% of us have a hunch that we’re going to have to learn prudence and that our belts are going to be tightened. 
 
But for those of us who know God’s amazing grace in Jesus Christ, sacrifice is not a loss or a giving up.  It’s not something we suffer. There is a sense of joy about it.  Offering praise and pleasing God though doing good and sharing with others.  On Sunday we will gather together as the church which, in the words of the old hymn, is called to offer up on every shore her pure sacrifice of love.  There's a sense of joy about it!