Posts Tagged ‘sacrifice’

Shell or Rock?

Moana was a fantastic movie for so many reasons. The chicken made us laugh. The grandma was one we all wish we had. The usual motif about “someone realizing there was something mystically special about themselves all along” – is something many of us hope to discover.

There are roots in there story with amazing truths, if we will notice.

There is a girl who is taught her entire life, that her value comes from her ability to maintain what has always happened. She is expected to make wise decisions, to rule well, and to navigate the difficulties of island life. That someday she will place her stone on the highest mountain, atop the stones of previous leaders, making her contribution the highest point on their island.  But within her stirs a discontent. A “holy” stirring that not only she, but her people, were created to do more than what they’d done yesterday.  That perhaps even, looking far back in their history, they might find stories of a completely different existence altogether.  They were not a people meant to thrive on how well they could perpetuate status quo. They were wired to thrive on creative discovery, and to craft stories of stepping out into the unknowns, in faith that something greater than themselves held their fate and future. That actually, their fate depended on complete change in what was being done. They were facing struggles no resources could be found to solve. The status quo way of maintaining routine was slowly losing its ability to provide life.

So she set out to discover what else could be done. Sacrificially, she launched a new initiative toward becoming vulnerable – not just for her own sake but for a people who were temporarily without any idea of what might happen next.  Collectively, they looked toward tomorrow with hesitancy, but hopeful faith for what could be. Enlight16

It turned out to be exactly what was needed. As she returned to share this new way of life she’d discovered, it was immediately embraced by the people as being their actual story. No longer were they island people, who valued being able to efficiently stay as they were. Connecting to their ancient roots, they were a people “on the move”. Entrusting themselves to something larger, they collectively were reidentified as New Creations.  There is a brief scene where we simply see a shell placed on a stack of rocks. No longer would success be measured by the highest point on an island that was ultimately no source of life.

From now on – they’d become a people who’s measurement for Life had been altogether transformed.

The wisdom here offers us a moment to contemplate as leaders and servants in the Kindgom of God. Are we willing to let go of our chance to place a stone, if it enables others to actually be transformed toward a New Life altogether? Can we trust God to guide us as we launch out together toward a New Land?

There is, after all, a world out there already placing stones upon stones – waiting for followers of Jesus to show them a better way…

 

Child Sacrifice

“Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” – Genesis 22:2

This was in our family reading yesterday.  As I was reading it out loud for my kids to hear, I wondered what sort of thoughts might go through their mind.  A daddy was asked by God to sacrifice his son?  And he DID it?  Well, not completely, but still.  He tied up his son, whom he loved, and offered him to God as a sacrifice?

I quickly connected it to something easier to swallow.  I asked the kids, “What is something you love a whole lot, that God might ask you to let go of in order to follow Him?”  I wondered what might be going through their minds, as they tried to imagine God asking something large in their life to be sacrificed in order to be a part of what God wanted to accomplish.

I remember reading this passage in college.  Studying it with my theology friends.  Talking about Kierkegaard’s thoughts over coffee, and feeling like we grasped just how audacious these passages of scripture were.  Then life took me out of the coffee shop and into the mini-van.  It’s so hard to understand Abraham’s response in this passage.  It’d be easier if we had a chapter, or at least several verses after verse 2 here.  A conversation, or at least open complaint to God from Abraham, of how unjust and difficult it was for him to swallow what God was asking him to do.  Instead, the very next verse is about Abraham getting up , saddling his donkey, and telling his son “Let’s go”.kids on the bus

As I was reading the story this week, a thought struck me.  Even though I’m not tying my kids up, laying them on an altar, and raising a knife above them….I am still offering my children to God as a sacrifice.  As is any family that takes steps in faith toward a path God is calling them to.  We spend time in prayer, as parents.  We ask God to be with us. We ask God to bless us. We ask God to bless our family, and our home.  We ask for Him to bless our children as they grow.  But even more than “blessing”, we ask God to use our family for the purposes of His Kingdom.  That has nothing to do with how successful our kids might be someday, or what college/career they head toward.

Although that’s definitely a tempting approach to praying for our children.  In the popular TV show, “Once Upon a Time”, Snow White and her Beau save their infant from a cursed Kingdom by shoving the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes through a magic portal.  This assures their child will escape the current cursed situation, and have a decent chance at a normal and successful life.  Every parent faces this temptation.  To shield our children from anything God might ask from us in this broken world, and prepare them for “someday” when they’ll be launched into life, ready and strengthened by years of protected existence.

Instead, God calls us to lift our children, and our family/home up onto the stone altar.  To faithfully respond to whatever He’s calling us toward, even knowing it will impact them.  It may cause suffering.  It may mean large amounts of sacrifice.  It might mean that after years of praying for God to help us with our adoption, our 8 year old will interrupt prayer time to say, “Dad, why doesn’t God just…you know….DO something?”

In those moments, I feel a little like Abraham carrying his son up the mountain.  His son looks at everything they’re carrying, and in a confused moment he asks his father, “..but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (v.7)  Abraham responds that God will provide.  In this similar moment, my daughter needs me to speak with faith into her life as well.  It’s hard for me to do, just as I imagine it would’ve (should’ve) been for Abraham.  Yet I look into her eyes and say the words, “God will provide.”

He will.  He has.  He is.  Our family is being formed in a crucible of prayer that will and already is, influencing the direction of their lives.  These little hearts who are called on every day to think about God’s heart for a broken world that needs healing.  These young people who are reminded that just like God wants to use our family – God wants to use them for the sake of the world, also.

But just being honest here?  I’m scanning those bushes like crazy, even as I’m tying up my children…

giving God our scrapple.

We were on vacation, and Sarah had found the restaurant using one of them hip-trendy restaurant-finder Apps.  It was ranked #1 in the area, so we knew anything on the menu was going to knock it out of the park.  As we looked over the choices, we realized the reason it was so highly ranked was probably because they served just about everything you could imagine.  Among the choices, there were several options I’d never heard of.  Always the adventurous type, I decided to take a chance:

Me: Hmm, so what is this “Scrapple”?

Waitress: Well, you know how hotdogs are made out of the leftovers of meat?  Scrapple is made out of the scraps scrappleleftover after hotdogs are made.  Absolutely nothing goes to waste.  Then they add some cornmeal, and season it up.  I grew up eating it.

Me: Sounds great.  I’ll take some.

My stomach an hour later:  (shaking it’s fist at me)  Whhhyyyyyyy!!!!!????

You know what would’ve been great for breakfast that morning?  Ham.  Yeah, ham definitely would’ve been awesome.  I think God knew that as a people, we’d become more and more okay with serving our “lastfruits” not only as an item for breakfast, but as our worship and sacrifice to Him.  We have the commitments we’ve made with each day, whether work or home or play, and somewhere in between all the important stuff, if we really love him, we’ll carve out a few minutes for a devotional or Bible reading.

We’ll stay out/up late Saturday night doing whatever we want, make plans for Sunday afternoon, and feel great about shoving the family in the van – everyone too tired to know exactly what’s going on.  Blurry eyed, we’ll make it through service, check “Sabbath” off our list, and make it to lunch/etc. just in time.

Or the one I’m most guilty of, we’ll arrange our finances.  Make commitments for a lifestyle that fits the American Dream in our context, and with whatever’s left we’ll try to get close to 10%….or something…to give as our offering to God.

I say all of this not as a pastor trying to bring guilt on other church-goers, but as a fellow scrapple-server, realizing I want to give God ham. (I realize the irony in serving God what was traditionally an “unclean animal”…oh well.)  I want to give God the first moments of my day, when my brain is firing well.  I want to give God my focus and energy as if communion with the body of Christ at the banquet table of His Word is the most important aspect of my Sabbath.  I want to give to God sacrificially, making choices to deny myself bits of “The American Dream”, so that I can experience the blessings of being completely yielded to Him.

But instead so many times I offer him my scrapple.  I give to him whatever I’ve got left after I’ve cut out the bits and pieces I really needed for other things.  I’m so incredibly thankful for His grace, and the smile on His face.  As he takes the plate from me, and looks down at what I offer.  He loves what I’ve given.  He eats my scrapple.  He gently reminds me of the pattern He set, offering the very best to us.  He hasn’t left the table…but waits with a loving smile, expectantly….(Proverbs 3:9)

a poem – from John 19:26-27

Jesus, the Holy One, God’s only Son,

It had all been done, but not yet complete.

Not enthroned with the Father, on His mercy seat

But still hanging, what seemed like defeat, blood pumping pain through his body with every beat.

As each breath comes as painful sigh, out of the corner of his eye he sees…Mother.

Not like any other, so much more than a brother, because family had become more.

More than names, and DNA pumping through veins

More than strained awkward moments of gathering at holiday tables

More than Cain and Abel, or filling empty stables

 Because “Family”, Jesus said, shares more than a home – they share God

So even though it seems odd to not give the nod to those who share a name, Mary doesn’t complain

Because she’s come to believe, started to realize and see with new eyes

That God has a pretty big picture in mind, and it doesn’t even stop at human-kind

But for all of creation, the offer of “NEW”

So much bigger than fitting into the hearts of me and you

But not so big that he overlooks the least – the bullied, the voiceless, the powerless and freaks

The orphans and widows, are for whom his heart still beats, and so he reaches out again

In love to a friend

But so much more than a friendly other, a beloved brother, and introduces them for the first time

as Son and mother.

Saying much more than words in one simple introduction, like an induction to a new way of living

a way of giving up what we thought we knew for something capital “T” for True

And upon further review we hear something for us to do too.

 You see our painful lives tend to blur those around, like headphones, shutting out the sound and letting us drown in oceans of self absorption, and having our portion, we’re content to pray for our needs

 But even as he bleeds, the God-man leads us to old ways made new, challenging us to change our view and have hearts transformed, to let go of the norm.

To shed our obsession with self, and see with God’s eyes, and to be surprised by the people and things

Right outside our door, way outside our walls, or maybe. Even. Inside.

 So what happens when we let go of self, and reduce our emphasis on wealth or even health

Because true health won’t come from drugs and regiments to follow,

not having more surgeries or more pills to swallow

And true family doesn’t happen simply by being born

As we look out on a procreating nation, still torn

Truth only comes as we fix our eyes on Christ. And allow the author and perfecter of our lives

To speak His words that cause mountains to move, and holding palms open, having nothing to prove

To the King of All, to follow his way,

and like those who were near heard him say, as he was crucified on that day,

Words that came as a flood of love to obey

And living this way without caution, this situation offered no other option,

than the first Christ-centered adoption.

As new mother and new son saw each other and smiled

They realized they were both actually his child…

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