jump to navigation

Sacrifice of praise, sacrifice of person? 26 March 2014

Posted by Dr Moose in Church, Faith, Ponderings, Procrastination, Theology.
Tags: , , ,

For those who are not fluent in Churchspeak, we don’t half talk some (apparent) rubbish! To those of us who do, or are at least semi-fluent, it’s all perfectly normal, but we forget so easily (and don’t get me started on the dialect that is Evangelical Christianese). Some terms have entered the common language and milieu, such as sacrifice (probably as much a re-entry in recent years due to popular archaeology TV programmes such as Time Team, in the UK, as the ‘legacy awareness’). Despite that there are plenty whose knowledge would lapse with the word apse, or who wouldn’t understand the references in falling stole over hassock.

Back to sacrifice then. While I’m not planning on taking something precious and valuable, a sign of prestige and wealth, before ritually destroying it and dropping it into a peaty fen, I am still called as a Christian to engage in sacrifice. (Of course, I now have to share the image of a business-suited executive ritually smashing the screen of the latest iBrain before dropping it into the waters, and thus create an alternate explanation for Silicon Fen..) But I’m digressing (and I do it so well!)

Sacrifice: the giving up of something of value to the greater glory of God. In the light of recent church experience.  I’ve been prompted to think again about it again. I’m not saying I have any conclusions either, but I hope you will join in the thinking with me. Is sacrifice meant to hurt? Not physically, of course. We are not expected to gouge ourselves with knives or slash our flesh (although such practices are and were not unknown). In the Old Testament tradition the blood spilt would be a sacrificed animal, meaning the Jerusalem Temple might best be visualised as the rather grisly cross between an abbatoir and a cathedral (just take some time to read some of Leviticus chapter 4 to get some idea of the stipulated ritual). But sacrifice is meant to cost something. The money spent in buying the bull or the ram, for example.

Dare I suggest that the ritual of places of worship, and I can only really speak for the Christian tradition, has to make its practise sufficiently enjoyable to engage the worshipper while also maintaining an atmosphere and intention of holiness and devotion? (I’m sure this is nothing new, but can’t give references and don’t remember much of the Christian Worship course at Theological College). In other words, our sacrifices, whether of time, money, song, or whatever, must be seen to give some sort of return to us. It’s a long time since I did my ‘O’ Level Business Studies (Grade, a mere C; I blame the economics), but I distinctly remember the phrase opportunity cost; an acknowledgement that by spending our money (and by extension, our time or any other resource) on one thing we lose the chance to invest it in something different. In the economy of worship, how do we balance the cost of the time/resource expended against the entertainment value of the glory of the ritual? (And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a multi-sensory Anglo-Catholic High Mass with gaudy vestments, expensive incense, ritualised movement and sublime choral music, or a contemporary Charismatic praise ‘concert’ with full worship band, pumped up amps, multi-media screens and hands in the air. The end result is meant to be the same).

Sunday ‘failed’ for me, because it failed to engage me. The worship may have felt an ‘act’ but it also felt a boring waste of my time. The return wasn’t worth the effort. I wasn’t ‘lifted’ into a greater appreciation of the divine, just a greater criticism of the context. That balance wasn’t achieved.

I don’t like to think of myself as a masochist (although others may disagree), but there remains that question, an open and valid one. How much is worship, praise, meant to cost? How much do we, should we, give back to God, of our ourselves and to our cost? And, of course, in composing this blog I have succeeded in diverting much of the creative energy that bubbles up every morning, part of God’s gifting to me, into these words. Rather than the practise of Morning Prayer that I ‘should’ have been engaged in!

A good exam question would now close with on word, “Discuss”. You may, of course, if you wish, but more importantly perhaps, think!



No comments yet — be the first.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: