Reasonable Sacrifice

 

And here we offer, and present unto thee, O Lord,

Our selves, our souls and bodies,

To be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice…

 

One month ago in my Crucifer article I wrote about the need, as we minister to others, to “let God be God.”

 

Closely connected to this idea is the need to be “wise as serpents.” Yes, Christ calls us to be “innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16), but I find that, among those who endeavor to minster to people in the name of Christ and for the sake of the Gospel, few of us are truly “wise as serpents.”

 

 I know many people who engage in ministry who are well intentioned but whose “innocence” verges on naiveté.

 

To wise is, among other things, to promote longevity, to prepare for the future, to live life in ways that are sustainable. Practices that lead to “burnout” are not wise. And yet we live in a culture in which “burnout” seems to be the default mode. Burnout in the federal government. Burnout in the global economy. Burnout in marriage. Burnout in the good earth God gave us.

 

What does it mean to be a reasonable sacrifice? Week in and week out, as these words, spoken from the altar, flow out of my mouth, as they echo in my mind, I am reminded of the need for ministers of the Gospel, including all baptized Christians (though the clergy must model this), to be “wise as serpents.”

 

This language in our Eucharistic Prayer is borrowed from Romans 12, where St. Paul calls us to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” The word “spiritual,” here, is the Greek adjective here is related to the noun logos, which means (among other things) “reason.”

 

As the baptized priests of the new covenant of Jesus Christ, who are given a “ministry of reconciliation,” we must sacrifice for others. We must give our lives away, and “spend” them on others. All of this is true, and all of this matters deeply. The Christian life is not simply a life of luxury; it is a life of sacrifice, and even a life of suffering for and with our suffering Lord.

 

A minister who “sacrifices reasonably,” however, will know when to rest and when to serve. When to go  to the hospital to visit a sick brother or sister at midnight and when to be with his kids. When to say “yes,” and when to say “no.” When to push and when to relax. When to ask, and when to not ask. All of this is a matter of wisdom.

 

And the things about wisdom, is gained only by experience. Life. Failure. Trial-and-error.

 

I’m very mindful of the many ministers at Christ Church who are not ordained, who sacrifice daily for the sake of the Gospel, and for others. These men and woman are truly awe-inspiring.

 

Let us take Christ as our model. Christ who truly sacrificed for others, by putting their needs before his own. Christ who knew when to say “yes,” and when to say “no.” Christ who was innocent as a dove, and wise as a serpent.

 

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