My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” Psalm 51:17
“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.” Romans 12:1
We, none of us like to sacrifice anything. We tend to want it all. Everything. No exceptions. We do not like doing without. We do not like giving things up. We do not like to sacrifice the things we enjoy as we consider them comforts. Ironically, we also do not like to sacrifice things that are not good for us even when we know those same things will only lead us down a path of destruction. It could be ice cream that continues to raise our cholesterol levels or it could be a drug addiction or anything in between. But whatever it is, we don’t want to give it up even though we know in our hearts and in our heads that it is not good for us and will only give us problems if we continue. The magnitude of those problems will depend on the magnitude of the “thing” we don’t want to give up. The bottom line, to be sure, is that as human beings, we are a nutty lot. Because the thing is: The only way we can make way for new in our lives is to release the old. Sacrifice, or giving up something is actually a healthy practice. Especially when we are giving up those things that are definitely not good for us. Which is why I am talking about sacrifice during the season of Lent. A season where we choose to give up something for the six weeks before Easter.
However, we aren’t just giving something up to give something up. We are offering a sacrifice. We are mirroring the 40 days of fasting Jesus did in the wilderness. We are preparing ourselves for Easter as we offer our penance to God by sacrificing something in our lives. We don’t have to give something up to offer a sacrifice either. We can do the same when we add a spiritual discipline to our life. Or when we decide to not give up some “thing” but instead give up a vice we have like swearing or gossiping…yes gossiping is a vice. Because to sacrifice means we are willing to surrender or give up something in order to receive or offer something better. In Lent the something better is a closer connection to God. And it can’t get any better than that.
So, the question becomes: What are you choosing to give up? Or are you choosing to stop a vice? Or add a spiritual discipline? For me, the answer to that question came as a surprise. This year, I hadn’t planned on giving up anything but instead I had planned to begin a new spiritual discipline. But as I was sitting in the Ash Wednesday service, after I had preached my part on the backstory of Psalm 51…as I was listening to Pastor Steve…I heard that still small voice that told me that I needed to give up something in my life that I enjoy very much. It surprised me to be honest. Not in the sense that I don’t expect to hear from God like the High Priest Zechariah was surprised by the angel, but I was surprised by what I believe God wanted me to give up. It is such a simple thing. But it is something I enjoy very much and in fact laughingly call it an indulgent addiction.
What am I giving up? Chai Tea Latte’s. For those of you who know me well, you know what a sacrifice this is for me. You will also understand when I tell you I have had a headache since Thursday morning when I went without for the first day. But give it up I have, because for whatever reason, I firmly believe this is what I need to sacrifice. I also think it is important for you to know, this is something I would NEVER have chosen on my own. For you coffee drinkers, which I am definitely not…Chai Tea is my coffee…So…
Even though this seems like a trivial thing to give up, I believe there is something God will reveal to me through my obedience to what I believe God wants me to do. And I think that is the point. When we offer a sacrifice to God and we follow through with it, we are being obedient. We are offering a humble and contrite heart. We are saying to God that this “thing” whatever that is for each of us and that is important to us, is not as important as our relationship with God. Our sacrifice shows God, that in all things God truly does come first in our life. So…for me…I will be going without my morning Chai Tea Latte throughout the season of Lent. May God have mercy on my husband…