Monday, January 28, 2013

Sacrifices vs Obedience

Yesterday's first reading brought our focus upon sin itself.  Paul mentions sin often throughout the Hebrews letter (or sermon as some scholars describe the material.  Today's text draws from the tenth chapter of the same letter/sermon.  In this part of his teaching, Paul addresses God's gift of salvation and how it has a much greater impact upon our lives than does the OT practice of making animal and other sacrifices.

There were people from Italy (scholars have different speculations location in Italy where there sermon was delivered) gathered to listen to the convert, Paul.  Old Testament traditions and customs, Paul taught, did seemingly little to remove sin since the people gathered together each year and offered sacrifice to Yahweh to forgive their sins.  Rather than continue the same practices, Paul preached that true and real salvation has been given to us not because of the sacrifices of animals and the offering of grain but, rather, because Jesus Christ suffered and died to once and for all bring about the forgiveness the sins of humankind.

In these verses from the Hebrew sermon, Paul stresses that God prefers obedience to sacrifice.  For God it is the self-offering of Jesus, his Son, that brings about our salvation.

Before Lent begins, we might quietly and peacefully bring to our prayer that Jesus, our brother, throughout his life was an example to us of obedience to the Father's will.  The life of Jesus, all that he did, was a fulfillment of the Father's will for him to culminate in the self-sacrifice of the body God had prepared for him through the collaboration of a young woman of Nazareth.  It might be interesting and helpful for us to not forget what Jesus' purpose was in all that he did:  to teach us the Father's will and thereby sacrifice his body, shedding his blood, to atone for our sins.

Remember not the former things, nor consider things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, 
do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:18-19