Every week during Lent, we looked at Mahatma Gandhi’s Seven Social Sins. We’ve considered Politics Without Principal, Wealth Without Work, Commerce Without Morality, Pleasure Without Conscience, Education Without Character, and Science Without Humanity. Worship Without Sacrifice is the last in the series.
On Good Friday, Jesus hung on the cross and said, It is finished. He died knowing he did all that was asked of him. His life’s work was complete. His death was ugly and brutal and unjust, and yet he fulfilled God’s promise. He sacrificed his very life as an act of worship for the rest of us.
Grisly, I know. Hard to understand, especially in our day. Necessary?
Today is Easter. It is the pinnacle day of worship in the Christian tradition. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the pinnacle tenet of faith that is unique to Christianity. It’s a celebration of victory over death (why is so much of the language of the church war-like?), new life, and hope beyond the grave. Death and resurrection. Sacrifice and worship.
Here’s the interesting thing about sacrifice; it comes from the heart. Sacrifice isn’t motivated by something external or out of some sort of obligation. That’s duty. Sacrifice, on the other hand, is the willing giving up of something of value. Sacrifice costs something.
When a church or religious institution has a hierarchical structure, it’s members don’t have a sense of service or worship. Participation becomes one of outward observance, like following the rules. The structure prevents them from participating fully and openly because the hierarchy and structure creates roles and rules for us and thems.
The results are people who may be active in church, but inactive in living out the gospel or message of Jesus. In other words, I may be active in going to church, even fulfilling a role like teaching Sunday School, but if I’m not concerned about loving the poor, serving the needy, and addressing the growing economic disparity, then there is no sacrifice in my worship.
The women who showed up to Jesus’ tomb on the first day of the week were taking a risk. Jesus’ closest friends were so scared of what might happen to them, they were hiding. Jesus’ execution was high-profile, political and religious. The last thing the authorities who had him executed wanted was an uprising. Fear and intimidation can be quite effective in getting people to acquiesce. The political leaders wanted allegiance and the religious leaders wanted obedience … no questions asked.
And yet the truth and hope of his message was already instilled in the hearts of his followers. They needed to make sense of his death … and now his resurrection … in order to understand what they were to do next. Their lives were changed, but now how to live without him to guide and teach them. They gathered, they remembered, they invited, they worshiped, they sacrificed. They became a movement which continues today to draw others in who are seeking a richer, fuller relationship with God, themselves, and others.
Worship and sacrifice. Humanity and science. Character and education. Conscience and pleasure. Morality and commerce. Work and wealth. Principles and politics. Opportunities for transformation of ourselves, our institutions, our governments, our global community. If God can resurrect Jesus from the dead, what are the possibilities of what God can do through us?
The following passages tell the story of the resurrection, different perspectives for different audiences: Matthew 28:1-15 Mark 16:1-13 Luke 24:1-12 John 20:1-23