Dear friends in Christ,
A couple of weeks ago, I was in the Philadelphia area for a meeting. Since I had some time, I paid a visit to the Rev’d Clarke French, a friend, who is serving as interim rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. It’s a thriving congregation meeting in a colonial-era building.
There are many things I appreciated about the lovely and ancient worship space, but I was particularly struck by the lights for illuminating the scriptures as the lectors proclaim them. The lamp shades say (facing the people and also facing the lector) SACRIFICE and OBEDIENCE.
These powerful words are central to the Gospel and alien to our consumer culture. In the world that says “get what you can and be your own person,” the Gospel calls us to another way. We are called to give freely—for the glory of God, for Christ’s sake, for the good of others, and for the wellness of our souls. We are called to obey our Lord Jesus, who calls us to take up our cross and follow him—to die to old ways and be alive in the new creation of Jesus Christ.
This coming weekend brings us to November 11, kept in the US as Veterans Day, when we remember the sacrifice of many for their country. Christian sacrifice can surely be seen in the lives of martyrs, but it can also be seen in more mundane expressions—forgiving others, in sharing what we have with those in need, in turning the other cheek, or in yielding our own privileges for the well-being of others.
Then there’s obedience. This is positively counter-cultural! For those of us to say we follow Jesus, we need to obey him as our leader. The Gospel loses its power if we try to fit it into the gaps of a comfortable consumer lifestyle. Jesus knew this when we said you can’t serve two masters. We either serve the gospel of consumption or the Gospel of grace and mercy. We either orient our lives around greed and self-determination or toward sacrifice and obedience.
I invite you to consider the wisdom and power of OBEDIENCE and SACRIFICE. What do they mean in your life?
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