Dec. 17: Is it possible to let God down?
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Words have different interpretations depending on who is saying them and who is listening. Some go out of fashion, yet remain remnants of the past in our ears: twain, verily or prithee. As I read Hebrews, I am struck by the images that sacrifice conjures. I talk about making sacrifices of time or money, but here I see a more visceral image of sacrifice.
A market bustles as people barter over which animals they can afford to buy. Bleating and writhing, the animals embody the sins of each person. The worshipper is heavy with a sense of guilt. The animal is prepared and laid on the altar. A swift cut. A sung prayer. Blood drips for sins, and rightness with God is achieved.
A modern, Western interpretation of sacrifice doesn’t often look like this. Yet it is tempting to become a perfectionist in faith. Christ’s words release me from this burden: “sacrifices and offerings you have not desired.” The responsible voice inside me says that I must figure out how to right all my wrongs. If I pray harder, memorize more Scripture or volunteer more hours at the soup kitchen can I earn God’s delight?
I asked my spiritual director: Is it possible to let God down? I often fail in my relationships to others, and subsequently, to God. With what I saw were eyes of the loving Divine, she told me, “nothing you do can separate you from God’s love.” God doesn’t desire perfection, but obedience. Christ abolished the need for the Old Testament sacrifices and through his obedience, suffering for our sins. This fills me with awe – that I don’t have to live in constant guilt, but am loved by God.
SCRIPTURE: Hebrews 10:5-10 (NRSV)
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body you have prepared for me;
in burnt-offerings and sin-offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, “See, God, I have come to do your will, O God”
(in the scroll of the book it is written of me).’
When he said above, ‘You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt-offerings and sin-offerings’ (these are offered according to the law), then he added, ‘See, I have come to do your will.’ He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.