Sermon – 11-14-21 – Sacrifice – Veterans – Proper 18 – Cycle B
Scripture: Daniel 12:1-3; Psalm 16; Hebrews 10:11-25; Mark 13:1-8
Sermon Title: “Sacrifice”
Think of all the sacrifices – large and small – that you have made in your life. Some of them we did not see coming toward us. Some we anticipated but to which we did not look forward. Some were very sudden, like emergency sacrifice!
Think! Do you feel good about making those sacrifices? Do you second-guess some actions you took which to this day are affecting your life in a clinging way? What am I asking you to drudge up from the past? In my experience, some memories need to be left closed and we go on with our lives.
I am thinking of the sacrifice that parents make just in the decision to have children. I mean, all of those diapers! The loss of freedom which is more significant to some of us than to others. The expense. The agony of young lives gone awry! To balance all of those sacrifices with the rewards is a good thing. The joy that comes with parenthood from the first smile to the first step to the first words to the first question helps to balance the sickness, the discipline, the responsibility.
Some of you may have sacrificed education because of lack of money or because your parents had no time for higher education, maybe you were denied even basic education. Some of you may have sacrificed attending the church of your choice to worship together as a family. Some of you may think of keeping your house clean as a sacrifice. On the other hand, some of you may be so thankful to have a house that cleaning is part of your thankfulness.
Some of you sacrificed time to attend your children and your grandchildren’s activities to support them, to encourage them, to watch them become mature adults. Then again, you probably wonder how I could possibly be calling that sacrifice when you enjoyed it so much. It all depends on our natures. It depends what gives us pleasure. That separates sacrifice from pleasure.
Wait! Does all sacrifice need to be the opposite of pleasure? We think of bringing our offerings to God as sacrifice but there are varying degrees of unpleasantness to pleasure when we bring our offerings to the church or to the Salvation Army or to Disabled American Veterans or to the local food pantry.
An experiment could be that we check our feelings as we write the check or bring the cash or use the on-line giving button or buy food for the pantry. Or, think about this: How do we feel when we sacrifice time and effort to volunteer where there is a need – all the way from digging a ditch to building or repairing a house to cleaning a house to driving people to doctor appointments to taking a talent to a local nursing or assisted living home to preparing meals for a neighbor or relative and checking on the person daily.
How do we feel before and after this sacrifice? Is it a pleasant aroma we sense as we read in some of the Psalms? Do we feel good about ourselves? Or are we regretting the time we spent when we have loads of chores or fun things to do for ourselves?
Where does the word selfish enter into the picture? Does sacrifice take on more meaning if we are natured to be selfish and we MAKE ourselves do things or give up things for someone else? If we are natured to naturally want to do these helping and giving acts does the word “sacrifice” seem meaningless?
Today, we say we are honoring our veterans. VMost of our Zion veterans did not have a choice about serving in the armed services. Even if you did, you may have been sorry that you chose to serve as the years crept along. I don’t know any other word than “sacrifice” for your service to protect each of us even to this day. Your service years ago could have made a difference in some way that is helpful to us today. Some of you returned home in rather good physical and mental health. Some of you may have come face-to-face with God during your time of service either because someone influenced your thinking and your heart or because you were confronted and held captive in a harmful way. Here again, you may need to be protecting yourself by not thinking about those times. Sacrifice! Was there anything to balance your distress? Where there happy times? Did you meet someone with whom you have kept a relationship to this day?
Our Hebrews lesson today speaks about the sacrifice Jesus has made for us. “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14) We find this balance between sacrifice and reward as the writer of Hebrews offers: “He sat down at the right hand of God.” Let us think of all the times we did actions over and over because they needed to be done and we easily could apply the word “sacrifice.” What was the balance to all of that drudgery or putting ourselves in harm’s way? Was there an ice cream cone at the end? Did you finish just as your favorite television show came on? Finding pleasure in your children as they become adults? Finding your finances leveling somewhat after all the great expense of raising children in this day and age? Have you found a balance? Maybe you can see some benefit from those years in the armed services. Maybe your were able to complete an education of some sort which you use to this day or used until retirement.
Did another person’s sacrifice benefit you? [pause] Certainly we claim Jesus’ sacrifice as a great benefit for us. We do not need to fear the end of our lives. Jesus has made the sacrifice for our sins. He is waiting to gather us into his arms unless we do not like to be hugged in which case we can be received by the huge smile on the face of Jesus. The picture on our bulletin cover depicts someone being welcomed by Jesus. We simply have to confess, which means say in our hearts or aloud, that we believe that Jesus is our Savior. Our sins are whooshed away whenever we ask for forgiveness for our sins. Our sins do not stop. Therefore, we look to Jesus repeatedly anytime our hearts are heavy. Then we keep our minds open to catch the joy that makes us want to dance or sing or spread the word! Our psalm today emphasized the joy that will be ours at the end of our earthly lives. We will not be abandoned in the grave! We will be rewarded with pleasures forevermore.
When we think of the love of Jesus and his sacrifice for us, when we think of the sacrifice we make daily for other people, as simple as holding a door, or picking up something that dropped – be it a tangible item or something that dropped from a person’s life or when we smile to someone, we are becoming more holy, more like Jesus. We are growing in holiness. While we sing the last hymn, let us think about how we can gift the people around us and become more holy. Look for the words, “though I may give all I possess.”
Holy Jesus, thank you for your sacrifice for our sins. Thank you for welcoming us at the end of our earthly lives. Thank you for sending your Holy Spirit to direct our lives in making sacrifices for our fellow humans and creatures and environment. Thank you for the joy which follows! In your name we pray. Amen