A Living Sacrifice, week 2

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1 (ESV)

What does St. Paul mean by “a living sacrifice?” How do we do that? What does that have to do with giving?

In his use of the word therefore, St. Paul reflects back on all that he has written up to this point about the mercies of God. God has given us mercy, salvation through Jesus Christ, instead of the punishment we deserve. Then, St. Paul uses the language of Old Testament worship, sacrifice, indicating how we are to respond, by giving ourselves over entirely to God, not as dead sacrifices, but as we say in the Holy Eucharist, our selves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice unto thee… accepting His gift and being transformed by His love. This is our spiritual worship, offering our whole lives to God with praise and thanksgiving.

The Elder Zacharias of Essex has said that the essence of worship is exchange. We offer to God what God has given to us, and receive in exchange what we could never have by nature. All things come of Thee, O Lord, and of Thine own have we given Thee. 1

In the Holy Eucharist liturgy, we re-enact the ancient drama, presenting to God a portion of what we have received from Him, as described in Deuteronomy 26:2-4, where it reads, “you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from your land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket, and you shall go to the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name to dwell there. … Then the priest shall take the basket from your hand and set it down before the altar of the LORD your God.”

The gifts that we provide as part of our worship are tokens of the living sacrifice that St. Paul calls us to present. Our offerings also provide the money for Holy Trinity’s vital day-do-day operating and maintenance expenses: pay, electricity, insurance, repairs. Let us not undervalue the importance of what we give.

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:15-16 (ESV)

1 https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2010/05/07/our-selves-our-souls-our-bodies-more-on-faith/

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A Living Sacrifice

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1 (ESV)

THIS Sunday is the soft kick-off of our annual financial stewardship campaign. Herein, I outline what we do at Holy Trinity about financial stewardship. I will be writing about stewardship over the next few weeks, anchored in the verses above and below, that through our sacrifices this Christian outpost may thrive, rightly proclaiming and teaching the Word, delivering the sacraments, and nurturing an ever expanding family of God.

NEXT week, a box will be placed in the nave where you may deposit a small card with your 2018 estimated tithes and offerings. (You may be familiar with congregations that run “Pledge Campaigns.” We don’t do that. The card you give us is intended to be a mere good faith estimate, seen and treated confidentially only by our treasurer. If you have questions about this, please ask me.) We set aside this time because it gives us a chance to teach and encourage concerning the stewardship of money. And, those little cards with your “good faith estimates” will make it possible for the Vestry to confidently prepare a meaningful and realistic budget for 2018.

This is all we do. It’s over before Advent. If we don’t have a card from you by Advent, we will mail one to you in a letter with a stamped envelope that you can mail back to the parish or place in the weekly offering. Over the last four years, Holy Trinity has made the annual stewardship campaign easier and more productive than we could hope for or imagine, and we are truly grateful.

For homework, please read Romans 12:1 and Hebrews 13:15-16, above and below. Contemplate and pray about what your living sacrifice looks like. God really does care what we do with our money, our things, our time. Our regular giving is Holy Trinity’s household income, living sacrifices pleasing to God.

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:15-16 (ESV)

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First Things – part six, with thanksgiving

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-6 ESV

And so, with this little article we close a season focused on various aspects of Christian stewardship. Now, it is my joy and pleasure, personally and on behalf of the parish leadership, to give thanks to God and to you for your faithfulness in participating in our process and the generosity that you express therein.

Did you know that in some local churches it is almost considered an anathema to talk about money, to ask for it, or to teach Christian stewardship? In others, the parish leaders go grovelling each year begging for promises to give money (pledges) with threats about deficit budgets and cuts to popular programs, often intimidating and nothing that would elicit thanksgiving.

Instead it is our joyful obligation and pleasure to talk about money, to teach about Biblical giving that God might find faithful, that you might find fulfilling, and through which Holy Trinity might thrive. Truly, without outrageously generous giving, Holy Trinity Anglican Church would not have come into being and would not be the parish that we lovingly share today.

We do ask you to do something. We ask every household to return a good faith estimate of their next year’s giving. A good faith estimate implies nothing more than just what those words mean. No future obligation is implied. We assume that your guess is better than our guess. This is a great help to the vestry as they plan to live within our means through next year’s budget. More important we hope, is that in developing your good faith estimate you are encouraged to be thoughtful about giving.

How did we do? I will make a final report at the Annual Parish Meeting. A few parishioners have not yet participated and it is expected that most of them will. I can share with you that we are on a positive trajectory to exceed past records in both number of participants (those who returned cards) and estimated giving. Your faithfulness makes leading a stewardship campaign easy, for which I am very thankful.

Just in case, if you have not yet participated in the in-gathering this year, you may complete a card and place it in the gray box near the baptismal font. After this Sunday, just drop it into the offering. Cards may also be hand delivered to our Treasurer, Jim Robinson, or sent by mail to his attention. Nobody else ever sees them.

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