In my Bible reading over the past year, I have been struck by the number of times the text has spoken to me about sacrifice, dying to self, taking up the cross, and following Jesus. The text, of course, says many things besides these, yet this is what the eyes of my heart have received and most held onto. I wonder about experiences like this and I am reminded that the way of being a disciple is not for those seeking the easy way, but it is rather the blessed way of Christ shared with fellow pilgrims. What I have learned, but need to continually relearn, is that the way of blessedness is one in which letting go those things I want for myself and letting go of the many gifts God has given me is the way into a deeper experience of blessedness. So, in what may sound strange to modern consumerist ears, I can say I am grateful for what my journey from the halls of the College of Charleston to the pulpit of Good Shepherd has cost. I am grateful for being able to give back to God in some modest way the gifts given to me. The giving back has freed me from hanging onto things that had or would have grown old. It has led me to new places where I have seen God in alien faces. It has emptied my hands of many of the things I held precious and allowed them to grasp the hands of new friends and a new blessedness.
You may have heard before the saying “we give, not because God needs it, but because we need it.” There is a deep truth in that. There is a deep challenge to each of us to not be held prisoner by the blessings we have been given, but to practice ever deeper forms of letting go. Christians confess that all good things are from God as gift. It is a challenge for us to live out that confession and return love for love, giving back to God with gratitude and joy.
Of the many offertory sentences provided by the Book of Common Prayer, my favorite is the one I think most challenges our response to God gracious provision. “Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God.” In those words, I am convicted that my gratitude is not yet where it should be and that my sacrifice is woefully inadequate. I know there is more work to be done and I ask your prayers for myself, my family, and this Good Shepherd family that we might all experience a deeper blessedness through our sacrificial response to God’s gifts to each of us.