Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship —Romans 12:1.
Easter Sacrificial Offering (ESO), 2018
This Easter, Tenth Church will be taking up what we call the ESO, as we have for at least the last thirty-four years. What makes this offering different from all the other offerings we might be giving at church? We’re not giving the ESO for the maintenance of the building, the salary of our pastoral staff, or buying the coffee and bagels for fellowship. It isn’t even for the general needs of our global partners in bringing the gospel to the world. At this time we take up an offering, sacrificially, for needs of special urgency, needs of special mercy, and needs that are of special depth.
Thanksgiving for Mercy
In Romans 12:1 after Paul has described the wonderful saving grace and mercy revealed in the cross and in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he reminds men and women to live “in view of God’s mercy.” We have faced an urgent crisis when we’ve lived according to our sinful natures and found nothing but trouble. We have become deeply aware of the judgment and justice of God toward the wrongdoings we’ve committed, and we know our only hope is in God’s grace to us in his son Jesus.
Having found that grace from a merciful Savior, we have thanksgiving in our hearts. The stance of our hearts moves the rest of our bodies too. In worship, our feet bring us into church, our voices sing praise, and our hands bring supportive offerings. Likewise, in deeds of mercy—with hands to offer help, feet that move toward those in need, and voices that proclaim that we work in Jesus’ name—we express in these tangible ways the flourishing life we’ve been mercifully granted in our spiritual need.
Sacrifices of the New Covenant
Paul says that in view of God’s mercy we offer ourselves, our bodies, as “living sacrifices.” Drawing on the deep symbolism of Israel’s worship of God, Paul sees something new and transformed emerging: a visible reality where things were shadowy images before. Israelites offered sacrifices to God, sometimes for sin, sometimes for fellowship or to show their dedication to their Lord who rescued them from bondage. They offered sacrificial animals as substitutes, because they could not offer themselves. The Lord is a “consuming fire,” and while the animals could be burned on the altar of God’s presence, human beings would not be acceptable.
Jesus, though, was the one sacrifice acceptable to God. His sacrifice did not end sacrifice as such, though it made the old practices of temple sacrifice obsolete. Instead, Jesus made an amazing new possibility for God’s people to really live their lives for him and others instead of for themselves. In Jesus, God finds us to be holy before him, and we can live in an acceptable way to God with our whole selves. The presence of God in the Holy Spirit is made possible because in Jesus we’ve received mercy and grace to live sacrificially.
Why then do we have a sacrificial offering, and why at Easter? The ESO is pointed at very special needs: urgent needs where people have been impacted by disasters or conflicts; deep needs where people have little opportunity to escape grinding poverty or degrading alternatives. Always, this offering goes where the needs can be addressed both with physical resources that make the love of Jesus tangible and with the message of the righteousness of God who will turn rebellious hearts back toward his love with the gospel.
The Good Friday death and Easter resurrection of Jesus point us outward from ourselves and back to our loving Father. Our Father points us outward toward the world that needs to hear the message of his love accompanied by help and relief and rescue.
Tenth’s Global Outreach Commission will be describing the specific projects for this year, beginning with today’s insert. Please prayerfully consider how you will participate this year, in view of God’s mercy.
© 2019 Tenth Presbyterian Church.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Paul Duggan. ©2019 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org