Sermons on sacrifice
The opening lines of the movie Amadeus highlighting the genius of Mozart and the divine gift of his compositions, begins with words of an aged Antonio Salieri, speaking from a place of despair and ridicule, and reflecting on the first time he heard the beginning notes of Mozart’s Serenade No. 10 in B flat major — “On the page, it looked simple, nothing. The beginning simple, almost comic. Just a pulse. Bassoons, Basset Horns. Like a rusty squeezebox. And then,…
There is a little poem I think about this time of year. Some people dream the dream Some people live the dream Some people defend the dream God bless the defenders The Lord said “who shall I send and who will go for us” and I said “here am I; send me. Amen.
The story of God asking Abraham to offer his only and beloved son, Isaac, to be sacrificed as a test of his faith reveals the hard truth that salvation is going to be a costly endeavor. It sets the story of God and our salvation on a trajectory we often resist, namely that there are costs to being faithful. It is more comfortable to believe in a God who is predictable, tame and safe, than to believe in a God who actually demands something of us, who asks us to offer back to God that which is most precious to us, who promises us resurrection, but holds up the way of the cross to get there.
“What are you looking for?” It’s a great question which Jesus poses to John’s followers in today’s gospel. This question can be alternatively translated “What are you seeking?” or “What are you after?”. The question is brilliant because it calls the seeker to do a quick interior discovery of what is burning in their hearts that causes them to turn to Jesus. Is it curiosity, intrigue, shame, fear, guilt, loneliness, joy, generosity or desire for relationship? Are they wanting comfort or challenge, respite from a weary world, safety, unconditional love or deeper union with the force of goodness; or do they want to feel the loving presence descend upon them as the dove in Jesus’ baptism and wash away their sins? Jesus wants to know where this relationship is beginning; Jesus wants to know where to meet each one, and asks the question, “What are you after?” I imagine if we were each to try to answer that question, “What are you seeking in Jesus and or in this church?” we would arrive at a multitude of responses and to do so would be exactly right. For as Jesus engaged John’s followers and as he engages us with that question, his gift to us is that he is inviting us into a relationship, which is the source of all that we could be seeking, now or forever.
Whereas it is true that we could never win this case God has brought against us, the exercise was never about winning or losing or justice or punishment. It was always and will only ever be about God’s love for us – about mercy, about opening the pathway for us to be back in right relationship with God. This is what the judgment of God looks like: mercy, love, forgiveness, and an invitation to wholeness. When we declare our Confession of Need today, we will say, “Compassionate God. We confess our weaknesses and our need for your strengthening touch.” Our weaknesses: our forgetfulness of God and each other, and our need for God’s strengthening touch. This is what God desires to give us, to touch us with God’s holy strength, and to make us whole.