Monday Matters (March 11, 2024)


Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
and his mercy endures for ever.

2 Let all those whom the Lord has redeemed
proclaim that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.

3 He gathered them out of the lands;
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.

17 Some were fools and took to rebellious ways;
they were afflicted because of their sins.

18 They abhorred all manner of food
and drew near to death’s door.

19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.

20 He sent forth his word
and healed them and saved them from the grave.

21 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his mercy
and the wonders he does for his children.

22 Let them offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving
and tell of his acts with shouts of joy.

What does it cost to say thanks?

A sacrifice of thanksgiving. A funny phrase when you think about it. It not only appeared in the psalm read yesterday in church (see verse 22 above), but also comes up in a bunch of other places in the psalter. Each time it surfaces, it suggests that this is the kind of sacrifice God is interested in. But how does it square with your associations with sacrifice?

We usually think of sacrifice as something we give up, something we lose, often accompanied by pain and cost. It’s often something that gets put to death, marking the end of some kind of liveliness. It can be violent. But it doesn’t sound like that’s the kind of sacrifice God desires.

In what sense is the offering of thanksgiving a sacrifice? In some ways, an offering of thanksgiving does mark the putting to death of something, i.e, the illusion that we are in control, that what we have comes to us the old fashioned way. We earned it. It’s ours, thank you very much.

When we offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving, we are putting aside the mythology of self-sufficiency, the pride of accomplishment, the illusion of independence. When we offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving, we are remembering the good news that all is gift. All is grace.

St. Paul talked about sacrifice in his letter to the Romans when he said we have been buried with Christ in baptism into death so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so too we might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6.4) In the sacrifice of thanksgiving, we put to death a way of thinking focused on the self.

For me, the beautiful thing about the language of the sacrifice of thanksgiving is that it is not ultimately about something dying, something being killed, something ending. It is about a pathway to new life. In the eucharist (Rite I, p. 342 in the Prayer Book, Rite II, p. 363), we offer a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, presenting ourselves, our souls and bodies a living sacrifice, which is our reasonable service. Fed by that sacrifice, we move forward into the world with strength and courage, with gladness and singleness of heart.

A wise bishop offered some advice when I was at a fork in the road. She said that in the decisions we make, in the discernment we do, there is always cost and promise. There is cost in a sacrifice of thanksgiving, the surrender of the notion that the solar system is me-centric. But there is also promise, because our grateful offering of sacrifice to God, our worship, is a living thing, bringing us new life.

As we continue through the season of Lent, consider what it might mean to offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving in your own life, in your daily routine. What are you giving up in order to say thanks? What new life is in store for you as you nurture an attitude of gratitude?

-Jay Sidebotham

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