July 1, 2020

Sacrifice of Praise

For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
—Psalm 51:16-17

Ritual supports faith. Sometimes it's very important. I can't remain on a spiritual high 100% of the time. Ritual exists to show me that my faith is not exclusively my own. It is shared by and within a tradition. Even when "I'm just not feeling it," it's still there, being supported by a community, never out of reach, performing the same rituals, speaking the same words.

But the psalms and the prophets remind me that ritual is a resting place, but not a permanent home. The point of ritual is what's behind it, what it stands for. If my heart's not in it, it's not really there... at least not for me. It can be a placeholder for a while, but eventually, faith will be required.

The ideal example is the old practice of sacrifice. It stood for repentance. It symbolized an emptying of self, letting go and letting God. But if it was just for show, if the one making the sacrifice honestly thought they were bribing God, that God needed what they were offering, then there was no point to the sacrifice. That's because the point of sacrifice was never the sacrifice, but the heart making it.

So may my sacrifice of praise be more than rote recitation or thoughtless action:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
—Ps. 19:14

I pray this in Christ's Name, who taught me the perfect prayer that I too often thoughtlessly pray: Our Father...



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