Thursday, March 4, 2010
The Problem with Living Sacrifices
You could always count it at least four or five times a year. We Baptists give an Invitation to join the church after the sermon. On most Sundays we have as many takers as, say the Episcopalians. Often as the Invitation was extended, down the aisle Mabel would come. She would always hug me, wipe away the tears and whisper that she wanted to rededicate her life. She had messed up and wanted to start all over again. Choir members would roll their eyes, some in the audience would whisper to one another. Bouffant hairdo, gravelly voice from too many cigarettes and booze, she seemed to live from crisis to crisis. Either her marriage or her job or the kids were giving her trouble. Again and again she would march down to the front and members would think, “Well, there she goes again.”
That happened a long time ago and yet I wonder where Mabel is and how she is doing. I wonder if she is still striding down that aisle again and again and asking forgiveness and wanting to start over again. Maybe that’s what Lent is all about. Like Mabel all we poor little sheep have lost our way and need some beginning again. Mabel kept hoping that maybe, just maybe she might begin to get it right. Her job, her kids, her marriage—her broken life.
Elizabeth Elliot said one time that the problem with living sacrifices is that they keep crawling off the altar. Lent pulls me back to the painful mirror of realism. I read the old words like: “Rend your hearts and not your garments…” “Have mercy upon me O God…” “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves…” And I remember that this particular sacrifice—me—has crawled off the altar more often than I like to admit.
So this Lenten season I remember Mabel and I remember my own life. We aren’t that far apart really. Just poor little sheep who can’t seem as much as we try to stay on that altar. But I keep opening the book and bowing my head and hoping that God will, as the book says, “bring his work to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Maybe Yogi Berra was right: “it ain’t over ‘till it’s over.” I am betting my life that it may just be true.