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The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity | 08/30/2020

Introduction to the Word and Liturgy for Worship

The main passage for the sermon this week is Romans 12:1-2: Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice - alive, holy, and pleasing to God - which is your reasonable service. Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God - what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.

The New English Translation (quoted above) does a good job of mirroring the Greek text in its English word order, especially in this section: "present your bodies as a sacrifice - alive, holy, and pleasing to God." Sacrifice is Paul's focus. And the words alive, holy, and pleasing, modify the word sacrifice.

Paul's focus on sacrifice is a challenge for us. In our modern, industrial, technological age we do not readily understand sacrifice as anything positive. We typically understand sacrifice as a costly loss.

E.L. Mascall highlights this challenge and points us in a better, biblical direction in these excerpts from his book Corpus Christi.

There has . . . been a tendency, which has the most unfortunate consequences, to assume that the essence of sacrifice consists in the destruction of some valuable object, preferably a living one, in order to honour or to propitiate a deity. . . .

To the contrary, Mascall argues, sacrifice in its essence is not a gloomy or destructive affair but a joyous and affirmative one. We might emphasise . . . by remarking that the fact that the central figure of a Christmas dinner is customarily the carcass of a slaughtered bird [which] does not imply that the participants are engaged in a grim and terrible commemoration of its demise.

In light of this simple though radical (for us) shift in vision, Mascall goes on to define sacrifice this way. I . . . define sacrifice as the offering of a creature to God in recognition of him as its Creator, in order that it shall be accepted by him and transformed by his acceptance.

Think about this phrase, "accepted by God and transformed by his acceptance." Think about these two words: acceptance and transformation. In light of Mascall's definition of sacrifice, then, re-read Romans 12:1-2 in the English Standard Version with special attention to acceptance and transformation.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

The Collect of the Day

O Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow after us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Word:

(Click on the links below to read Sunday's passages)

(click below on the Spotify Playlist to listen)

Psalm 26

1 Be my judge, O Lord, for I have walked innocently; *

my trust has been in the Lord; therefore I shall not fall.

2 Test me, O Lord, and prove me; *

examine my heart and my mind.

3 For your loving-kindness is ever before my eyes, *

and I will walk in your truth.

4 I have not dwelt with evildoers, *

neither will I have fellowship with the deceitful.

5 I have hated the company of the wicked, *

and will not sit among the ungodly.

6 I will wash my hands in innocence, O Lord, *

and so will I go to your altar,

7 That I may lift up the voice of thanksgiving *

and tell of all your wondrous works.

8 Lord, I have loved the habitation of your house *

and the place where your honor dwells.

9 O take not away my soul with the sinners, *

nor my life with the bloodthirsty,

10 Whose hands are full of wickedness, *

and their right hand full of bribes.

11 But as for me, I will walk innocently; *

O deliver me, and be merciful unto me.

12 My foot stands firm; *

I will praise the Lord in the congregations.

(from the New Coverdale Psalter as found in the 2019 Book of Common Prayer)