Sacrifice is giving back . . .
I have here, in my hand, the same Bible I’ve had in my hand for every single sermon I have preached since being ordained. It’s really important to me for a few reasons. The first, obviously, is that it’s the Bible and the Word of God is really important. It’s also the same Bible I have had since high school with years worth of notes, highlights, and marks - one of the most irreplaceable things I own. Plus, it keeps me from fidgeting with my hands too much while I’m up here speaking. Also, it’s all beat up and covered in at least two layers of duct tape - which means I don’t feel bad when I drop it or keep it in a backpack or if it gets a little dirty. All of that to say, this is an incredibly important item for me, but I think it could be very helpful for someone else too. So I want to hand it over to *pick someone in the front rows who can catch* - and they now have this Bible full of God’s Word, marked up with notes from me, and they could use it to grow in the faith just like it’s helped me grow in my faith.
Now give it back.
For a very brief moment, *insert name here* possessed my Bible. Now the question I want to ask y’all is this, how much did he sacrifice when he handed it back to me? The reason I set all this up is to make a point, what whenever we talk about sacrificing to God - whether that’s our time or our money or our abilities or our convenience or anything else - all we are really doing is giving back to God the gifts that He has given to us. Just look at our reading from Genesis, Abraham was prepared to sacrifice Isaac and he did sacrifice a ram - but both Isaac and the ram were miraculous gifts from God. So maybe sacrifice is, at it’s core, just giving back to God what is already His to begin with.
. . . to God . . .
Now Abraham made a sacrifice on an altar, but our altars, the places where we make sacrifices, look a little different today.
Maybe you make sacrifices at the altar of the sign-up sheet, sacrificing your time to lead scouts or to provide snacks after practice or to drive a whole car full of kids.
Maybe you make sacrifices at the altar of your desk, sacrificing your time and health and relationships for the sake of your job or your boss.
Maybe you make sacrifices at an altar in the summer heat at a golf course for the sake of your clients or to finalize a deal.
Maybe you make sacrifices at the altar of your family, giving up everything else for your kids or your spouse.
Maybe you make sacrifices at the altar of the television, giving up everything for your shows or your sports.
And if those are the things we’re making sacrifices to, we are guilty of idolatry, but if we make sacrifices at the altar of the sign-up sheet, the desk, the golf course, or the family to the Almighty God of Abraham - using those things to glorify and obey Him - we have begun to sacrifice in the way that Abraham is commended for. Sacrificially giving back to God.
. . . without reservation . . .
Abraham isn’t commended for what he sacrificed in our reading earlier this morning, God tells him “I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” Abraham is commended for his willingness to give up the most important thing in His life to God, so the question for you to reflect on is this - would you give up the most important thing in your life for God?
Would you give up your Sunday morning? Would you give up your Sunday morning every Sunday for a month?
Would you give up your free night to spend in Bible study and Christian community?
Would you give up your Raisin’ Canes order to feed the starving guy on the street corner?
Would you give up your vacation money to support a need in the church?
Would you give up your comfort to witness to your co-workers or friends?
Would you give up your financial security, your family and friends, your comfort, or your possessions if God asked you to?
Abraham was willing to. He was willing to give up anything, including his son - the son that God had promised him for most of his life. And the incredible thing is this, God didn’t even take the sacrifice. We can hold nothing back when we make sacrifices for our God, because we know that no matter how much we give up, He will not leave us empty.
. . . trusting and fearing Him.
Because God consistently gives His people the gifts they need. Isaac was a gift, the ram was a gift, and anything we give up to God was just a gift from Him in the first place. And we ask how Abraham might have felt during this whole experience. He probably felt uncertainty and sadness as walked up that mountain. He probably felt loss and grief. These are emotions that we feel when we make meaningful sacrifices, we’re no stranger to that. And we might ask, what drove Abraham to willingly experience this? It was a stronger emotion, an overriding love for God that drowns out all the other emotions. And it’s an even greater love than that which drove Christ to the sacrifice He has already made for us on the cross at Calvary. In that sacrifice, because of His love for His broken and fallen creation, He took the punishment for all of our sins. And we respond with an effort, an effort to sacrifice of the gifts He has given us, trusting that He will not leave us empty, trusting that we follow a God that turns sacrifices into abundant blessings. Amen.