A living sacrifice
There is no doubt that our spiritual lives are being manipulated by the intense changes in patterns of living and working taking place in our society. I talk frequently with people of all ages who are trying to find a sustainable pattern of life: a pattern or rule which will have their spiritual life as the centre or bedrock. Those at work seem to work harder than ever and those with families are swept up in the ceaseless and scattered activities of children and grandchildren. Sunday seems to be the victim of so many pressures that for many people the prospect of regular Sunday worship seems an impossible dream.
There is, however, something of allowing oneself to be the victim in all of this and not tackling the problem with enough energy. I notice that the Golf Club in our parish has a queue for the gates to open every Sunday at 7.00am. It is still the case that we are masters of our own priorities. In the end we do what we want to do. There is much talk about the Christian life being ‘counter-cultural’; this usually refers to ethics and lifestyle choices. But the most ‘counter-cultural’ aspect of the Christian life is the concept of ‘sacrifice’. We are called to live ‘sacrificially’. To ‘serve the Lord your God with all your mind and with all your strength’ is the first commandment. ‘Sacrifice’ is bound to another counter-cultural trait in the Christian character: ‘commitment.’
One interesting aspect of the little survey in our parishes (which I mentioned last month) was the insight into Sunday worship. Those who came to church less than once a month were asked a subsidiary question; ‘is it difficult for you to come to church on a Sunday?’ The answer was found unanimously ticking the box which said ‘not really.’ From this I deduce that there are better things to do – other consumer choices. The question for us all is: are ‘sacrifice and commitment’ qualities that are not required any more?
The first question Jesus asks in John’s Gospel is to Andrew and the other disciple: ‘What do you want?’ This is always the prior question in any exploration of the Christian life, of prayer and life in the Spirit. In our society which is so adept at creating wants and needs for us to consume, it is important to keep asking oneself: ‘What is my deepest essential want and need?’ I doubt that it is found in shopping centre or the gym. If this is too much of a challenge, let us resort to that most unpopular demand, ‘obedience’. Remember: ‘six days shalt thou labour and do all that thou hast to do, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it thou shall do not manner of work.’ Remember also: ‘You shall have no other gods but me’ and ‘do this in remembrance of me.’
‘Lord help us so to know you that we may truly love you, and to you love you that we may truly serve you, Whose service is perfect freedom in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.’
Andy Hawes is Warden of Edenham Regional Retreat House