Sacrifice

Sacrifice is not something I have talked about very much during my ministry here at Marshfield Christian Church. That is due, in part, to the relatively minor role sacrifice plays in my theology. However, some recent conversations have changed that, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you.

During one of those recent conversations, I was talking with one of the Marshfield football coaches about the role of offensive linemen on the team. Coach noted that there is not much, if any, glory to be found in being a lineman. The position is essential to the effective functioning of the team, but we rarely remember the names of the O-line. What’s more is that when the line does their job, the other players are able to succeed and get the glory. However, when one of those skill players makes a mistake, sometimes blame is placed on the linemen, even if they did everything correctly… Players who fill these roles sacrifice fame for the benefit of the team.

This sense of sacrifice isn’t limited to the realm of sports, however. In another recent conversation I talked with a friend about the sacrifice of military personnel and their families. Whether or not members of our military are killed in the line of duty, they sacrifice many freedoms and even relationships to fulfil their roles.

Then, a few days following these two conversations, the topic of sacrifice came up again. This time, however, in a context I had not considered before. My friend and colleague asked the group, “What are you willing to sacrifice to allow someone else to experience Christ?”

This brought to mind Philippians 2:5-8:

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

The idea of imitating Christ by sacrificing my wants for others took me by surprise and has had me thinking since. What would I be willing to give up, to sacrifice for someone else? Am I willing to give up my preferred style of worship, my desired dress for worship, etc… Am I willing to give up some of my family time to support a ministry of the church? Am I willing to volunteer to lead in a way that is not “comfortable” for me, so others may build a relationship with God?

I don’t have all the answers. However, it is something that I am thinking about more these days. I hope and pray you’ll join with me in considering what you might be willing to sacrifice so others may come to build a deeper, more fulfilling, relationship with the Living God we know in Christ Jesus.

 

Teaching and Learning

The school year has begun. And with it, I’ve been thinking about teaching and learning quite a lot. Combine this with all the recent news about education, in Marshfield and around the country, and it is a timely topic for our consideration. Then I came across something written by a friend of mine, and I wanted to share it with you.

To all those who handed me a book, saying, “I think you might like this.” To all those who, when I was struggling with math, suggested, “have you thought about trying this.” To all those who unlocked the mysteries of science. To all those who thought knowing the past was important to understanding the present. To all those who believed the future was worth thinking about. To all who practiced the simple belief that learning something each and every day of one’s life (not stopping just because you had a piece of paper handed to you at a ceremony) would enrich one’s life. To all who made sitting in a classroom, in a lab, in a lecture hall a joy as well as a challenge, an adventure as well as a struggle. To all teachers – past, present, and future – THANK YOU! No matter how much others belittle you, you are the giants who walk among us. – Thom Shuman

For me, education in schools and education in church are closely tied to one another. And, in my opinion, our educational systems in the US are taking quite a verbal, and political, lashing these days. Now, I am also quick to admit that I believe the public education system in our country is broken, and in need of some serious repair. However, I also think the same is true of our religious institutions. Churches have been getting a lot of bad press recently, and our institutions are just as broken and in need of repair as any other human system.

Whenever I think about education, in the church or out, one verse stands out in my mind, James 3:1-2. “Don’t be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards. And none of us is perfectly qualified. We get it wrong nearly every time we open our mouths. If you could find someone whose speech was perfectly true, you’d have a perfect person, in perfect control of life.”

This scripture has proved itself true time and time again. Teachers, of any kind, are held to very high standards. Please don’t misunderstand me, this is a good thing. Teaching is important, but then again so is learning. We, after all, call ourselves Disciples of Christ, which means that we seek to learn the ways of Jesus. I am so thankful to the many people in my life who have encouraged me to be a life-long learner. My parents, pastors, teachers, colleagues and especially you, the congregation of Marshfield Christian Church, have taught me the importance of always learning, always seeking a deeper understanding, of drawing deeply from the well of faith.

So, to all my teachers, I want to echo Thom’s words. Thank you! But more than just those who have been professional educators, I want to thank each and every one of you, because I learn from you all. Will you join me in thanking someone for being a teacher today? And not just in this, generic, form. Will you take a few moments to write a personal note, or an e-mail, or even a text message, and send it to someone thanking them for what they have taught you? Or, better yet, thank a few special people for what they have taught you.

Because even those giants walking among us need to know they are loved and appreciated. And, they need to know that their hard work matters. They need to know they are making a difference, both in this world and in the one to come.