Posts Tagged Sacrifice

Spiritual Realities

I’ve been engaging in dialogue with a kindly professor of comparative religion who espouses Universal Unitarianism with a Buddhist flavour.    All on the road to “the divine” are moving forward and we should celebrate both the places where we concur and our differences.  However espousing this view trivializes the unique claims of each faith- in particular, though not exclusively, the distinctives of monotheistic faiths: the five pillars of Islam, observance of the Torah, the merit of the sacrificial blood of Christ.  There is no need to embrace Christ’s sacrifice, or observe the Law of Moses, or the Five Pillars, because any of the three, not to mention a whole lot of other options, will do just as well to ease us through this life.

To the post-modern mind it becomes an anathema to set one belief system  above it’s fellows as having unique merits, or worse to claim it is THE TRUTH. Dichotomous thought-  particularly, endorsing the idea that there are black and white distinctions between right and wrong and not just shaded grays, is also heavily frowned on.  Your opinion is valid for you alone and should not be splashed into someone else’s personal belief space.

This kind of fuzziness doesn’t hold much water in some places.  I found a news story from Uganda that seemed to make spiritual choices starker.  It didn’t stay on the active news very long so you might have missed this.

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He infected himself with her blood

I don’t know about you but I am attracted to stories of creative love and sacrifice.  They don’t grow old. I suspect that one reason is that they echo the greatest one of all. They are Christ like.

In 1942, Wladyslaw Misiuna, a teenager from Poland, was recruited by the Germans to help inmates at the concentration camp start a rabbit farm to supply furs for soldiers at the Russian front.  Misiuna felt responsible for the thirty young women he supervised.  He stuffed his coat pockets with bread, milk, carrots and potatoes and smuggled in food for them.

But one day, one of his workers, Deborah Salzberg, contracted a mysterious infection.  Misiuna was beside himself.  He knew if the Germans discovered the open lesions on her arms they would kill her.  He had to cure her, but how?  He took the simplest route.  He infected himself with her blood and when the lesions appeared, he went to a doctor in town.  The doctor prescribed a medication, which Misiuna then shared with Deborah Salzberg.  Both were cured and both survived the war.

From this article.

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Hardly a coincidence

In 1981, the Open Doors organization clandestinely delivered one million Bibles to a Chinese beach for the benefit of house-churches.  It was called “Operation Pearl”. For various reasons it did not remain a secret and ended up being featured in Time Magazine.

In his book “The Calling,” Brother Andrews tells the story of the cost to one Chinese Pastor, a seventy-year-old house-church leader. He had received 10,000 Bibles for distribution, but being warned that the police were interrogating people, buried them in a safe place.

The officials decided that he was probably one of the organizers and called him in for interrogation,

“As the interrogators pressured him for names of others involved in Pearl, he remained silent.” . . he just shut his eyes and prayed.

“His reaction only infuriated the investigators all the more. In desperation, they resorted to an especially cruel means of torture. Taking John into the prison courtyard, they tied his hands behind his back and made him stand on a wooden box about four feet high and less than a foot wide. Then they placed a noose around his neck and attached the rope to a wooden beam above his head.

‘We have given up on you,’ the officials said. ‘The moment you sway violently or your legs collapse with fatigue, you will hang yourself. It is a just penalty for your stubbornness.’ Then they left him.”

Hours turned into days. . he couldn’t afford to sleep. His legs swelled to twice their normal size until numbness set in.  After a week, with John still standing, without sleep, food, or water past what he caught on his tongue when it rained,  word spread around the prison.  By day twelve he  was delirious but still standing.  On the thirteenth day a thunderstorm swept in.

“As he stood there pelted by the rain, his resistance gave out. A sudden flash of lightning and a simultaneous clap of thunder caused him to pitch forward. The noose tightened.

“The next thing he knew, John heard himself coughing. He was no longer standing but lying on the floor. His legs had been propped up by a chair, and he could feel the blood flowing back into his upper body. The pain was excruciating.”

People were shaking him. Gradually he realized it was the two policemen who had been guarding him.

” ‘Please,’ they shouted, ‘don’t die- please.’ John managed to clear his brain for a moment.

‘Why?’ was all he could say.

‘Because we want to know your Savior, Jesus,’ they replied, trembling.

‘But why?’ he asked again.

‘Because he saved you!’  they exclaimed. ‘ A bolt of lightening cut the rope above your head just as you fell.  Don’t tell us that was a coincidence!’ ”

The whole story is worth reading. You can find it in, “The Unforgettable Story of a Man Who Discovered the Adventure of The Calling” by Brother Andrew with Verne Becker- 1996 by Random House.

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The God who weeps

All Souls Day- William Bougereau

(What do the dead want- Part III)

How do we answer Samhain, and All Souls Day?

We respond with Christ- the one sufficient reply to all facets of our fear. Specifically he answers our anxiety for the well-being of those who have passed through the portal of Death. He is the first born from the dead- the one who has entered and returned from a world into which we as yet only peer dimly, all the while cringing back from the doorstep.

Christ was God made man, who wept with Mary over the death of her brother Lazarus, so that those watching said, “Look how he loved him.” He was the one who went with her to the graveyard. He is the one who understands and enters our grief when a loved one dies.

He was God made man, who said to Martha,

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

He stood at burial vault of a man four days dead, had them roll away the stone and commanded,

“Lazarus, come out!”
“Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Christ was God, made man, who turned from the triumph of the risen Lazarus, and almost before the grave clothes were unwound, set his face like a flint and moved on to Jerusalem and Golgotha.

” He humbled himself
and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!”

Christ was the sacrifice, the lamb slain before the foundation of the world: the only propitiation acceptable to the Creator, the offended deity.

No wonder the writer to Hebrews begins with this exultation:

” In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,
but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (NIV)

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The gods set the terms

I’ve been circling and circling my topic.  I am working towards engaging Samhain and Halloween, Catholic answers to interacting with the dead, and the whole question of what awaits us at life’s exit point.

To deal with them I would like to first consider the topic of sacrifice.  I think that for the average Canadian the term  “to sacrifice” has commonly come to mean  “giving something up,” or  “denying yourself some good thing” in order to achieve a greater result.

However I would like to go back to our roots, where to make a sacrifice means  “offering something at cost to a deity”. In Nkonya sacrifices are offered either in hope to obtain a boon, or in fear to appease an offended deity.

Our Celtic ancestors, and many others world-wide  have shared and do share this view.

In making any sacrifice a key point is that the god or ancestor approached specifies the required sacrifice, it is not left to the discretion of the supplicant.   In Nkonya the priest of a shrine will act as the intermediary between the shrine god and the offerer and must be consulted in advance if the correct sacrifice is to be made- whether wine, or a chicken, a sheep, or a goat.  He will then offer the sacrifice in the prescribed manner.

There are many boons sought: Success in business, or in exams, on the playing field, or in conceiving a child.

However the most urgent sacrifices are made to appease an offended deity, who will kill you if you do not offer the necessary sacrifice posthaste.  This may be because you have directly broken a taboo, or it may be because you have stolen a neighbour’s chicken and he in turn has called on a deity to arbitrate the case and kill  the offender.  An honorable person who has invoked such a curse will announce his actions so that you have a chance to make it right and live.  Not everyone is honorable.

This brings us to the Christian view.  We acknowledge  only one deity,  God Most High, the Creator God. He is all-powerful, unchanging,totally other. He also takes the initiative, announcing himself as ‘I Am” in a burning bush, and entering human existence as the God-Man, Jesus Christ.

This is God, of whom Jesus said,

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.
But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.”

At this season of the year when the grass of the field turns brown, leaves fall from the trees, and the days grow short and cold,  we build bonfires against the coming Winter, listen to the lowing of the penned cattle, and consider sacrifice. The first question is, “What sacrifice does the Most High God, the Creator, the Lord of the Harvest,  require?

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