The readings for Lent often deal with sacrifice as in to “make a sacrifice to the Lord.” Sacrifice has been a common word we’ve used over the past few years to talk about the young men and women who have gone to war in Iraq or Afghanistan. “Thank you for your sacrifice.”
I wonder if we really know what we are saying or if we hear it so much it seems the right things to say. I’ll sacrifice my afternoon to helping you; I sacrificed my day off to get a project done; I sacrificed my youth for …….. We use the word as a shorthand to say I gave something up for someone or something else.
And indeed, that’s one of the common meanings of the word in the dictionary.
But if we take the word apart and look at it as it might have meant in Jesus’ time and ministry and in the Hebrew times of laws, it may not have meant the same to them. Maybe it needs to have a more defined meaning to us, too.
The word is a compound of two ancient Indo-European ideas that were developed: sak (sacred) plus dhr (to make). In Latin sacrificium: sacer, holy/sacred + facere, to do, to make.
In short, sacrifice means to make something you do sacred.
What if we made everything we do sacred? Our work, our cooking, our interactions with others, our gardening and cleaning, our driving and shopping. How would our life be different if we were to keep the idea of living and doing sacred?
The reason things were once burned on an altar is because it’s the only way people could figure out how to give to their deity. They couldn’t see the deity or feed the deity or shake the deity’s hand. So they figured out that if they burned something and the smoke went “up” it would eventually reach the one they offered it to. So they burned it and “offered it up.”
Lent is reminder each year that we need to examine our actions. It would probably be more effective to examine them every day, to become aware of how we interact with others on a daily basis, but life gets complicated and busy and we forget except for this concentrated time of six weeks that brings us back to conscious behavior by asking us to “sacrifice” some part of our daily experience for something greater.
Lent is a time that reminds us of our fallibility, of how we stumble off the path we want to walk, how we struggle in our relationships, how frustrated we become over small things.
We’re halfway through Lent. This week, as a New Moon enters and as spring finally makes headway, might be the perfect time to revise our progress from the previous year, see which changes have taken hold and which still need work.
Today might be the perfect day to make sacred.