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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Day 38: Worthy Sacrifice

Today's Reading: Exodus 25-27

Valentine's Day is right around the corner. This is one of the oldest, Christian holidays recorded. It is a celebration of love and affection between intimate companions. Though it is attributed to an individual, St. Valentine, we have no historical knowledge such a person existed. Instead, "St. Valentine" is most likely a symbol of all the early martyrs in the first four centuries of Christendom. "Valentine" means "worthy sacrifice," and most likely points to those martyrs who gave their lives for the faith, thus living up to this title.

On Valentine's Day, we make a special effort to go above and beyond our daily caring for one another. We search for a "worthy" gift for our loved one(s). For this gift to be a "worthy" gift, it must be prompted from the heart of the giver. It also must be something the receiver truly desires, not just something the giver wants to give. Often, the gift is a gift which requires some sacrifice on behalf of the giver. Engagement rings of high value, which also denote high commitment, are the favorite gift on February 14th.

After God has led the people of Israel--God's beloved, chosen people--out of slavery, and has provided for their daily needs--protection, water, bread, meat, and a community covenant--the LORD speaks to Moses, calling forth, if you will, a Valentine's Day celebration.

"Invite all my beloved ones to run and fetch gifts for me,
but only from those whose hearts are prompted
only from those who are excited to give
only from those who can't wait to give.

And this is what I really, really want..."

The offerings the LORD is inviting are not the every day obligatory tithes. The tithe is comparable to the daily acts of care we give to one another in a household. In our home, here are some of our "tithes." I grocery shop and cook for our family. My husband stokes the furnace and feeds the pets. My son empties the dishwasher and trash cans. These are the expectations we each have one from the other. The "tithe" is the expected 10% of our daily fruitfulness.

The offering mentioned here in Exodus 25 is above and beyond the tithe. It is not the normal fare of soup and sandwich but a steak dinner with wine. It is not just stoking a furnace, but fanning the flames of love with greater affection and caring. It is not just taking out the daily trash but a gift of great humility and sacrifice.

And, the offering is not mandatory, it is purely and generously "gift."

It is interesting to note that this kind of offering brings forth a beautiful result. It creates a space of intimacy and refuge in the relationship. "Have them make me a sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them." [v.8]

A worthy, heartfelt sacrifice generates a deeper intimacy between the giver and the receiver. It becomes the catalyst for a kind of "dwelling together."

This is the foundation of God's palace, God's dwelling place, God's tabernacle--an exchange of worthy sacrifices of love, freely given from the heart--all with the intent of pleasing the receiver.

Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary
Pure and holy
Tried and true
With thanksgiving,
I'll be a living sanctuary for you.

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